President Donald Trump's trade tariffs have created "leverage" that the incoming Biden administration could use to get the outcomes it wants on the international stage, said former top White House trade negotiator Clete Willems.
Trump slapped elevated tariffs on major trading partners such as China, Canada and the European Union for what he said were unfair practices that disadvantaged American companies. His moves raised tensions between the U.S. and other countries, as well as triggered a trade war with China that weighed down the global economy.
Several trade experts have said that President-elect Joe Biden will likely favor working with allies over slapping punitive tariffs to settle international disputes. But some experts have said Biden may not remove tariffs that Trump has imposed.
"Whether you love the tariffs or hate the tariffs, they have created leverage for United States. (The) United States has raised important questions about the multilateral system, and I hope that this (Biden) administration would use that leverage to get outcomes," Willems told CNBC's "Street Signs Asia" on Wednesday.
"At the same time, I do think an approach of working more with allies and partners is important and I do hope that they prioritize that perhaps a little bit more than the Trump administration has," he added.
Willems was deputy assistant to the president for international economics and deputy director of the National Economic Council until April last year. He's now a partner at law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
On dealing with China, Willems said taking a multilateral approach is the "right step." But Biden would also need allies such as Europe and Japan to show "much more ambition" in their willingness to take on Beijing, he added.
Other countries share U.S. concerns about Chinese industrial practices, such as alleged intellectual property theft and subsidies for state-owned enterprises which distort competition. But the Trump administration has preferred to confront Beijing unilaterally, and denounced the World Trade Organization as "broken" for allowing countries such as China to take advantage of it.
"I think it's the right step to say we're gonna try to do it multilaterally, but it's much harder to get everyone be bold and be ambitious, and I hope that they have success with that," said Willems.
"They're gonna really have to work on it and these other countries are gonna have to step up to the plate."