President Joe Biden’s trade policy priorities include climate change, social impact and global cooperation, a stark contrast with Donald Trump’s “America First” mantra and focus on negotiating new bilateral deals.
Biden’s trade strategy will look to incorporate sustainable environment goals, advance racial equity and partner with friends and allies, according to an annual report released by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Monday. It makes no mention of whether Biden will continue to pursue negotiations for new deals with the U.K., the European Union and Kenya, all of which were mentioned in Trump’s final annual report a year ago.
A lot has happened over the past year, of course, and given the Covid-19 pandemic, Biden’s report makes prominent reference of using trade to spur America’s recovery, in line with his broad “build back better” agenda. The report reflects Biden’s efforts to reset relationships globally after historic allies including Canada and the European Union criticized Trump for hitting them with tariffs on national-security grounds, and after his administration decided to leave the Paris climate agreement.
One important continued objective: Holding China accountable. Biden’s trade policy will use all available tools to tackle Beijing’s unfair practices and make addressing the persecution of the Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region a top priority, according to the 2021 report. That echoes Trump’s focus on China last year, shortly after his administration reached a pact with its top trading partner.
Biden inherited numerous trade initiatives from Trump, including tariffs applied on about $335 billion of Chinese goods annually, and his administration is undertaking a comprehensive review of policy toward the Asian nation. In the agreement reached in 2020, China promised to purchase more American products, but missed last year’s target as Covid-19 upended shipping and supply chains.
Biden’s USTR nominee, Katherine Tai, is currently awaiting Senate confirmation. At her hearing last week, she told senators that China needs to live up to the commitments in its trade pact with the U.S. — the strongest signal yet that the new administration plans to build on the accord brokered by its predecessor rather than scrap it.