After unpredictable Trump, Biden may keep Japan in trade quagmire

After unpredictable Trump, Biden may keep Japan in trade quagmire

The next four years under Joe Biden may be less tumultuous than the past four under Donald Trump, but will still be challenging for Japan as the U.S. president-elect is unlikely to ease up on China.

Biden is seen as preferring a more multilateral approach to trade. This comes as a relief to Japan, which salvaged the original Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact from collapse after the United States left on Trump’s initiative, hoping that Washington would eventually come back.

Still, trade experts see no immediate return of the U.S. to what is now the 11-member TPP while Biden focuses on domestic issues such as containing the spread of COVID-19 and boosting the world’s largest economy, although the 77-year-old Democrat backed the TPP as vice president under former President Barack Obama.

The chances of the United States piling pressure on trading partners like Japan to make bilateral deals — a tactic pursued by Trump — may decrease, though a Biden administration could still make strong demands of Japan over trade and environmental issues.

“Biden would emphasize partnerships to contain unilateral Chinese policymaking and he would seek a more active Asian policy than the benign neglect of the Obama era,” said Martin Schulz, chief policy economist at Fujitsu Ltd.