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  • A handout image of a video conference shows leaders and trade ministers of 15 Asia-Pacific nations posing for a virtual group photo during the 4th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, 15 November 2020

    A handout image of a video conference shows leaders and trade ministers of 15 Asia-Pacific nations posing for a virtual group photo during the 4th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, 15 November 2020 | Photo: EFE/EPA

Published 17 November 2020
Opinion

US President-elect says the U.S.; allies need to be able to set global trading rules after China-backed
regional trade deal.

Only days away after China signed a major trade deal in the Asia Pacific area that encompasses roughly one-third of the world's gross domestic product and population, making it the largest free-trade agreement ever signed, the U.S. President-elect reacted during a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware.  

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On Monday, Biden said the United States needed to negotiate with allies to set global trading rules to counter China’s growing influence but declined to say whether he would join the new China-backed Asian trade pact signed on Sunday.

When asked during the conference whether the United States would join the Asian-focused 15-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement, Biden said he could not yet discuss U.S. trade policy because he had not taken office “and there’s only one president at a time.”

“We make up 25 percent … of the economy in the world,” Biden said of the U.S.

“We need to be aligned with the other democracies, another 25 percent or more, 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.”

 

The signing of the RCEP at a regional summit in Hanoi covers 30 percent of the global economy. It brings together Asian powers China, Japan, and South Korea, for the first time. It also marks another setback for US influence in the region after President Donald Trump in 2017 quit the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, negotiated while Biden was vice president.

Myron Brilliant, executive vice president of the US Chamber of Commerce,  said on Monday that he was concerned Washington was being left behind following the signing of the RCEP. Still, while he welcomed the trade-liberalizing benefits of the RECP, he said Washington should not join the bloc.

“The United States should, however, adopt a more forward-looking, strategic effort to maintain a solid US economic presence in the region,” he said. “Otherwise, we risk being on the outside looking in as one of the world’s primary engines of growth hums along without us.”

On Monday, Biden told reporters that he had a detailed trade plan he would discuss on January 21, 2021, the day after he is due to be sworn into office.

Asked why he would not comment on plans for trade agreements when he has said he would rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accords, Biden said: “You’re asking me about whether I’d join a specific proposal, the details of which are now only being negotiated among those nations. It would require negotiation.”

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