Biden says world democracies must unite on trade policy

President-elect Joe Biden said he has spoken to some world leaders in general terms about trade issues. PHOTO: AFP

WILMINGTON (AFP) - President-elect Joe Biden on Monday (Nov 16) said the United States must join forces with other world democracies to present a united front in global trade policy as a counterweight to China.

"The idea that we're poking our fingers in the eyes of our friends and embracing autocrats makes no sense to me," Mr Biden said in a press conference to discuss his economic plan.

He pledged to release details of his trade policy agenda on Jan 21 - the day after he takes office.

Outgoing US President Donald Trump used an aggressive trade policy against friend and foe alike, imposing tariffs on steel, aluminium and other goods from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, in addition to China.

"We need to be aligned with the other democracies... so that we can set the rules of the road instead of having China and others dictate outcomes because they are the only game in town," Mr Biden said.

The Trump administration eschewed multilateral organisations, and hamstrung the World Trade Organisation over claims it was unfair to the US, paralysing the dispute settlement body and blocking the naming of a new director general.

Mr Trump's rhetoric was generally more friendly towards Russia and North Korea, a pariah nation whose head of state nevertheless won two meetings with the US president.

Mr Biden said he has spoken to some world leaders in general terms about trade issues, but declined to get into specifics with them on what he might do - including whether he would join a new Asia-Pacific free trade pact - because "there is only one president at a time".

However, he said he will not pursue "punitive" trade policy, but rather aim to make American workers more competitive, and ensure labour and environmental leaders "are at the table in any trade deals we make".

Mr Biden also repeated his pledge to rejoin the World Health Organisation and the Paris climate accord, which Mr Trump walked away from.

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