United States Trade Report Implications of the 2020 Election for US Trade Policy: An Early Look at the Biden Administration’s Approach

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The election of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States will have important implications for US trade policy and the World Trade Organization.  In the four years since his departure as Vice President, US trade policy and the multilateral trading system have undergone dramatic shifts, driven largely by the Trump administration’s efforts to re-shore manufacturing, reduce trade deficits, and bolster trade enforcement, as well as its skepticism of the longstanding bipartisan consensus in favor of trade liberalization and multilateral institutions.  Aspects of this approach have proven controversial, but the fundamental shift towards a more "economic nationalist" trade policy has enjoyed bipartisan support, and this trend has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and growing geopolitical tensions with China.  As a result, objectives such as repatriating supply chains, reducing dependence on imports, and protecting national security now figure prominently on the trade agendas of both parties, arguably in tension with the longstanding goals of economic efficiency, strengthening international alliances, and developing new export markets for US firms.  

Against this backdrop, a return to the status quo ante under the Biden administration appears unlikely.  During the campaign, President-elect Biden appeared to embrace many of the recent shifts in US trade policy, signaling that further trade liberalization would not be a near-term priority and instead offering a platform focused on expanding "Buy American" rules, reshoring domestic production in "critical" sectors, and aggressively enforcing US trade laws, particularly against China.  On the other hand, the Biden campaign sharply criticized aspects of the Trump administration’s approach, expressing a desire to de-escalate trade tensions with US allies, re-engage in multilateral institutions, and address China’s alleged unfair trade practices primarily through coordinated action with like-minded countries rather than unilateral measures.  Thus, while there is likely to be some continuity between the two administrations on trade policy, important changes are expected.  This report provides an overview of President-elect Biden’s trade platform and assesses how key trade issues and relationships might progress under his administration. 


  • The Biden Trade Platform and the Emerging Landscape
  • US-China Trade Relations
  • Section 232 Measures and Investigations
  • Trade Negotiations and Agreements
  • US-EU Trade Relations
  • Trade Remedies and Enforcement
  • Trade Personnel in the Biden Administration
  • The US Role in the WTO 


› Download the full report: 'United States Trade Report' (PDF)


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