Clete Willems: How A Rivalry Between China and the U.S. Is Dominating Global Trade

Clete Willems, a former senior member of Trump’s trade team and now a current partner at law firm Akin Gump, joins Real Vision managing editor Ed Harrison for a deep-dive conversation about global trade relations. Willems outlines how a rivalry between China and the United States is dominating global trade, geopolitical and national security policy, and how the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated tensions between the two behemoths. He also notes Trump’s focus on trade and bilateral trade deficits in dealing with China has been replaced by a focus on foreign policy, geopolitical competition, and national security in the Biden administration. Willems believes this pivot means “values” will move to the center of the rivalry between China and the U.S., making human rights conditions, government control in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and global supply chains all potential flash-points. Filmed March 31, 2021.

Key Learnings: While the switch from a trade focus to a foreign policy focus by US leaders may not cause any change in trade negotiations, it will simultaneously heighten tensions and allow the US to “recruit” allies in Europe and elsewhere to counter China. Russia has receded from view as a global strategic rival but remains a potent force because of its military and Europe‚Äôs dependence on natural gas. Europe’s dependence on trade with China and natural gas from Russia as well as tensions with the US over Digital Services Tax make it an unpredictable force in global trade negotiations. But the poor trade relationship the U.S. has with India makes it the biggest wildcard in global trade policy.

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