President Donald Trump likes to say that Joe Biden’s agenda is “made in China.” Yet on dealing with Beijing, the two White House contenders may have more in common than meets the eye.
China policy is just one international trade issue Trump and Biden are sparring over as the Nov. 3 election approaches. Trump has pushed an “America First” policy, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership after taking office and remaking the North American Free Trade Agreement into the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Biden, meanwhile, was a free-trader as a senator and vice president, backing Nafta and supporting the same Pacific deal Trump backed out of.
Here’s a look at where Trump and Biden stand on a few key trade issues.
China: One of Trump’s signature trade deals was the so-called Phase 1 agreement with China in January, under which Beijing agreed to buy about $200 billion of U.S. farm and other products over two years. In exchange, the U.S. cut some tariffs on Chinese imports. The U.S. now levies 7.5% tariffs on $120 billion in certain Chinese goods, and 25% duties on about $250 billion of other Chinese products.
With Trump referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus” and saying he’s uninterested in speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping, further talks are at a standstill. Biden may keep Trump’s tariffs on China if he wins the White House, even as he pledges to “stand up to the Chinese government’s abuses [and] insist on fair trade.”
Now see:Trump threatens to ‘decouple’ U.S. economy from China, accuses Biden of ‘treachery.’
“I think he has to keep Trump’s tariffs on China,” said Jon Lieber, Eurasia Group’s managing director for the U.S. “He can’t just come into office and lower these things without getting significant concessions from the Chinese first,” said Lieber, citing anti-China sentiment in the U.S. and potential blowback Biden would face for giving Beijing a “win.”
TPP, U.K. deals: One of Trump’s first moves as president in January 2017 was to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade deal. The deal was backed by the Obama administration, and as president, Biden would have the opportunity to reverse Trump’s decision.
But the former vice president has said he’s not in a rush to re-enter. During the Democratic presidential debates, Biden said he wouldn’t rejoin as “initially put forward,” and that pieces of it should be renegotiated. He favors involving environmental and labor activists in talks.
On the other side of the world, Biden has said the U.K. shouldn’t count on signing a trade deal with the U.S. if the agreement that brought peace to Ireland “becomes a casualty of Brexit.” Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson have made the agreement a priority.
Also read:Biden to Brexit Britain: No trade deal with U.S. if you mess with Ireland.
Domestic manufacturing: With U.S. unemployment above 8% as the country struggles with the coronavirus pandemic, trade and manufacturing policy are key planks of each candidate’s campaign.
As Trump has blamed Biden’s support for Nafta for cutting jobs in states like Michigan, the former vice president says he wants the federal government to spend $400 billion on American goods and services, in addition to $300 billion in research and development in U.S. tech companies. Biden has also called for taxes on companies that move jobs overseas.
Read on:Biden proposes $700 billion-plus ‘Buy American’ campaign.
Trump, meanwhile, pledges in his second-term agenda to bring back 1 million manufacturing jobs from China. The president charges that Biden’s vote 20 years ago to normalize trade relations with China has helped kill American jobs and hollow out U.S. manufacturing.
“President Trump has fundamentally transformed U.S. trade policy to put Americans first and bring jobs back home,” said Ken Farnaso, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign.
“Joe Biden spent his entire career appeasing globalist leaders and expanding American reliance on foreign countries like China. Now, he’s lying about his record thinking American voters aren’t smart enough to know the truth: that his actions cost millions of American jobs to be shipped abroad. It’s clear that every failed trade deal, lost job, and shut down factory has Biden’s fingerprints all over it,” Farnaso told MarketWatch in a statement.
Opinion:Both Trump and Biden are overlooking the simplest way to encourage ‘Made in America’ manufacturing.
While Trump and Biden share some of the same goals, the key is in how they’ll try to achieve them, Lieber says.
“Trump’s been doing unconventional things such as forcing trading partners to the negotiating table with the threat of tariffs. Biden’s far more likely to pursue a more multilateral approach and work with allies to try to come up with remedies against the bad actors in the world, the biggest of which of course includes China,” he told MarketWatch.
A Biden campaign spokesman didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Also read:How Trump and Biden tax policies could affect your paycheck, tax return, investment portfolio and nest egg.