Clifford Sosnow, co-chair of the Trade and Investment Group of the Fasken law firm, reviews the pressing international trade issues that will confront President Biden in the early months of his administration.
Biden will have to deal with a slew of executive orders issued by his predecessor against China, including limitations on doing business with an expanding list of Chinese companies. The language in question “lacks clarity, and is very ambiguous in many respects,” but the new president nevertheless must decide whether to remove those restrictions, and how to confront China in the future. Other matters relating to China include antidumping measures on steel imports, intellectual property theft, and cyber security. “They’re very serious issues,” says Sosnow. “They haven’t gone away.”
China is bolstering its influence in East Asia with membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Sosnow notes, while the Trump administration’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) blocked it from access to similar economic and geopolitical opportunities.
In North America, Biden will likely seek a more conciliatory approach to trade relations with Canada, which Sosnow describes as “bruised.” The business community is wary but nevertheless hopeful of a change in the “harsh” tone that has characterized relations between the U.S. and Canada for the past four years. One sticking point might be the new president’s declared support for an extended “Buy American” policy for government procurement contracts.
Canadian businesses could continue to pursue grievances against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization, although there’s some question as to whether that body still has the teeth to enforce rulings in disputes between trading partners. “As ungainly a beast as it is, the WTO deals with the global trading situation in a way that no other trade instrument or agreement does,” says Sosnow.
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