Biden and Foreign Policy: Three Priorities

The Trump administration has done more to shift United States foreign policy from established norms than any previous administration. Through sweeping executive orders, the Trump administration has alienated allies and aligned with autocrats that the United States normally views as adversaries. In a return to a policy approach akin to isolationism, the United States has dropped out of the Paris Climate Accords, questioned the necessity of funding and participation in NATO, and dismantled the Iranian Nuclear Deal. The past few years have resulted in the United States and China engaged in a tariff war and accusations of intellectual property theft. The incoming Biden administration should focus on three key areas of foreign policy in the first 100 days. They include rejoining strategic alliances, salvaging the Iran Nuclear Deal and a renegotiation of trade deals with China. These will serve to repair relationships with our allies and maintain relevance and strength in the global arena.

The current administration made statements that China was to blame for the global Covid-19 pandemic, and a trade deficit that was growing larger. During his administration, Trump unsuccessfully tried to balance this deficit, seemingly at the expense of farmers stateside and an amicable relationship with a growing world superpower. 

“U.S. farmers were hit so hard by Trump’s tariff war with China that his administration doled out more than $20 billion in emergency aid payments to help cushion the blow. U.S. farm exports to China had reached as high as $25 billion annually a few years before Trump was elected. But they plummeted to $6.8 billion in fiscal 2019 after Beijing retaliated against Trump’s tariffs by raising its own duties on U.S. farm exports.” 

Biden’s policies in regards to China will diverge greatly from Trump’s, but it may be more in tone than substance. Biden will have to acknowledge and deal with the large tariffs on Chinese goods and decide whether or not to keep them. Biden is also more likely to press China on human rights issues, unlike the Trump Administration that mainly turned a blind-eye. ”Biden is a problem for China because his administration would likely stick China on human rights, and his declared approach of working with allies to constrain China could happen and would complicate China’s advance,” said Robert Sutter, a China politics expert at George Washington University. 

In June of 2017, President Trump held a press conference at the White House where he announced that the United States would be leaving the Paris Climate Accord. The President cited a massive economic burden and the potential loss of jobs as reasons for the departure.

“Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country…Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025 according to the National Economic Research Associates.  This includes 440,000 fewer manufacturing jobs — not what we need — believe me, this is not what we need — including automobile jobs, and the further decimation of vital American industries on which countless communities rely.  They rely for so much, and we would be giving them so little.” 

This departure signaled to the world that the United States was not willing to work with the international community on perhaps the greatest threat to our planet. Perhaps more importantly, it signaled that the United States was abandoning science, reason and a willingness to cooperate with our allies. Trump has also spoken out against NATO from the beginning of his presidential term. The President’s main grievance was the disproportionate spending of the NATO members, and the belief that the United States was carrying the majority of the financial burden. The most aggressive policy imposed by  Trump in regard to leaving NATO in his first term was removing 12,000 American troops from Germany as a “punishment” for Germany failing to meet the spending targets. 

Biden has been very clear about his plan to return to these strategic alliances. As outlined in his transition document, Biden speaks about strengthening NATO ties and immediately rejoining the Paris Climate Accords. Not only is this strategic, it signals more of a return to diplomacy and cooperation with our closest allies in Europe in the Biden administration.

Prior to his election, Trump was very vocal about his dislike of the Iran Nuclear Deal that came to fruition under the Obama/Biden Administration. By 2018 Trump had ended the United States involvement in the deal, and reinstated sanctions, much to the dismay of France, Germany and the UK who tried to keep the deal alive. The breakdown of the deal and the reinstatement of sanctions has led Iran to once again increase their nuclear activity. America’s most staunch allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are eager to stop the resurrection of the deal, citing regional security and wanting to keep the sanctions on Iran and limit their power in the region. 

“Trump’s unpredictability and reliance on bilateral bullying to get his way built up deep resentment.” said Robin Niblett the director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. An antidote to this resentment may be Biden’s pragmatism and devotion to building global community. 







  • Lauren Maltese

    Lauren received her undergraduate degree from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University with a dual major of International Relations and Economics and a minor in Political Science. She went on to study Diplomacy at the University of Haifa where she also spent time working at Amnesty International in Tel Aviv.

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