Trade Policy under a Biden Administration: An Overview of the Issues and Some Practical Suggestions



Simon Lester | CATO Institute

The past several years have been tumultuous ones for U.S. trade policy. After strident rhetoric from Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, his administration followed up with a wide range of aggressive actions. Congress, U.S. trading partners, businesses, and consumers have all been pushed to their limits by an administration that has taken U.S. policy in a protectionist and unilateral direction.

If Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins the 2020 election, he will face the challenge of developing a coherent U.S. trade policy that provides stability and certainty. This paper presents an overview of the trade issues a President Joe Biden would likely face, with some suggestions on possible approaches his administration might take. It covers seven major topics, with some overlap among them:

  1. Trade agreements: What should U.S. trade agreements say, and with whom should the United States negotiate them?
  2. The World Trade Organization (WTO): How should a Biden administration deal with the many challenges faced by the multilateral trade institution that is the foundation of the trading system?
  3. China: How should a Biden administration approach China’s controversial and difficult integration into the trading system?
  4. The United States‐​Mexico‐​Canada Agreement (USMCA): Can some of the USMCA’s flaws be fixed during implementation?
  5. Executive trade actions: How should a Biden administration use executive branch discretion over trade policy?
  6. The role of Congress: Is it time to recalibrate the legislative/​executive balance of power over trade?
  7. Personnel: Who should be in charge of U.S. trade policy?

To view the original report, click here.