How Would Joe Biden Change America’s Trade Policy?



The Economist

On the subject of trade policy, America’s Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has been sounding rather like President Donald Trump. He claims that “economic security is national security”, promises to create millions of manufacturing jobs and pledges to reduce America’s dependence on China. On September 9th he published his “Made in America” plan, only for the White House to tell Fox News that it would host its own “Made in America” day on October 5th. America’s trading partners hoping for change may dismiss Mr Biden’s tough talk as campaign chatter. That would be unwise.

Mr Biden would bring some changes, of course. Policy would be more consistent. Trade officials in Mexico and the European Union (eu) could stop following presidential tweets so avidly. Having slammed Mr Trump’s “empty” agreement with China, Mr Biden seems unlikely to strike shallow, transactional deals. In fact, despite his reputation for liking them, he may not agree to any at all. They can wait, he has said, until after “we have invested in Americans”.

Trading partners may hope that America stops applying new tariffs. They should manage their expectations. Mr Biden is no “Tariff Man”, as Mr Trump once proclaimed himself to be. But he has pledged to restrict imports from China that are deemed to be a national-security threat. Countries that do not live up to their environmental obligations could face a carbon-adjustment fee in the form of tariffs or quotas.

Mr Biden sees as big a role for the government in supporting American manufacturing as Mr Trump does, perhaps a reflection of the fact that industrial policy is now in favour across the political spectrum. Mr Biden’s plans to strengthen “Buy American” rules would make it harder for the government to buy foreign cement, steel and equipment. Peter Navarro, Mr Trump’s trade adviser, would be proud.

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