March 2021 | Commentary | Checking In

The President’s 2021 Trade Policy

Tags: Legislation, Public Policy, and Regulations, Global Trade Management

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

The Biden Administration’s new trade policy report is filled with laudable goals such as beating COVID-19, American family relief, and the Build Back Better initiative. But should these goals be the basis of U.S. trade policy or negotiating position with other countries? Do our economic competitors enter into trade negotiations with the United States with similar globalist goals or are their goals self-interested national economic ones?

Here’s an example of a U.S. trade policy targeted toward changing the world instead of a single-minded focus on protecting American economic interests—U.S. workers, manufacturers, and others who’ve had a rough time of late.

“The President’s trade agenda will restore U.S. global leadership on critical matters like combating exploitative labor conditions, corruption, and discrimination against women and minorities around the world,” says the report. These are important initiatives. But there are ways to accomplish them without introducing trade goals misaligned with U.S. domestic economic interests.

Tariffs and sanctions work, but our new trade policy doesn’t emphasize them because they run counter to another goal in the trade policy: crowdsourcing cooperation from friends and allies around the world. Recent history reminds us that before the pandemic, few countries aided the United States in efforts to establish more reciprocity with our trade partner China. “The Biden Administration will coordinate with friends and allies to pressure the Chinese government to end its unfair trade practices and to hold China accountable,” notes the report.

Putting teeth in trade talks sometimes requires unilateral actions, especially if our “friends and allies” have economic, political, and security interests that do not align with those of the United States. Relying on others in this regard is a return to the inadequate trade policy of the past. Same old, same old.

Another item in the trade agenda that takes the focus off meeting the needs of American workers is a review of existing trade programs and “their contribution to equitable economic development (of other countries), including whether they reduce wage gaps, increase worker unionization, and promote safe workplaces.”

One way that has been done in the past is to offer cash grants. The other is to give other countries unfettered access to U.S. markets in exchange for “equitable” policies. As we have seen in recent decades, offering special trade access to our market for progress on nation-building “goals” directly competes with U.S. workers and, while helping others, takes the focus off who we should help first.

Don’t get me wrong. The 2021 Trade Policy Agenda contains some good elements. But given global economic stress, and specifically the needs of U.S. workers and companies, is taking the focus off directly protecting those interests the best approach? Read the document here: bit.ly/tradeplan21 and let me know your take.






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