US election 2020: Joe Biden faces pressure to separate China trade policy from Donald Trump’s

US election 2020: Joe Biden faces pressure to separate China trade policy from Donald Trump’s

As voters in the United States prepare for the presidential election on November 3, the South China Morning Post is exploring the potential ramifications for China. The second part of the series looks at how the potential China trade policy of Joe Biden would differ from that of Donald Trump. You can read the first part of the series here.

At the start of August, a Joe Biden presidential campaign aide rushed to clarify comments the candidate gave in an interview with National Public Radio, which some news outlets interpreted as saying he would remove Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods.

Biden “would re-evaluate the tariffs upon taking office”, the aide insisted, and had not in fact committed to removing them. But the scramble to counter the suggestion that he might be weak on China – or weak on trade – shows the challenges Biden faces in running against an antitrade, anti-China incumbent.

“Oftentimes candidates will be critical of trade, that is a very common tactic on the campaign trail. President [Barack] Obama, for example, when he was on the campaign trail in 2008, was critical of the way the United States had done trade deals,” said Elizabeth Baltzan, principal at American Phoenix Trade Advisory Services and a US trade official under Obama and President George W. Bush. “But we’re now seeing a very unusual situation in that it is the sitting president who is so critical of trade.”

This tightrope Biden must walk appears even more fraught when looking at how Americans think about both issues in 2020.