Distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine and future policies on trade are among the top legislative issues to ponder as the 2020 election results play out, according to officials at the Coalition for New England Companies for Trade (CONECT), which holds its 2020 Northeast Cargo Symposium this week. CONECT represents New England companies involved in international trade.
The online event kicked off Monday and featured a presentation by CONECT’s Washington, D.C.-based legal counsel, Peter Friedmann, who discussed how some of the key issues facing the business and trade community may play out under a Joe Biden administration. Friedmann opened his talk by cautioning against overreacting to speculation in the press and on social media and instead letting the post-election process play out, saying that there are still questions to be answered as recounts and legal challenges in battleground states unfold.
The Associated Press declared Biden the winner of the Presidential election on Saturday, saying he had garnered enough electoral votes needed to defeat President Trump, and Biden claimed victory in a speech later that day. President Trump has not conceded the race and has filed legal challenges to contest the vote-counting process in several states.
“I would suggest everyone pay a little less attention [to the news] and just pay attention to what’s happening,” Friedmann said, pointing to the need to certify election results and the pending vote by the electoral college, which will take place in December. “Nobody knows if the legal challenges will be a success. All we can do is wait.”
While they wait, businesses can count on Covid-19 to continue to dominate the business landscape, especially in logistics, where concerns over distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine loom large. Early vaccines by pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have to be transported at ultra-low temperatures—as low as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. The cold chain has limited capacity to handle that, Friedmann said, which will cause distribution challenges. Vaccines expected in early 2021 will have less stringent freezer requirements, making it easier to distribute, he added.
On trade, Friedmann said he expects the Trump tariffs on Chinese imports to remain intact under a Biden administration, at least through the fall of 2021. He cited little opposition to the tariffs in Congress over the past three-and-a-half years and said there is “probably a lot of support for continuing tariffs on the [Democrat] side.”
Infrastructure issues will likely continue to take a backseat to the more pressing concerns of the pandemic, Friedmann said, adding that issues related to climate change and a potential $15-an-hour federal minimum wage will largely depend on how things play out in the Congress. Runoff elections in Georgia slated for January will likely determine who controls the Senate in a new term, and Democrat losses in the House have narrowed the party’s majority and will modify its progressive wing, he said.
The continued use of executive orders to enact new policies is likely if Republicans maintain control in the Senate.
“Executive orders are an option. [They have been] used as never before by [President Barack] Obama and then [President] Trump,” Freidmann said. “We’ll have executive orders if the Republicans hold the senate. How aggressive they’ll be is unclear.”