Trade Can Drive a Revived U.S. Strategy in Asia

Trade Can Drive a Revived U.S. Strategy in Asia

After years of neglect under Trump, the region needs fresh attention from Biden.

U.S. relations with Asia have been hobbled by outgoing President Donald Trump’s isolationism, which newly inaugurated President Joe Biden has promised to fix. As has often come up in my conversations with leaders in the Indo-Pacific, Biden must prioritize trade relations with the region—which would send a strong signal to the United States’ regional partners and also boost a lagging U.S. economy. The best place to start is the vibrant digital economy.

America’s competitive advantage in technology and innovation is unquestioned, and U.S. corporations including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm, as well as many other large, medium, and smaller technology companies, are leading the global digital charge. The digital economy itself is increasingly morphing into the overall economy—a trend that has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced us to increasingly live our lives online.

Biden understands that just as “all politics is local” so are all trade deals. International trade policy depends on complicated domestic politics in the countries that the United States deals with, just as it does in America itself. His agency review team for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, for instance, includes top representatives from VisaDropboxHarvard Law School, and social impact agencies as well as grassroots political coalition builders from labor-oriented organizations, including the AFL-CIO.