Nobody knows better than Joe Biden that he’s not president of the United States just yet. So while we hope for a more pro-trade policy from the incoming administration, it’s reasonable that he is going slow on pronouncements.
But Biden must be aware that the Communist mainland giant of China is turning up the pressure on trade.
With the November signing of a 15-nation Asian trade pact, including China, the United States may be playing catchup instead of leading.
The No. 2 Chinese leader called the new pact a “victory for multilateralism and free trade.”
When a Communist dictatorship can boast of its free-trade bona fides, it is increasingly clear that the United States urgently needs to develop a better policy than that of the last four years. That has been mostly slapping tariffs on products and raw materials from overseas, inhibiting the global trade that is particularly important to Louisiana’s economy.
One of the strong initiatives of the administration in which Biden, the former vice president, served was the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Donald Trump backed off that painstakingly developed agreement and initiated a round of tariff wars, not only with China but with numerous other trade partners of the United States.
That China went ahead with its agreement now is a challenge that Biden cannot ignore.
“While the United States is currently focused on domestic concerns, including the need to fight the pandemic and rebuild its economy and infrastructure, I’m not sure the rest of the world is going to wait until America gets its house in order,” Jennifer Hillman, a senior fellow for trade and international political economy at the Council on Foreign Relations, told The New York Times. “I think there are going to have to be some responsive actions to what China is doing.”
For the moment, there’s not much Biden can do. But we hope that he will seek to reassess policy that has been in such disarray over the last four years. Tariffs are barriers to trade. Louisiana’s ports and farms and petrochemical manufacturers are deeply dependent on exporting.
While the new Asian trade pact will take years to come into full effect — the TPP negotiations show how long it takes to work out the details — clearly Hillman is right. The world is not going to slow down its drive for growth and prosperity. And China is flexing its muscles, not just militarily but in trade policy.
The Communist champions of free trade? The world is truly a weird place. And Biden will have to sort it out sooner rather than later.