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Russ Allison Loar / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 /

Country Reports

What's next for the United States?

by Jeanene Lairo

Part 3: Trade Policy

How is the Biden administration changing the direction of the U.S.? The KAS Office USA takes a first look, in a series of five country reports. This report deals with U.S. trade policy. President Biden and his key trade players have emphasized that trade policy will be a central pillar promoting his “Build Back Better” plan. He wants a “worker-centered trade policy.”

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The new President has made it clear that before addressing any new trade agenda his number one priority will be to control the virus by getting his $1.9 trillion relief package passed through U.S. Congress. He stands behind the campaign plan to “Build Back Better” providing needed economic relief to help get families and business to the other side of the crisis while building an economy that is more resilient, more fair and more inclusive. Regarding trade policy, he argues that “economic security is national security. Our trade policy has to start at home” (Biden, 2020).

Key Policy Goals

To get a clearer understanding of the direction the Biden-Harris administration wants to take in regards to international trade and U.S. competitiveness, one needs to draw from the Biden-Harris Campaign website. Here “Joe’s Vision” is displayed in a series of policy papers with detailed roadmaps with a broad scope of domestic and international issues, ranging from ‘Climate & Energy’, ‘Domestic Policy’, ‘Foreign Policy’, ‘Older’ and ‘Younger Americans’, to ‘Jobs & Economy’. Among the 43 plans that fall under ‘Jobs & Economy,’ several highlight the direction that the new Biden administration will take on trade. The economic plan titled “The Biden plan to ensure the future is ‘made in all of America by all of America’s workers” will guide the U.S. government in pursuing international trade goals and committing to international trade obligations. “Joe’s Vision” is that “trade must be to build the American middle class, create jobs, raise wages, and strengthen communities.”

Specifics regarding what lies ahead can be found in the often-cited plan, “Build Back Better: Joe Biden’s jobs and economic recovery plan for working families” and from statements by the Biden-Harris economic and trade team. The Biden-Harris administration details their framework for international trade and U.S. economic competitiveness in the following areas:

  • Implement a worker-centered trade policy, where “Americans also benefit from having good jobs, with good wages;”
  • Build a “modern infrastructure and an equitable, clean energy future” to promote American competitiveness;
  • Negotiate labor and environmental prescriptions new trade deals (USMCA serves as a model);
  • Pursue enforcement measures “when parties falter and stray from old and new commitments;”
  • Counter “stiffening competition from a growing and ambitious China, whose economy is directed by central planners who are not subject to the pressures of political pluralism, democratic elections, or popular opinion;”
  • Seek multilateral cooperation among allies in a strategy he calls “techno democracies.” He contends that America and its democratic allies must confront Chinese state capitalism and abusive economic practices through collaboration among democracies regarding technology, standards and innovation;
  • Believes in free and “fair” trade by ensuring that the rules of the international economy are not rigged against the United States.

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Dr. Hardy Ostry


Head of the Washington, D.C. office

Jeanene Lairo


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