President-elect Joe Biden on Monday (16 November) said the United States must join forces with other world democracies to present a united front in global trade policy as a counterweight to China.
“The idea that we’re poking our fingers in the eyes of our friends and embracing autocrats makes no sense to me,” Biden said in a press conference to discuss his economic plan.
He pledged to release details of his trade policy agenda on 21 January — the day after he takes office.
Outgoing US President Donald Trump used an aggressive trade policy against friend and foe alike, imposing tariffs on steel, aluminum and other goods from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, in addition to China.
“We need to be aligned with the other democracies… so that we can set the rules of the road instead of having China and others dictate outcomes because they are the only game in town,” Biden said.
The Trump administration eschewed multilateral organizations, and hamstrung the World Trade Organization over claims it was unfair to the US, paralyzing the dispute settlement body and blocking the naming of a new director general.
Trump’s rhetoric was generally more friendly towards Russia and North Korea, a pariah nation whose head of state nevertheless won two meetings with the US president.
Biden said he has spoken to some world leaders in general terms about trade issues, but declined to get into specifics with them on what he might do — including whether he would join a new Asia-Pacific free trade pact — because “there is only one president at a time.”
However, he said he will not pursue “punitive” trade policy, but rather aim to make American workers more competitive, and ensure labor and environmental leaders “are at the table in any trade deals we make.”
Biden also repeated his pledge to rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord, which Trump walked away from.