As of late 2021, the path of U.S. trade policy remained uncertain. Early signs from the Biden administration suggest the United States is in a transition period. The trade war that the Trump administration initiated with China in 2018 remained mostly unresolved, with bilateral ties having further soured, rendering future trade cooperation even less appealing politically. But there are other issues at play. First, the pandemic has presented pressing issues for international cooperation, including how to accelerate manufacturing and trade in COVID-19 vaccines to prioritize global public health. Second, after four years of U.S. neglect, tackling climate change is likely to be reasserted as a priority during Biden’s presidency, also with potential trade implications. And third, domestic politics after a tight election remain paramount, with the new administration signaling a commitment to a “worker-centered” trade policy.
Despite the flux, and even after candidate Joe Biden campaigned against the Trump administration’s trade strategy, one result was clear—there was unlikely to be a simple reversal of the Trump administration’s trade policies. Many are likely to linger, as the new administration focuses its international engagement deliberately and modestly.
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