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Against this backdrop, a new administration in the White House from January 2021 has a dual challenge to restore domestic and international trust in its own democratic and leadership processes. Much of the commentary during the election observed that America itself has been damaged by Covid-19, and restoring unity would be the primary issue that would need to be addressed. Howsoever important this may be, rectifying the geoeconomic and geopolitical fragmentation that has weakened global institutions, including the World Health Organisation and the World Trade Organisations, will also be a priority.
There will certainly be a more emolient and multilateral tone and foreign policy is likely to focus on building relationships with allies, especially the EU and Japan.
This change in tone is welcome and will do much to make the world feel confident, even if it is not the whole story. The campaign mantra was “Made in America and emphasised that “national security is economic security.” After four years of tensions with Europe, America will be keen to restore its strategic relationship with the EU but it is already clear that this as much about isolating China and ensuring that Europe contributes to NATO budgets as it is about the multilateral ideals that both sides share.
“Restoring America’s leadership in the world” was the foreign policy slogan of the campaign; make no mistake, this does not mean that we are returning to the era of unfettered “globalisation.” Rather, under the guise of multilateralism, the US will return to play its role within international organisations. The underlying domestic narrative will remain the same but a greater focus on sustainability and global shared interests suggest that trade may finally be “disarmed” even if the broader strategic conflict between China and the US is still very much alive.
Dr Rebecca Harding is an independent trade economist and CEO of Coriolis Technologies