Neither President Trump nor his Democratic opponent will win this election because of their foreign policy positions. Domestic issues will dominate the election debate, but with Congress stymied, foreign policy will be the arena Trump focuses on as he looks to pad his resume ahead of the election.
Trump’s “America First” policy, prioritizes American interests over all others; a fundamental break with America’s long-held responsibility of upholding the rules-based international order. Trump has called on allies to take on more responsibility in addressing global issues instead of “freeloading” off the US. He bemoaned America’s trade deals and alliance structures as bad deals – it was time to Make America Great Again. President Trump pledged to restore America’s standing in the world by securing trade deals, getting allies to spend more on defense and pulling back from America’s endless wars.
How is Trump doing? The list below reveals what he has accomplished and what will likely be made a priority by the Trump administration in 2020 as part of his re-election campaign.
- Paris climate accord: As of November 2019, the US began its formal withdrawal from the Paris climate accord with Trump arguing that it is an unfair deal that hurts the United States’ economic competitiveness. The withdrawal will go into effect the day after the 2020 election.
- NATO: Trump called long-time security alliances into question during his campaign, including NATO. He has insisted that NATO members go beyond the current two per cent of GDP contribution requirement and contribute four per cent of their GDP to the organization, something no country (not even the US) has done.
- Iran nuclear deal: Trump campaigned in 2016 on the idea that he would renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal. Instead, Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reinstated sanctions that had been waived under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As tensions mount in the Gulf, Trump continues to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran, but a deal remains elusive.
Defense and Counterterrorism
- ISIS: Trump promised to defeat ISIS and, in April 2019, he announced that US-backed forces had retaken 100 per cent of the territory once claimed by ISIS. Trump then oversaw the operation that resulted in the death of ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, which US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper described as a “devastating blow” to ISIS.
- Afghanistan: Although Trump did not discuss in depth his position on Afghanistan while campaigning in 2016, it is expected that Trump will continue to pursue a peace deal – something he nearly accomplished earlier this year – and withdraw US troops in an effort to end the 18-year war.
- Trans-Pacific Partnership: Trump issued an executive order ending the United States’ participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, keeping a core campaign promise, and moved towards negotiating bilateral trade agreements instead.
- North American Free Trade Agreement: Trump vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), threatening to withdraw if Canada and Mexico wouldn’t agree to new terms. The US, Canada and Mexico were able to reach an agreement, modernizing NAFTA under the new name United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The agreement is awaiting approval by Congress.
- World Trade Organization: Trump continued his threats to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO), blocked the appointment of judges and threatened to stop the approval of the organization’s budget which would effectively halt the WTO’s work in 2020.
- Trade war: Trump vowed to take the offensive against China and its economic practices during his 2016 campaign. The US has imposed tariffs on $500 billion of Chinese goods but there is optimism that Washington and Beijing will agree on a “phase one” deal that would see the cancellation of additional tariffs. However, Trump has warned that he would raise tariffs on Chinese goods if a deal isn’t reached. Heading into 2020, Trump will likely continue to pressure China through tariffs and by attacking Chinese tech firms like Huawei and ByteDance Ltd. which have faced increased scrutiny from US lawmakers.