November 24, 2020

A Biden Win Could Renew a Democratic Split on Trade

Mr. Biden has papered over other difficult divisions within the Democratic Party by declining to state a position. Mr. Biden has released more extensive plans for expanding Buy American programs and proposed tax penalties for companies that send jobs overseas.

But on other policy choices, his campaign has been vague. That includes declining to say whether a Biden White House would keep the tariffs Mr. Trump imposed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, whether it would proceed with bans on Chinese social media sites like TikTok or WeChat or how it would resolve a standoff that has crippled the World Trade Organization. It’s unclear if a Biden administration would ultimately move to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or continue existing trade talks with the United Kingdom and Kenya.

Mr. Biden’s advisers tend to be more unified on China, but there is still a split, people familiar with the conversations say. Some see China as a challenge, but still believe in trying to integrate the country into the global system and work with the Chinese on issues like climate change and nuclear proliferation. Others see a clash between the two systems as more inevitable, and say China’s increasingly authoritarian behavior is likely to preclude much cooperation.

Democrats are unified around some issues — like using new provisions in the revised North American trade agreement to push for labor reforms in Mexico, and updating trade rules to include commitments on climate change. And many Democrats support reforms at the W.T.O. that would pressure China to change its trade practices.

The path of Mr. Biden’s trade policy will depend largely on personnel decisions, including who become the Treasury Secretary, the United States Trade Representative and commerce secretary.

One of the most widely mentioned candidates for Treasury Secretary is Lael Brainard, an economist and member of the Federal Reserve’s Board who served as under secretary for international affairs at the Treasury during the Obama administration. But some congressional Democrats have pointed to Ms. Brainard’s reluctance to label countries like China as currency manipulators when she was at the Treasury, and instead are pushing for Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former Fed governor and Treasury official whom they see as more aligned with their views.

For the U.S. trade representative, progressive politicians and trade experts are pushing candidates including Katherine Tai, the chief trade counsel at the House Ways and Means Committee; Michael Wessel, a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission; and Tom Perriello, a former congressman from Virginia who is now executive director of Open Society-U. S., a philanthropic group, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/business/economy/democrats-biden-trade.html

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