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Biden won’t quit Trump’s trade war on China

SINGAPORE – With US-China relations at a historic low, President Joe Biden’s new administration is expected to keep the pressure on Beijing as it sets a new multilateral course in a rivalry that erupted into debilitating tech and trade wars during Donald Trump’s tenure.

While many businesses and investors hope for a trade policy reset, including clearer messaging and greater predictability after four erratic years under Trump, it’s not immediately clear Biden will be able to muster easily the “collective leverage” with traditional allies he seeks to coax Beijing to comply with better trade terms.

Trump’s “America First” trade departure drew a hard line against China’s state-led economic model and sought to lure more manufacturing jobs back to the US. The previous administration accused Beijing of stealing intellectual property and imposed tariffs on more than US$370 billion in Chinese goods in a sharp break with free-trade convention.

A bitter trade war was partially defused when the US and China signed a “phase one” trade agreement last January, which committed Beijing to increase its purchases of American products and services by at least $200 billion over two years. But despite that deal, America’s trade imbalance with China has worsened.