On March 1, 2021, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released President Joseph Biden’s 2021 Trade Agenda and 2020 Annual Report. Providing an overview of “a comprehensive trade policy in support of the administration’s effort to help the U.S. recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build back better,” the report states that President Biden’s trade agenda addresses four national challenges: (1) building a stronger industrial and innovation base so the future is made in America; (2) building sustainable infrastructure and a clean energy future; (3) building a stronger, caring economy; and, (4) advancing racial equity across the board.
The report notes that “[c]entral components of the 2021 trade agenda will be the development and reinforcement of resilient manufacturing supply chains, especially those made up of small businesses, to ensure that the United States is better prepared to confront future public health crises.” The report makes clear that the COVID-19 pandemic remains the greatest threat to the U.S. economy and that the president’s domestic policies will first address stopping the spread of the virus and safely re-opening the economy. The agenda encompasses a commitment to long-term investments to strengthen domestic production of essential medical equipment and an expansion of industrial capacity to meet future public health crises.
The 2021 trade agenda will also be an essential part of the president’s Build Back Better agenda and will seek “to protect and empower workers, drive wage-driven growth, and lead to better economic outcomes for all Americans.” The report states that workers “will have a seat at the table” in the development of trade policies and that the Biden administration will review past trade policies for their impacts on, and unintended consequences for, workers. In addition, the administration’s trade team will work with allies to achieve commitments to fight forced labor and to increase transparency and accountability in global supply chains.
The 2021 trade agenda includes plans to negotiate and implement strong environmental standards that are “critical to a sustainable climate pathway” and “efforts to advance racial equity and supporting underserved communities.” These efforts will include the negotiation and implementation of strong environmental standards and the development of market and regulatory approaches to address greenhouse gas emissions. The 2021 trade agenda will support domestic initiatives that “eliminate social and economic structural barriers to equality and economic opportunity”, barriers which were further exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic for their “persistent economic disparities on communities of color.”
The Biden administration’s 2021 trade agenda states that the “China challenge will require a comprehensive strategy and more systematic approach than the piecemeal approach of the recent past.” The administration will use “all available tools” to address the range of China’s unfair trade practices that continue to harm U.S. workers and businesses and will particularly address the human rights abuses of the Chinese government’s forced labor program. The Biden administration will coordinate with U.S. allies to pressure the Chinese government to end its unfair trade practices and will further efforts to hold China accountable to its trade obligations.
The report states that President Biden’s trade agenda will, through bilateral and multilateral engagement, “seek to build consensus around trade policies that address the climate crisis, bolster sustainable renewable energy supply chains, level the playing field, discourage regulatory arbitrage, and foster innovation and creativity.” Such efforts will include repairing partnerships and alliances and restoring U.S. leadership around the world. The report makes clear that President Biden intends for the United States to reengage and be a leader in international organizations, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) and that the administration will rely on strong trade enforcement to make certain U.S. trade partners live up to their commitments.
The portion of the 2020 annual report focusing on trade agreements offers a summary of the status and activities of various agreements and ongoing negotiations. It also provides an overview of the various USTR and other agencies’ trade enforcement activities.
A fact sheet outlining key highlights of the report is available here.