Biden’s Potential Impacts to Trade and Transportation

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Biden’s Potential Impacts to Trade and Transportation

On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will likely bring several changes to the logistics industry during their administration. While we are unable to completely predict the changes expected during the Biden administration, we will outline some of our thoughts as more regulation is anticipated under the new administration.

China Tariffs

The Trump administration is known for its strict policy on import tariffs, especially with China. Although Biden does not share the same reputation in terms of tariff policies, the Section 301 China tariffs will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Biden has mentioned using these duties as a bargaining chip with China.

Biden’s current nominee for U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is Katherine Tai. Tai is the former chief counsel for the House Ways & Means Committee, former trade enforcement for the USTR’s office from 2011-2014, a Yale and Harvard graduate, and a Chinese American who is fluent in Mandarin. Experts believe Tai may help smooth negotiations with China. Tai is receiving strong bipartisan support.

European Union Tariffs

The Trump administration imposed several tariffs on countries in the European Union, including France. However, the USTR recently announced the suspension of the tariff action in the Section 301 investigation of France’s Digital Services Tax (DST). The additional tariffs were suspended in light of the ongoing investigation of similar DSTs adopted or under consideration in ten other jurisdictions.

Climate Change

Biden has pledged to pursue advocating and tackling climate change. On Biden’s campaign website, the shipping industry has a large role in his new plans for decarbonization. It states, “to catalyze this effort, Biden will, in his first 100 days in office […] lead the world to lock in enforceable international agreements to reduce emissions in global shipping and aviation.”

The Biden administration is expected to continue Secretary Chao’s work on ports, but with a more sustainable focus. To achieve this focus, there may be an introduction of an emissions monitoring, reporting and verification program. This plan would assist ports in keeping track of their emissions and hold them accountable for pollution levels.

We expect the Biden administration to support the electrification of the ports, ships requirements coming into the ports, requirements for the tugs assisting the vessels and other vehicles at the ports. Many ports are moving towards going fully electric by certain dates varying by port.


Regulations and legislation of the US maritime industry heavily depends on the appointment of the new head of the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD), the Department of Transportation agency responsible for the sector.

Biden’s environmental philosophy is likely to play a role on the choice of candidate for this pivotal role. This role not only influences the future domestically, but also within the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO).

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