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Biden On Trade: Trump-Like Protectionism, With A Smile

The Democrat Joe Biden may not sound as aggressive as Trump in protectionist policy to support American firms global competitors, but will broadly follow his policies.

President Joe Biden in the White House on Feb. 19
President Joe Biden in the White House on Feb. 19
Farid Kahhat


LIMA — I've written before that overall, there were reasons for believing that the new U.S. administration will be better for Latin America than the last one. Still, there is one big exception: international trade. Considering what President Joe Biden has said and done since his campaign began, we have sufficient reasons to believe that his too will be a protectionist administration.

During the election, Biden published an article in the review Foreign Affairs entitled "Why America Must Lead Again". He wrote that the United States would not join another trade pact without first investing in U.S. citizens and preparing them to triumph in the world economy. When the U.S. was ready for more negotiations, he wrote, it would include in them union and environmental leaders.

Biden may not follow the example of his predecessor Donald J. Trump, who threatened sanctions on his European allies unless they excluded Chinese firms like Huawei from the development of their 5G networks. But it's not because he doesn't see firms like Huawei as a threat to the U.S. technological lead. He has also repeated charges that China is stealing American technology and intellectual property.

The reason he would not threaten his allies is because he needs them to increase his negotiating clout with China. As the new U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, the U.S. will act in coordination with its allies, simply because when pressured to change its dubious trading practices, China will find it much harder to ignore 60% of the world's GDP than the American share, which is 25%.

Sure, not everything a candidate says becomes public policy. We should recall, the Democrat President Bill Clinton lambasted the Republicans for being too lenient with the Chinese regime before following a similar policy when he moved into the White House. In Biden's case, his first presidential speech on foreign policy and first decisions on trade suggest he is prepared to enact a good part of what he promised as candidate. He vowed that every action abroad must take into account the working class families inside the U.S. It seems Biden wants to recover the working classes who traditionally voted Democrat, but found a more amenable candidate in Trump in 2016.

Protecting the industries where these voters work would be politically viable because while the costs of protectionism are moderate and spread across the economy, its benefits would fall on a relatively small number of firms. And these, being few in number and fairly dependent on state protection, will have incentives to engage in lobbying to keep their protection.

On January 25, Biden signed an executive order fortifying "Buy American" legislation that favors local firms in federal government purchases. The order likely does not comply with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules for discriminating against firms not based in the U.S. This is why, as The Economist has written, "he has promised a diplomatic effort to modernise — code for weaken — the WTO rules."

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food / travel

Pasta v. Fascists: How Italy's Staple Dish Became A Symbol Of Resistance

Pasta may not be considered controversial today, but it played an important role during Italy's fascist years, particularly in one family's celebration of community and liberation.

Photo of the Cervi family.

Photo of the Cervi family, whose seven children were shot by the Fascists on December 28, 1943, at the Reggio Emilia shooting range.

@comunisti_alla_ribalta via Instagram
Jacopo Fontaneto

ROME — Eighty years ago — on July 25, 1943 — the vote of no confidence by the Grand Council of Fascism, leading to Benito Mussolini's arrest, set off widespread celebrations. In Campegine, a small village in the Emilian province, the Cervi family celebrated in their own way: they brought 380 kilograms of pasta in milk cans to the town square and offered it to all the inhabitants of the village.

The pasta was strictly plain: macaroni dressed with butter and cheese, seen as more of a "festive dish" in that period of deprivation. As soon as the Cervi brothers learned about the arrest of Mussolini, they procured flour, borrowed butter and cheese from the dairy, and prepared kilos and kilos of pasta. They then loaded it onto a cart to distribute it to their fellow villagers. Pastasciutta (dry pasta) specifically regards dishes with noodles that are plated "dry", not in broth. That would disqualify soup, risotto, ravioli...

Even though pastasciutta is the most stereotypical type of pasta today, it had a complicated relationship with the government during Italy's fascist years.

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