How Trump's Winning Affects Indians in the United States

United States

In speeches by US President Joseph R. Biden, trust is often the guiding principle. Biden wants to strengthen democracy in his country, increase economic output through government spending and investments and, on the basis of stable growth, reduce socio-economic and political tensions in order to prevent further division in society. The USA should draw the necessary self-confidence from new economic strength and political stability in order to once again serve as a role model for other countries and to support them in their striving for democracy and prosperity.

In light of the rise of China, Biden's foreign policy is aimed at influencing the balance of power so that the United States maintains its global hegemony. [1] From the point of view of the Biden administration, while the US is not without its flaws, it has enough moral authority and sense of responsibility to lead the world, especially when compared to authoritarian countries like China or Russia. In the political, economic, technological and social competition of the systems, democracy should win. The key to success lies in the trust of the citizens in their own democratic form of government. And Biden wants to regain this trust, which not only suffered during Donald Trump's years in office, but as a result of the global financial crisis from 2008 onwards. With that the decisive topic is already set: the connection of foreign policy decisions to the interests of the American middle class.

Foreign policy for the middle class

In order to win back the necessary trust of the US citizens for their own ambitious foreign policy agenda, the Biden administration came up with a simple and captivating formula: It promises to align its policy with the "interests of the middle class". [2] This names an important classification criterion according to which tasks can be selected and priorities can be set.

While the concept of the "middle class" itself remains vague, the stipulation of a foreign policy for the middle class is sufficient to distinguish itself from the strategies of previous US governments. [3] In the Interim National Security Strategy Guidance (INSSG), the first foreign policy strategy document of the Biden administration, a number of corresponding priorities can be found. [4] First and foremost, this includes intervening against rule violations by China, be it against international trade rules or against human and civil rights. Chinese politics threaten both the freedom and prosperity of the US middle class. In order to counter the rising world power, Biden relies on cooperation with allies and strategic partners. An alliance of stable and defensive democracies should serve as a bulwark in the systemic competition with China - as well as with Russia and other authoritarian systems.

The Biden administration defines the fight against climate change as the second major goal. Coordination with allies is not only seen as central here. A look at which countries have the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions shows that little can be achieved without cooperation with China. In other areas, too, solutions are hardly conceivable without cooperation with China; this includes arms control agreements and the management of the nuclear conflicts with North Korea and Iran.

Another priority of the "foreign policy for the middle class" is the attempt to reduce the so-called forever wars to end - the US military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in other conflict regions in the Near and Middle East, which have continued since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and which have demanded great sacrifices from the US population.

In addition, the fight against terrorism remains a main task. In addition, the Biden Administration attaches great importance to helping poor countries, together with other economically strong nations, in central challenges in health policy, poverty reduction and economic development. Given the ongoing pandemic, it is not difficult to come up with arguments as to why global health policies and the fight against poverty are in the interests of the US middle class. Both areas are becoming increasingly geopolitical: where the US and its Western allies are reluctant to distribute vaccines and finance development, China and, to a certain extent, Russia fill the gap.

The US foreign policy agenda is already overflowing, even if one uses the orientation towards the middle class as a new criterion for order. In the following, the areas of fighting pandemics, dealing with China, and climate and trade policy are used to examine where US interests lie and to what extent they are compatible with the interests and ideas of the allies, especially those of the EU and Germany.

Pandemic control

The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is at the top of the foreign policy agenda due to the still increasing number of infections worldwide and the spread of highly contagious virus variants. When he took office at the end of January 2021, the US president reversed his predecessor's decision to leave the World Health Organization. In February, at a virtual meeting of the G7 countries, Biden joined the declaration that "no country is safe until everyone is safe". The US government contributed two billion US dollars (1.7 billion euros) to the multilateral initiative for vaccination in developing and emerging countries, the so-called Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility. Biden also promised another two billion US dollars for vaccination campaigns and additional measures to prevent the spread of the virus over the next two years. At the same time, the Biden administration is pressing for an explanation of the origin of the pandemic and calling on its allies to jointly make it clear to the Chinese government that it should allow transparent investigations into the origin of the pandemic.

In addition to the vaccination campaign and medical support, the Biden administration could also request accompanying financial aid from the group of economically strongest countries. US economists and health experts propose an initiative to reduce debt for poor and emerging countries. [5] The debt relief for the poorest countries agreed by the G7 countries in 2020 will not be enough to get the growing problem of over-indebtedness under control. Debts to private creditors were not included, which means that emerging countries in particular are at risk of falling into a spiral of over-indebtedness. In addition to development policy, this question also has geopolitical significance. If the western democracies fail to financially relieve the countries that have been driven into over-indebtedness by the pandemic, they will increasingly be sent to debt service to China. [6]

Contain China

While the fight against the coronavirus is the most immediate problem facing the Biden presidency, dealing with China remains the most important foreign policy issue. The US has identified China not only as an economic competitor, but also as a system rival and a possible military threat. The Republican opposition and voters alike will judge the Biden administration by the steps it is taking to curb China's growing dominance in certain economic areas and its political influence in Asia and other regions. At the same time, the US government has set itself the goal of cooperating with Beijing in some political fields. Biden's climate commissioner, former US Secretary of State John Kerry, suggested a pragmatic approach: The US government should negotiate problems that can only be dealt with with China, separately from other issues such as human rights violations (compartmentalization).

