During his campaign for president, Joe Biden pledged to reverse the course of the Trump administration’s foreign policy.
On the first day of his term, he signed a flurry of executive orders, rejoining the Paris (Climate) Agreement and revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, an oil pipeline that connects the Canadian oil fields with refineries in Texas and Illinois.
The issue is whether President Biden will reverse the Trump Administration policies toward China and reset U.S.-China relations.
U.S.-China relations are conflicting on different matters, ranging from bilateral trade to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the political status of Taiwan, and the denuclearization of North Korea.
After engaging in a trade war with China, in 2019 the Trump Administration reached phase one of a trade agreement that required China to increase the import of American goods by $159 billion by the end of 2020. China purchased about half of such amount, citing a contraction in internal demand that was caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The United States maintained high import duties on Chinese goods.
By inviting the Taiwan envoy to his inauguration, President Biden signaled that U.S. policy to preserve Taiwan’s status quo will not change. It is also unlikely that the Biden Administration will change U.S. opposition to China’s sovereignty claims on the South China Sea because the maritime area is of geostrategic and economic importance.
Regarding North Korea, President Biden is expected to toughen the U.S. attitude toward Kim Jong Un, after calling the North Korean dictator a ''thug.''
By hardening U.S. policies on North Korea, the Biden Administration might push North Korea closer to China and increase risks to increase hostile activities against South Korea and Japan.
During his term as vice president in the Obama administration, Biden supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral free trade area that included most democratic countries in the Pacific Rim, jeopardizing Chinese interests in the region.
The Trump Administration pulled out of TPP, citing its opposition to multilateralism, but de facto continued its implementation by signing bilateral trade agreements with countries in the Pacific Rim such as Japan.
President Biden was also a proponent of the Pivot to Asia, a rebalancing of U.S. military forces from the Mideast to the Pacific.
The architect of such policy, Kurt Campbell, was recently picked by Biden to lead U.S. policy toward Asia.
This is an indication that President Biden intends to follow the Obama Administration’s policy of counterbalancing China through economic and strategic initiatives.
While the Trump administration directly confronted China, the Biden administration will likely have a softer and more diplomatic approach, possibly reducing import tariffs on Chinese goods.
However, it is unlikely that U.S. policy targets, which are directed to a containment of Chinese expansionism, a rebalancing of U.S. trade deficit, and the liberalization of China’s financial market to increase U.S. investments in the country, will change.
The United States is a significant global importer of manufactured goods and exporter of commodities, while China is the globe's largest exporter of goods and importer of commodities.
It's the interest of both countries to reach a comprehensive agreement that can boost their reciprocal trade interests and ensure sustainable growth for the world’s two largest economies.
Francesco Stipo is the President of the Houston Energy Club, a member of the National Press Club in Washington D.C., a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and recently joined the Bretton Woods Committee. Born in Italy in 1973, Dr. Stipo is a naturalized United States citizen. He holds a Ph.D. in International Law and a Master's Degree in Comparative Law from the University of Miami. Read Francesco Stipo's Reports — More Here.
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