THE new Democrat majority in the US House of Representatives is likely to back President Donald Trump's trade war with China and could even egg him on but will offer tougher scrutiny of his negotiations with allies, trade experts and lawmakers say.
Mr Trump has imposed tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese goods to pressure Beijing to stop intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, improve market access for US firms and cut its high-tech industrial subsidy programme - major shifts away from China's state-led economic model.
Democrats, the traditional party of trade unions, largely support such moves, especially for their hoped-for effect on helping American workers.
A senior fellow and trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Gary Hufbauer said: "I think Trump has a free hand to pursue his aggressive approach. If anything, the Blue Wave (of Democrats) will be as hawkish, if not more hawkish, than Trump on China."
Scott Kennedy, head of China studies at the Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said there is growing bipartisan concern in Washington about increasing state control of China's economy, military activity in the South China Sea and security issues surrounding Chinese technology companies.
"President Trump has paid no political price for taking a tough line on China," he said. "I still see the short term-political and long-term strategic signals on China still pointing in the same direction."
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who made a pitch to return as speaker, has applauded Mr Trump's initial round of tariffs on China as a "leverage point" to negotiate fairer trade for US products in the country.
"The United States must take strong, smart and strategic action against China's brazenly unfair trade policies," Ms Pelosi said in March.
Mr Trump has signalled in the past week that he believes a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping is achievable. The two are due to meet on the sidelines of the G20 leaders' summit at the end of November.
If things do not go well, he has threatened to impose tariffs on about $267 billion worth of remaining Chinese imports to the United States. Currently, 10 per cent tariffs on $200 billion of products are scheduled to rise to 25 per cent on January 1, 2019.
"House Democrats are the most protectionist group in Congress," said Derek Scissors, a China scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. If Trump makes a deal that fails to achieve significant changes to China's practices, they'll jump all over him," he said.
The bipartisan unity is less secure when it comes to trade talks with allies, however, and the new Democrat majority could make it more difficult to win congressional approval for a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, reports Reuters.