To do this, however, the Biden administration would have to win the trust of the Chinese leadership. Washington is currently sending mixed signals: the appointments of experienced "China hawks" such as Barack Obama's government security advisor Kurt Campbell and long-time Biden advisor Ely Ratner to key positions on the National Security Council and the Department of Defense suggest that Biden relies on confrontation with China. It is unclear whether other members of Biden's team like John Kerry can hold their own with a policy of compromising between containment and accommodating. [7] Beijing will follow very closely which positions will prevail in Biden's environment with a view to China.

Under President Trump, the United States had turned around in Sino-American relations. Part of this realignment was the linking of security policy and economic instruments. The most outwardly visible part of the economic coercive measures against China marked the imposition of high tariffs on the basis of the perceived "threat to national security" (according to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act). [8] However, tariffs are of little help in competing for standards, technological leadership, financial influence, and infrastructure investments. [9] The Trump administration therefore also relied on other instruments: investment restrictions, export controls and financial sanctions, not to mention visa restrictions for a large number of Chinese citizens who worked at US universities. In fact, it succeeded in partially slowing down China's economic and technological development. Even the part of the Biden administration that relies more on cooperation cannot ignore this knowledge. Biden will stick to the instruments useful for his policy as long as China does not fundamentally change its foreign policy.

While that propagated by the Trump administration decoupling - Complete unbundling from the Chinese market - is no longer explicitly aimed at by the Biden administration, but allies are still expected to exclude Chinese companies from "strategically relevant areas". [10] For Germany and the EU, the question of whether the Chinese company Huawei will be allowed to participate in the expansion of 5G cellular technology is not easing compared to the years of the Trump presidency. The Biden administration is under pressure not only from the Republicans in Congress, but also from the Democrats, who are calling for tougher crackdown on China for strategic and human rights reasons.

The Biden administration is also continuing the course of the previous government in terms of security and defense policy. With the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy", the Trump administration had mapped out a way in which Washington, together with an alliance of individual states, could prevent China from gaining supremacy in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. [11] In the new INSSG, the Biden administration also defines the Indo-Pacific policy as one of two central strategic pillars of US security and defense policy. [12] Biden relies on the cooperation with allies and strategic partners. [13]

An innovation compared to the strategy of the Trump administration is emerging, however, in that Biden could combine the military with an economic partnership. In this way, Biden would tie in with Obama's policy. For example, Biden used the latest (virtual) meeting of the so-called Quad Group - an informal alliance between the USA, India, Japan and Australia - to launch a joint initiative for rapid and massive vaccination against the corona virus. In addition to the security and defense policy benefits of the Quad Group, this type of "vaccine diplomacy" in response to China's strategic vaccine use also increases the socio-economic benefits for partner countries. [14]

Climate policy

The Biden administration has announced that it will make the change in climate policy towards clean forms of energy a central pillar of a growth-oriented economic policy striving for an upswing. [15] In addition, the President has made it clear that he sees the fight against climate change as both a question of national prosperity and international credibility. On the day he took office, the United States returned to the Paris Agreement. Biden has created two new coordinator posts - one for domestic policy coordination and implementation of climate-relevant political decisions and one for foreign policy initiatives and coordination with partner countries. With the selection of John Kerry as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate at cabinet level, Biden underscores that these tasks are a high priority.

Already in his first days in office, Biden commissioned a kind of "climate policy screening" by executive order. In addition, he has stopped the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been criticized by environmentalists, and by means of a further executive decree obliged all federal authorities to deal with environmental and climate policy decisions of the Trump administration that were devastating. [16] In order to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions more quickly, Biden has revived a national climate council that had already worked under the Obama administration to determine the "social cost" per ton of greenhouse gases emitted. Such a key figure could form the basis for measuring CO2 and tax other greenhouse gases or financially reward companies that make savings.

For the end of April 2021, Biden has invited the governments of 40 countries to Washington to discuss a faster implementation of the Paris climate goals. By then, the Biden administration will present new national climate measures (Nationally Defined Contributions, NDC). The invitation was also explicitly sent to China and Russia - however, it was issued at a time when the US government openly criticized both states for human rights violations and aggressive foreign policy action and, in coordination with allies, imposed new sanctions on them.

