Although the 2020 electoral cycle has been dominated by the covid-19 pandemic and widespread social justice movements, the elections will have profound implications for US trade policy and in particular for our state. Texas exports totaled $ 330 billion in 2019, or about 20% of total U.S. exports, and account for more than 30% of state GDP. What is the position of the presidential candidates on trade? There are a few key differences.
Donald Trump ran in 2016 on a populist, anti-globalization platform promising to put America first and be tough on trading partners like China. Since taking office, he has pursued many of his goals, announcing the withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (proposed but not ratified under the Obama administration), renegotiating several aspects of NAFTA to produce the agreement states -United-Mexico-Canada, and engage China in a trade war, impose tariffs on many of its products.
These policies help some segments of the population but hurt others. Some manufacturing workers in industries that compete with Chinese imports benefit, as do workers in industries that have chosen to maintain production in the United States due to new local content requirements in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
But all tariffs create higher prices for consumers, as importers in the United States pay tax revenue to the government and must adjust their prices to offset those costs. And many exporters, such as farmers in midwestern states like Iowa, Illinois, or Wisconsin, have been hit by China’s retaliatory tariffs.
Finally, the loss of jobs in some sectors of the US economy is due to larger, longer-term structural forces that tariffs cannot address, such as manufacturing automation.
The Trump administration has also rejected multilateral trade governance, choosing to operate outside of the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement mechanism, a sort of tribunal charged with resolving trade disputes. In fact, the United States has now effectively crippled the mechanism by refusing to approve the appointment of new appellate judges. This has undermined the ability of other countries to seek redress for allegations of unfair trade practices.
As for Joe Biden, he comes from a tradition of centrist, pragmatic Democrats who generally embrace free trade. Yet he also supported labor protections and may seek to do more to compensate those displaced by foreign competition, especially under pressure from the far left Democratic Party.
He criticized many of Donald Trump’s trade policies as being too erratic, which could undermine the credibility of the United States. He has also argued for a strong stance on China, but in the past he has supported multilateral initiatives such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have positioned the United States as an alternative trading partner to China for many Asian countries.
Biden criticized the Trump administration’s negotiations with China, arguing that China was released easily. It is likely that a Biden presidential administration would seek to repair many of the frayed relationships with traditional American trading partners, while also seeking greater multilateral cooperation to push back China’s growing economic influence.
Biden would also most likely seek to restore American leadership in international institutions, such as the World Trade Organization. As a senator and then vice president, Biden was known for his expertise in foreign policy. He considers a strong American presence in the world to be essential to the power and prosperity of the United States, and one of the ways the United States has helped maintain liberal order since 1945 is by exercising its power. through institutions. The Obama administration tried to use the dispute settlement mechanism to put pressure on China, filing multiple disputes that resulted in several political concessions.
The candidates present a stark contrast on many issues, including their approach to international trade policy. Their only point of agreement seems to be the confrontation with China, although they differ on the approach. The choice will be important for Texas, given the size of its export sector.
Terrence Chapman is Associate Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin.
A version of this editorial appeared in the San Antonio Express News.
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