President-elect Joe Biden says a major priority of his once he enters office is to get the U.S. “back on the same page with our allies,” but is assuming one aspect of President Trump’s “America First” strategy when it comes to China.
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In an interview with The New York Times' Thomas Friedman, Biden outlined how he wants to handle U.S.-Iran relations in returning to a nuclear nonproliferation deal, which Trump pulled the U.S. out of in May 2018, instead enforcing crippling sanction on the Middle Eastern country. But instead of making it harder for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, European allies who were critical of the move said it weakened the enforcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
But when it comes to China, his reversal on everything-Trump seemingly comes to a pause.
“I’m not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs,” Biden told Friedman, referring to a 25 percent tariff Trump imposed on roughly half of all exports from China to the U.S. “I’m not going to prejudice my options.”
Biden has made a point from the beginning of his campaign to say he will reverse countless international decisions made by Trump, and rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, strengthen U.S. ties to NATO, reverse the U.S. decision to withdrawal from the World Health Organization and renew the only surviving nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
But he has remained reserved when it comes to his criticism of Trump’s handling of China's trade agreements and America's condemnation of China in regards to Hong Kong – which means that while other international allies have applauded a Biden presidency, China has less reason to celebrate.
“The best China strategy, I think, is one which gets every one of our — or at least what used to be our — allies on the same page,” Biden told The New York Times. “It’s going to be a major priority for me in the opening weeks of my presidency to try to get us back on the same page with our allies.”
Biden also stands a chance of being able to unite an international front to China in a capacity that Trump was unable to, due to his lack a support from foreign allies – another obstacle China could foresee, according to The Times’ report.
The President-elect said that he believes the only way to deal with China is through “leverage” – a strategy he does not believe the U.S. currently has.
He intends to build this leverage through bipartisan initiatives that both Republicans and Democrats have already lined up, in order to bolster American manufacturing and lower the U.S.’s reliance on China-made goods.
Infrastructure, education and government-sponsored investments into development and research are also on the table.
“[The] goal would be to pursue trade policies that actually produce progress on China’s abusive practices,” Biden told Friedman.
Biden is maintaining one element of Trump’s “America First” strategy in making sure the U.S. is outperforming China in artificial intelligence, technology developments and energy.
“I want to make sure we’re going to fight like hell by investing in America first,” Biden told the publication.
“I’m not going to enter any new trade agreement with anybody until we have made major investments here at home and in our workers,” he added, including educational investments.