How much would Joe Biden change trade policy? Less than you think

延续性候选人 Continuity candidate-书迷号

ON THE SUBJECT of trade policy, America’s Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has been sounding rather like President Donald Trump. He claims that “economic security is national security”, promises to create millions of manufacturing jobs and pledges to reduce America’s dependence on China. On September 9th he published his “Made in America” plan, only for the White House to tell Fox News that it would host its own “Made in America” day on October 5th. America’s trading partners hoping for change may dismiss Mr Biden’s tough talk as campaign chatter. That would be unwise.
谈及贸易政策问题时,美国民主党总统候选人拜登的口气很像总统特朗普。他声称“经济安全就是国家安全”,承诺创造数百万个制造业岗位,誓言减少美国对中国的依赖。他在9月9日发表了自己的“美国制造”(Made in America)计划。白宫随之告知福克斯新闻台(Fox News),它将在10月5日举办自己的“美国制造”日。美国的贸易伙伴们期待形势发生改变,可能会把拜登强硬的言论当成竞选话术。这是不明智的。

Mr Biden would bring some changes, of course. Policy would be more consistent. Trade officials in Mexico and the European Union (EU) could stop following presidential tweets so avidly. Having slammed Mr Trump’s “empty” agreement with China, Mr Biden seems unlikely to strike shallow, transactional deals. In fact, despite his reputation for liking them, he may not agree to any at all. They can wait, he has said, until after “we have invested in Americans”.

Trading partners may hope that America stops applying new tariffs. They should manage their expectations. Mr Biden is no “Tariff Man”, as Mr Trump once proclaimed himself to be. But he has pledged to restrict imports from China that are deemed to be a national-security threat. Countries that do not live up to their environmental obligations could face a carbon-adjustment fee in the form of tariffs or quotas.

Mr Biden sees as big a role for the government in supporting American manufacturing as Mr Trump does, perhaps a reflection of the fact that industrial policy is now in favour across the political spectrum. Mr Biden’s plans to strengthen “Buy American” rules would make it harder for the government to buy foreign cement, steel and equipment. Peter Navarro, Mr Trump’s trade adviser, would be proud.
拜登和特朗普一样,认为政府在支持美国制造业方面作用重大。这可能反映出产业政策目前获得了跨党派支持。拜登加强“购买美国货”(Buy American)规则的计划将导致政府更难采购外国的水泥、钢铁和设备。特朗普的贸易顾问彼得·纳瓦罗(Peter Navarro)想必会为此自豪。

Robert Lighthizer, America’s chief trade negotiator, reportedly expressed his unhappiness with the Agreement on Government Procurement, an international deal designed to prevent governments from imposing restrictions on how public funds are spent. Mr Biden promises to rewrite the rules, so that America and its allies can “use their own taxpayer dollars to spur investment in their own countries”.
美国首席贸易谈判代表罗伯特·莱特希泽(Robert Lighthizer)据称对《政府采购协定》(Agreement on Government Procurement)表示不满,该国际协定旨在防止政府限制公共资金的用途。拜登承诺改写规则,这样美国及其盟友就可以“用自己纳税人的钱来刺激对本国的投资”。

Moreover, Mr Biden has committed himself to using a broader range of tools than Mr Trump’s tariffs. He plans to spend $300bn of public funds to support research into artificial intelligence, electric vehicles and 5G. A “clawback” provision would make companies shipping jobs overseas hand back the subsidy. Some governments will see this as unfair: foreign companies facing subsidised competitors will find it as difficult to break into the American market as if they were facing tariffs. Others will take it as permission to hand out subsidies of their own. Either approach will breed tension. Mr Biden has pledged to fight back against countries undercutting American manufacturing using “unfair subsidies”.

Mr Biden’s silence on two matters has led to foreign suspicions of yet more continuity. The first relates to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which the Trump administration has hobbled by breaking its system of solving trade disputes. (A WTO judgment on September 15th that American tariffs on Chinese imports broke its rules will not whet the administration’s appetite for a fix.) The EU, which sees dispute settlement as integral to the rules-based trading system, wants to repair the mechanism. Mr Biden has not yet said if he will join in.

The other matter is what Mr Biden will do with the tariffs imposed by Mr Trump. He has criticised them without pledging to remove them. Strategy might play a role: a Biden administration may want to dangle tariff reductions in return for concessions abroad. To America’s trading partners, that would feel rather familiar. ■