White House says trade policy will focus on workers, climate, racial gaps and supply chain
By Ana Swanson
The Biden administration said Monday that it would try to use its trade policy to support American workers, mitigate climate change, close racial gaps, make supply chains more resilient and expand opportunities for U.S. exporters.
In a report laying out its trade policy agenda for 2021, the administration said trade would be an essential component of fighting the pandemic, buoying the economy and enacting President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda, which aims to strengthen U.S. infrastructure and innovation and close racial and economic gaps. The administration said it would focus particularly on developing more resilient manufacturing supply chains in the year to come to help the country better confront health crises.
The report, issued by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, said that promoting open markets would remain a fundamental part of U.S. policy but that efforts to lower foreign barriers for American exporters would be considered in tandem with the interests of American “manufacturers, farmers, ranchers, fishers and underserved communities.”
The administration also said it would review past trade policies for any “unintended consequences” for workers, including effects on wage gaps, worker unionization, workplace safety and the presence of forced labor. And it pledged to try to better understand the impact of trade policies on communities of color and the empowerment of women.
In a criticism of the Trump administration, the report said American agriculturalists had been burdened in recent years “by erratic trade actions that were taken without a broader strategy” and that triggered retaliation, billions of dollars in lost exports and huge government payments to farmers.
The report also said the Biden administration would develop a more comprehensive and systematic approach to dealing with China “than the piecemeal approach of the recent past.”
It promised to aggressively pursue unfair trade practices from China, “using all available tools” to take on behavior that harms American workers and businesses. But the report provided few details on the concrete policy tools the administration would use, saying that officials were carrying out a comprehensive review of U.S. trade policy as they developed an overall China strategy.
The administration also pledged to make addressing China’s human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang region a top priority and said it would work with allied countries to try to address global market distortions created by Chinese overcapacity in sectors like steel, aluminum, solar and fiber optics.
The Biden administration said it would engage with allies on issues like how trade policies can affect climate change, build stronger supply chains and end unfair trade practices, among other goals. And it pledged to work with the new director general of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, “to address the challenges facing the global trading system, including growing inequality, digital transformation, and impediments to small business trade.”