WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden has wasted no time in dumping a batch of major Trump administration policies.
He rejoined the Paris climate agreement. He ended a ban on travelers from mostly Muslim countries. He canceled the Keystone XL oil pipeline. He reversed a ban on transgender people serving in the military.
Biden and his team are tiptoeing, though, around one of Donald Trump’s signature legacies – his go-it-alone moves to start a trade war with China and bludgeon some of America’s closest allies with tariffs on their steel, aluminum and other goods.
The moves upended seven decades of U.S. policy in favor of ever-freer trade but did little to achieve Trump’s goal of narrowing America’s vast trade deficit.
For now, the Biden administration seems intent on approaching trade cautiously.
Biden hasn’t called off Trump’s trade war with China. He hasn’t promised to scale back or cancel his tariffs on imported steel and aluminum or to end an impasse that’s left the World Trade Organization unable to function as arbiter in global trade disputes.
Instead, the administration’s policymakers are focusing on urgent priorities – distributing COVID-19 vaccines as fast as possible and providing much more aid to a pandemic-pounded economy.
Reversing Trump’s trade policies poses risks for a Democrat who is close to unions unhappy with America’s pre-Trump free-trade consensus and depends on support from the industrial Midwest, much of which has suffered from competition low-priced imports.
Biden’s team has promised a trade policy that will support U.S. workers.
He has promised one significant change from Trump’s America-above-all trade stance – patching up relations with key U.S. allies, such as the European Union and Canada, which were bewildered and infuriated by Trump’s policies.