Biden Trade Policy in Asia


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When he assumes the presidency in January, Joe Biden will have to contend with a global economy that is fundamentally different than the one he left when his second vice-presidential term ended in 2017. While Biden was away from the White House, President Trump withdrew the US from the TPP agreement and instigated a trade war with China that has redefined huge swaths of the global economy. AmCham members are anxious to know if Biden will reverse course on all of Trump’s big trade moves or if we can expect a similar “America First” trade policy. How tough will President Biden be on China – and on Vietnam? What happens to the current trade investigation on Vietnam when the Biden Administration takes over next year? AmCham members are invited to participate in a virtual meeting on December 2 with Charles Freeman, Senior Vice President for Asia at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to work more closely with US allies in confronting China on trade. During his campaign, Biden has championed a “Made In America” economic policy under which he pledges to invest heavily in American manufacturing and industry. That’s not entirely different from the “America First” plan Trump espoused during his campaign in 2016. With that in mind, Biden was elected with the strong backing of trade unions and progressives who have been skeptical of past free trade deals, so he will face pressure to maintain protections for vulnerable industries.

Recently, Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken said Biden would not rule out new tariffs completely, but would “use tariffs when they’re needed but backed by a strategy and a plan.” And while it’s not clear exactly how tough Biden will be on China, his “Made In America” plan promises “aggressive trade enforcement actions” to defend against unfair practices from China or any other country “seeking to undercut American manufacturing.”

AmCham members can expect a return to predictability. Biden’s changes to trade policy are not likely to catch investors by surprise, and he is much less likely to change his mind or make off-the-cuff statements or threats than his predecessor did.

About the guest speaker:

Charles’ career spans government, business, law and academia, giving him a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Asia. During his government career, Charles served as assistant US trade representative for China affairs, a role in which he was the principal US trade negotiator with China. He also served as legislative counsel in the United States Senate, where he concentrated on East Asian economic and trade issues. Since leaving government, Charles has consulted on Chinese and other Asia-focused business and policy matters for some of the world’s leading companies during market entry, expansion and crises phases alike. Apart from his consulting work, Charles has also served as chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Earlier, he was based in Hong Kong with The Asia Foundation and the International Herald Tribune. Charles serves on the board of directors of the National Committee on US-China Relations and is a senior non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution and a senior advisor to CSIS. Charles earned his doctor of law degree from Boston University’s School of Law and bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies and Economics from Tufts University. He did post-graduate work at Fudan University in Shanghai and studied Mandarin Chinese at the Taipei Language Institute.

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