It is currently not only open whether the governments of China and Russia will accept the invitation to Washington and respond to the compartmentalization be let in. The bigger question is: Can climate policy play a moderating role? Should there be another confrontation between the USA and China and Russia, there will be little progress in the fight against climate change either. Even progress in the transatlantic coordination could not outweigh the resulting damage. While the USA and China together account for around 40 percent of global CO2-Emissions are responsible and their cooperation would provide an important impetus for the entire global economy, the effect of an improved transatlantic climate cooperation would probably be significantly less. [17]

International trade policy

The US could regain a great deal of trust among allies and partners if it reverted to cooperative trade policy. At the same time, there is domestic political pressure on the Biden administration to protect US companies from "unfair" trade and economic practices by other states, to defend their own labor and environmental standards and, in strategic areas, to end the US economy's dependence on imports. Not all goals will be compatible with each other.

If the Biden administration wants to persuade the EU to take a common position against China's rule violations, it would have several options. First it could withdraw the aluminum and steel tariffs introduced by Trump under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act and exclude further tariffs - for example on cars. Secondly The US, together with the EU and other partners, could put more weight back on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to take action against China's trade practices. The US trade authority would initially not need a further mandate from the US Congress and could negotiate independently with the WTO members in compliance with the usual reporting obligations.

The decision to trust the candidacy of the new WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has now been unanimously appointed by 164 states, and whose appointment the Trump administration had delayed, can be seen as a first friendly signal to the WTO. If the Biden administration takes the WTO seriously, it will also lift the US blockade on the appointment of judges for the WTO Appeals Chamber. Since December 2019, the blockade had meant that dispute settlement - understood by many to be the heart of the WTO - was suspended. However, the US government is still keeping a low profile here. At the same time, however, there are also increasing voices in the USA who are promoting the use of the WTO dispute settlement to limit China's neo-mercantilist economic policy.For example, Jennifer Hillman, a lawyer with experience in WTO proceedings, proposed to the US government that they, together with other states, bring a large case to the WTO's dispute settlement bodies in order to present and negotiate the large number of Chinese violations of individual WTO rules. [18]

However, the conclusion of bilateral or multi-regional agreements currently appears unlikely. It is true that the Biden administration could try to conclude negotiations with the United Kingdom and Kenya that have already started before the end of the Congress's negotiating mandate, the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which is valid until July 2021. For further agreements, however, an extension of the TPA mandate and thus a 60-vote majority in the Senate would be necessary. Biden and the Democratic leadership in Congress will be carefully considering investing valuable political capital on trade deals ahead of the mid-term elections in the fall of 2022. In the medium term, however, political majorities cannot be ruled out if the Democrats manage to link trade agreements with other relevant policy areas. In the transatlantic area, for example, a connection between trade and climate policy is conceivable. The return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (first TPP, then CPTPP), from which the USA withdrew after Trump's election victory, continues to be supported by the fact that it could be a suitable instrument to counter China not only with a military presence but also in economic terms in Asia . Such agreements could also be justified with a benefit for the American middle class.

Biden, the EU and Germany

In contrast to his predecessor, President Biden sees clear advantages in working with allies and strategic partners. At the same time, the EU and Germany should be aware that the inclusion of allies is desirable for the world power USA, but is only a necessary condition in a few areas in order to pursue its own interests. The concept of a "foreign policy for the middle class" does little to change this. As shown, Biden claims the global political leadership role for his country. At the same time, however, he has his hands full domestically to convince the US middle class - the majority of voters - of his policies. Domestic political and economic stabilization should form the basis for a strengthened position of the USA in the world. And this will keep the Biden administration busy at least until the next midterm elections, but probably beyond.

European politics should use this phase to formulate its own security, defense and economic policy interests and to coordinate positions with one another. So far it is becoming apparent that the Biden administration will - as hoped - work together with the EU and the United Kingdom in a pragmatic and less confrontational manner than in the previous four years. In Washington, however, it is also known in which political projects the Europeans and the EU itself are divided and therefore not very assertive. A prime example of this is the construction of the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline, in which the federal government is isolated from Washington and cannot count on the backing of other countries on the question of the sanctions that will probably prevent the pipeline from going into operation.

In other areas - such as climate policy - the reconciliation of interests between the EU and the USA could be more successful from a German perspective. Here the EU is already quite far in its internal coordination process and is using the so-called CO2-Grenzausgleich ("Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism") currently has its own standard for decarbonization, which the Biden administration is interested in or benevolent. Here it will be important that the EU does not allow the perfect - the early implementation of its own standard - to become the enemy of the good. Both sides would have more advantages from a coordinated transatlantic approach to reducing greenhouse gases.

Another area that is in the common interest of the EU and the US is cooperation on trade policy. With the change in leadership in Washington, there is a better chance that the WTO will be revitalized as a place for multilateral negotiation and dispute settlement. The EU rightly insists that the Biden administration lift the US blockade of WTO dispute settlement. At the same time, Brussels has not made this demand to Washington one conditio sine qua non made for negotiations on necessary WTO reforms in other areas where EU and US interests overlap. For transatlantic cooperation it will be important to identify further areas in which US and EU interests overlap and the EU can demonstrate its own capacities and speak with one voice. This is the best way to restore trust that has been lost - both in government headquarters on both sides of the Atlantic and in the US middle class. This would be the prerequisite for the USA to take over the leadership role on the multilateral stage again in the long term.