Experiential / Reality-based Learning / September 17, 2021

‘Trade Guys’ Come to Smith to Talk Trade Policy, China Relations, and Trade’s Impact on Climate

What is the Biden administration’s stance on global trade? What’s the status of the U.S.-Chinese trade relationship? And are things changing at the intersection between climate and trade regulations?

Those were some of the topics covered in a recent discussion as the Center for Global Business (CGB) hosted a live podcast with The Trade Guys from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The talk, held Tuesday, was part of CGB’s Distinguished Speakers in International Business Series. Rebecca Bellinger, CGB executive director, and Kislaya Prasad, CGB academic director, moderated the conversation with trade experts Scott Miller, senior adviser of the Albshire-Inamori Leadership Academy, and Bill Reinsch, senior adviser and School Chair in International Business at CSIS.

Reinsch opened the discussion by saying that global trade is not a current U.S. priority, as the current administration is more concerned with domestic policy. “I think this is a mistake,” said Reinsch, “[because] they conflate creation of benefits with distribution of benefits.” He said focusing on domestic policy will limit the number of benefits that can be distributed to workers, as trade agreements create worker benefits. He also highlighted the administration’s focus on reshoring or bringing jobs back to the United States by creating incentives for U.S. companies to keep their business local.

“Reshoring would also require negotiation,” added Miller, who said the United States currently appears in a state of “suspended animation” in trade policies. That’s notable because peak global trade, according to Miller, occurred in 2007.

The conversation shifted to the U.S. trade relationship with China, where both Reinsch and Miller said the current strategy is to tread carefully.

“The president has very little room to maneuver,” said Reinsch, observing that the 2024 election plans are already affecting domestic politics on the issue. “Both political parties are trying to capitalize on [China’s unpopularity in the United States].”

Miller agreed, saying there’s “not much room for negotiation” because neither the United States nor China sees a benefit in it. Both countries are focused on domestic-first policies, and, he added, just as the United States is currently in “suspended animation” concerning change in global policies, both countries are avoiding any sudden moves regarding trade.

After these two main topics, Reinsch and Miller took audience questions and discussed trade regulations concerning climate change. “Transparency is the universal solvent,” Miller said, noting that in the U.K., voters accepted higher gasoline taxes because of government messaging regarding the environmental impact of emissions. Miller predicted that a low-carbon future will occur as a result of incentives and voter education through transparency.

Watch the recording of the event to learn more about the discussion. The DSS brings together policymakers, industry leaders, academia, and students to present and discuss emerging trends in international business throughout the year. Join the center for the next DSS event on Oct. 12, on “Disparities in the Global South.”

This event was supported in part by CIBE, a Title VI grant administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

– By Beth Rendely, graduate assistant, Center for Global Business

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