US president-elect Joe Biden is not likely to quickly unwind the tariffs that US President Donald Trump has imposed on Chinese imports, said US Senator Chris Coons, a close ally of the incoming leader.
“I would not expect the president-elect to simply just take off all the tariffs and try to take us back to where we were in 2016,” Coons said at a security conference on Friday.
“I would expect him to begin by consulting with our close and trusted allies, like the United Kingdom, like Canada, before moving forward,” he said.
Coons, who appeared at the Halifax International Security Forum, said that he was not speaking for Biden or the transition team, but was outlining what he saw as Biden’s likely course of action based on their relationship and Biden’s long experience working in foreign relations as a senator and vice president.
Coons, a Democrat, represents the same state Biden did when he was senator and is one of the president-elect’s biggest boosters in the US Congress.
His expectations on tariffs match those of outside China watchers, who do not anticipate a major change in the short term.
One area where there might be change is in the US relationship with other trading partners.
“I would not expect to see national security-justified tariffs on close and trusted allies as were imposed against Canada, the UK and others — Japan and South Korea — that I think created needless tension in our relationships,” Coons said.
He added that he thought “Trump was right” to take on China, but that the US needs to project power in the region “more effectively” and “re-engage and re-energize our global network of allies.”
Biden would face some pushback if he moved to lift China tariffs, which have bipartisan support in Congress. So far, he has not committed one way or the other.
He has said he would immediately review all of Trump’s trade actions and called the president’s approach to tariffs “short-sighted and destructive.”
“I will use tariffs when they are needed, but the difference between me and Trump is that I will have a strategy — a plan — to use those tariffs to win, not just to fake toughness,” Biden said in response to a questionnaire from United Steelworkers, a labor union.
Biden is moving quickly to fill out his administration and could name top leaders for his Cabinet as early as next week.
He told reporters on Thursday that he has already decided on who will lead the US Department of the Treasury.
That pick, along with his nominee for secretary of state, might be announced before Thursday, according to people close to the transition who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
The Cabinet announcements could be released in tranches, with groups of nominees focused on a specific top area, like the economy, national security or public health, being announced at once.
In putting together the 15-person team, Biden is facing demands from multiple competing interests, as well as the political realities of navigating a closely divided US Senate.
Additional reporting by AP
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