Compared with his predecessor Donald Trump, President Joe Biden’s trade policy actions have hit fewer headlines since his inauguration on 20 January 2021. Even so, these policies – along with the actions President Biden did not take – still send out critical signals about his approach to trade, writes Dr Sheng Lu, associate professor in Fashion and Apparel Studies at the University of Delaware.
#1: Biden’s trade policy often touches on foreign policy goals such as national security, building a closer relationship with allies, and responding to the China challenge.
#2: Biden’s trade policy reflects two themes: being worker-centric and addressing climate change.
#3: Do NOT expect Biden to abandon all Trump’s trade policy actions anytime soon, such as the Section 301 action against imports from China. Likewise, Biden’s emphasis on human rights and climate change could lead to more trade disputes. Whether he will be more “import-friendly” than President Trump remains too early to tell.
22 April 2021 – US International Climate Finance Plan
The Biden administration released its US International Climate Finance Plan. As part of this, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) will “identify ways to significantly increase, as per its mandate, its support for environmentally beneficial, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage exports from the United States.” [Policy document]
16 April 2021 – Foreign Exchange Policies report
The Biden administration’s first Report on Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners (April 2021) removed Vietnam and Switzerland from the “currency manipulator” list, reversing the Trump administration’s December 2020 decision. China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Ireland, Italy, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Mexico were on the monitoring list. Analysts say the report reveals the Biden administration’s intention to de-escalate trade tensions with US allies. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]
31 March 2021 – National Trade Estimate report
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released its 2021 National Trade Estimate (NTE) Report. Most trade barriers facing US textile and apparel products in foreign markets concentrate on high tariffs, rules of origin documentation requirements, and licensing requirements. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [WTO] [Textiles and apparel]
29 March 2021 – Malaysia gloves made by forced labour
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced plans to seize disposable gloves produced in Malaysia by Top Glove Corporation Bhd based on a forced labour findings. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [Textiles and apparel]
29 March 2021 – Trade with Myanmar suspended
In response to the military coup, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said it would suspend all US engagement with Myanmar under the 2013 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) “until the return of a democratically elected government.” The suspension does NOT mean the US is banning or prohibiting imports from Myanmar. However, should US Congress renew the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme, which expired in December 2020, Myanmar could be excluded from the benefits. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]
26 March 2021 – Proposed retaliatory tariffs against Digital Service Tax (DST)
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) proposed imposing up to 25% punitive tariffs on imports from Australia, India, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom in response to their planned digital service tax (DST) targeting US companies. The proposal covers several textile and apparel products (HS Chapters 50-63) from these six countries, including:
- Austria: 5209.12.00, 5402.49.91, 5404.19.10, 5404.19.80, 5603.94.10, 5603.94.90
- India: 5109.90.90, 6212.10.50
- Italy: all 8-digit codes under 6103, 6104, 6110, 6117,6203,6204,6211,6215
- Spain: no textile and apparel products covered
- Turkey: all 8-digit codes under 5702, 5703, 6302 and 6303.91.00
- UK: 6104.43.20, 6201.12.20, 6201.92.45, 6202.12.20, 6202.13.40,6202.92.90, 6204.43.40, 6204.44.40, 6204.49.10, 6205.20.20, 6215.10.00
Before taking action, USTR will accept public comments until the end of April 2021 and announce its decision by May 2021. Meanwhile, USTR also announced the termination of the DST investigation against Brazil, the Czech Republic, the European Union and Indonesia. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [Textiles and apparel]
18 March 2021 – New USTR
Katherine C Tai was officially sworn in as the US Trade Representative.
10 March 2021 – China Section 301 exclusion extension
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced plans to extend the exclusion of PPE and medical-care products related to Covid-19 from Section 301 punitive tariffs against Chinese products. The exclusion covers a limited category of textile and apparel items, including 9903.88.64 (covering 5603.12.0090, 5603.14.0090, 5603.92.0090, 5603.93.0090), 9903.88.65 (5210.11.4040, 5210.11.6020, 5504.10.0000, 6210.10.5010, 6210.10.5090). The extension will be effective from 1 April to 30 September 2021. [Policy documents] [Trade remedy measures] [Textiles and apparel]
5 March 2021 – Punitive tariffs against the EU suspended
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said it would suspend airbus dispute 25% retaliatory tariffs on European Union products starting from 5 March 2021 for four months (until around 4 July 2021). USTR said the suspension would “allow time to focus on negotiating a balanced settlement to the disputes, and begin seriously addressing the challenges posed by new entrants to the civil aviation market from non-market economies, such as China.” Meanwhile, the UK ceased applying retaliatory tariffs in the Boeing dispute from 1 January 2021. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures]
4 March 2021 – Punitive Tariffs against the UK suspended
The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said it would suspend airbus dispute retaliatory tariffs on UK products starting from 4 March 2021 for four months (until around 4 July 2021). The 25% retaliatory tariffs apply to several apparel export categories (such as sweaters) from the UK to the US. USTR said the suspension would “allow time to focus on negotiating a balanced settlement to the disputes, and begin seriously addressing the challenges posed by new entrants to the civil aviation market from non-market economies, such as China.” Meanwhile, the UK ceased applying retaliatory tariffs in the Boeing dispute from 1 January 2021. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [Textiles and apparel]
1 March 2021 – 2021 US Trade Policy Agenda report released
The Biden administration released its 2021 President’s Trade Agenda and 2020 Annual Report, which calls for “putting workers at the centre of trade policy.” It also says the administration will seek to understand better “the projected impact of proposed trade policies on communities of colour and to ensure those impacts are considered before pursuing such policies.” The report further confirms Biden’s emphasis on climate change and says his trade agenda will “include the negotiation and implementation of strong environmental standards that are also critical to a sustainable climate pathway.” Additionally, the new administration will “make it a top priority to address the widespread human rights abuses in China” and use the WTO to engage friends and allies. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [WTO]
24 February 2021 – CBP FAQ regarding WRO against cotton made in Xinjiang
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region WRO Frequently Asked Questions web page, which clarifies the scope of the Withhold Release Orders(WROs) against cotton made in Xinjiang, proof of admissibility, and due diligence. [Policy document] [Trade remedy measures] [Textiles and apparel]
24 February 2021 – Review supply chain in critical sectors
In an executive order (EO), President Biden announced plans to conduct a 100-day supply chains review on several key US industries, including semiconductors, batteries, strategic minerals, and pharmaceuticals. The review will also cover certain critical business sectors, such as national defence, public health, information and communication technology, energy, transportation, and agriculture. Further, the EO explicitly asks the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the heads of appropriate agencies, to submit a report identifying risks in the supply chain of personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE includes textile products like facial masks, gowns and gloves. More comprehensive reform and supply chain strategies are likely to follow after the supply chain review. [Policy document] [Textiles and apparel]
2 February 2021 – Support for new WTO Director
The Office of the US Trade Representative Office said it would support Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the next Director-General of the WTO. Previously, the Trump administration did not support Ngozi’s candidacy. [WTO]