Analysts have compared it to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the United States withdrew from in 2017.[3] However, the initiative is intended to be a precursor for later negotiations, as it does not include a uniform lowering of tariffs.[4]

Biden described the initiative as "writing the new rules for the 21st century economy", stating that the agreement would make the participant's economies "grow faster and fairer". Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo argued that the framework constituted "the most significant international economic engagement that the United States has ever had in this region".[5] However, the pact has been described as being "hollow", "meaningless" or "useless" by some commentators, including US industry groups, due to its lack of tangible policy actions such as lowering tariffs.[6][7][8]


Was there some road blocks in the Senate or from other people or groups of people within the U.S. government that would have made it difficult to get it through the Senate; otherwise, what was the reason that the Biden administration didn't include the lowering of tariffs to entice countries to join the group? Historically, similar trade deals offered to member countries greater market access to the U.S. market by lowering tariffs, but it seems the Biden administration wasn't willing to do that.

1 Answer 1


It looks like this administration isn't too interested in that essentially saying they're low enough as far as they're concerned.

Ambassador Tai defended IPEF in the U.S. Senate recently amid questions about the administration’s refusal to engage in tariff negotiations. “We're actually living in a pretty tariff-liberalized world as it is,” she said. Furthermore, Tai argued that the administration is not engaging in tariff liberalization because traditional trade agreements “have led us to a place where we are facing a considerable backlash that we are listening to from our own people about concerns regarding the offshoring and outsourcing of American jobs and opportunity through these types of arrangements.”

Biden did roll back a few Trump-related tariffs earlier on, but even those just for some of US allies.

The US Trade Representative issued a strong rebuke of the World Trade Organization’s decision that former President Donald Trump’s 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% duty on aluminum violates international rules. It’s the strongest statement yet from the White House that Biden has no intention to remove the duties, which would potentially alienate one of his most important bases of support: steelworkers.

“The Biden Administration is committed to preserving U.S. national security by ensuring the long-term viability of our steel and aluminum industries, and we do not intend to remove the Section 232 duties as a result of these disputes”, Adam Hodge, a spokesman for the US Trade Representative, said in a statement. There was much discussion in the leadup to the 2020 election and the early days of Biden’s presidency whether he would roll back the tariffs, which manufacturers from Caterpillar Inc. to Whirlpool Corp. to Harley Davidson Inc. had long complained were hurting US companies. The president instead chose to make some soft concessions to key allies, such as the European Union, while keeping the Section 232 tariffs, which the US sees as vital for national security, in place for most others.

[...] The metals industry already was taking a victory lap with US Steel Corp. commending Biden for defending the industry and the United Steelworkers calling the WTO’s decision “just plain wrong.”

And even those on the EU almost got reimposed last month, as they were merely suspended while more talks go on. And the new tax breaks (only) on made-in-US EVs are also an issue [for the EU].

Also, a lot of the other Asia countries are still benefiting from the Trump tariffs on China that Biden essentially kept as-is. Vietnam etc. saw their trade with the US increase substantially as a result.

As for the domestic politics, there's razor thin majority in the Senate to consider as well...

In recent days, the U.S. has pulled back on trade negotiations with Asian partners after pushback from Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is facing a challenging reelection bid in an increasingly red state. Now, the agreement won’t be finalized in San Francisco this week, as the administration had planned for months, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen confirmed on Monday. [...]

Despite the trade pact — called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework — not being subject to congressional approval, Brown’s comments sent a clear signal that “spooked some folks” in the administration, said one official familiar with the talks. [...]

“I’m glad to hear the administration has decided not to move forward on an agreement that lacks enforceable labor standards,” Brown said in a statement to POLITICO. “Instead of negotiating trade deals behind closed doors, we should be working to strengthen enforcement so that American workers can compete on a level playing field.”

Among other nations, the state of play is clear. U.S. trading partners recognize the domestic political situation the Biden administration faces, said Australian trade minister Don Farrell, who confirmed that the trade negotiations would be punted in an exclusive interview with POLITICO. Though U.S. negotiators did not explicitly blame domestic political concerns for the delay, Farrell said it’s a commonly acknowledged fact among the trading partners. [...]

The decision to pull back on the trade pillar came quickly. Just last week, Brown told his Senate colleagues that he would publicly oppose the entire IPEF package unless the trade negotiations were dropped, arguing the trade provisions did not include adequate labor and environmental protections. That fueled fears among some Democrats that the new economic package could be painted by Trump and Republicans as a job-outsourcing global trade deal — as they did in 2016 with the Trans-Pacific Partnership — even though Biden’s IPEF package is considerably less ambitious and does not touch on tariffs or market access issues.


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