U.S. Election 2020 - Views From Abroad

Trump Or Biden? What's At Stake For The Rest Of The World

From security and trade to COVID and climate change, the candidates differ on nearly every global topic. On Nov. 3, the world will be holding its collective breath.

A woman in Hong Kong distributes copies of the Epoch Times
A woman in Hong Kong distributes copies of the Epoch Times
Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — The weight of the U.S. on the rest of the world is worth remembering every presidential election cycle. And this year, the difference is particularly stark between the two candidates on everything from global trade to climate policy to cooperation on fighting COVID-19 — not to mention war and peace.

In the contrasting choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Americans will choose who will govern a country that still has unrivaled global influence, with a fundamental choice between engagement or retreat — and whether America is ready or not to abdicate its role as singular world leader.

We've put together a rapid tour du monde to compare what a Democratic or Republican win would mean in the years ahead:



MARKETS AND TRADE

The election stakes in what is still the world's largest economy are raised this year by the stark contrast between how the two candidates view international trade, with a likely continuation of President Trump's aggressive protectionist policies on the one hand and a Biden quest to resume U.S. global trade on the other.

Old alliances at stake: With the Trump administration focused on shrinking its growing deficit in goods, a Republican win risks continued entrenched conflicts with the European Union over airline subsidies and agricultural trade barriers, among other issues.

• Even if stock markets seem to be swaying for a Trump win given his corporate tax policies, Annika Winsth, chief economist at Nordea Bank in Sweden, notes that European businesses care more about import duties, and thus are banking on a Biden win with the expectation of a roll back of the current protectionist policies.

• Italian professor Massimo Morelli of Political Science at Milan's University of Bocconi adds that a Democratic win would mean healthier redistributive policies with fewer negative impacts on efficiency and equality around the world.

What to do about the WTO? The election outcome will affect the U.S. relationship with the World Trade Organization, which has been damaged by the current administration's sidestepping of regulation and its view that the WTO violates American sovereignty.

In Argentinian outlet Trade News, Uruguayan expert in international trade Ignacio Bartesaghi says that a Biden win would not guarantee improved relations between the U.S. and the World Trade Organization.

• While it was the U.S.-China trade war in 2018 that poked holes in the WTO's dispute settlement system, Bartesaghi argues that a Democratic administration would not have an interest in backtracking the "progress' made on behalf of the U.S. Rather, he predicts Biden will try to find new ways around WTO regulation.

CLIMATE

One less ambivalent question is how the election outcome will affect the health of our planet. In a move that set the tone for his administration's stand on environmental policy, Trump announced in July 2017 the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accords. The move came months after drastically cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. This year too, the White House's proposed 2021 budget includes a 26% EPA budget cut that would eliminate 50 agency programs, as well as a proposed $470 million reduction of government funds to the Land and Water Conservation Fund — which would leave it with only $14.7 million to spend.

David Zahn, head of European Fixed Income, points out that Biden's focus on climate issues could work to bring his country closer to Europe. Biden has not only pledged to rejoin the Paris agreement, but has unveiled a $2 trillion climate-change plan, which embraces clean energy and cutting fossil fuel emissions while improving infrastructure for renewable energy.

COVID-19

With the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus crisis best defined as a failure to implement a coherent national strategy, analysts largely agree that a Democratic win would benefit both the U.S. and the rest of the world in the fight against COVID-19.

• Trump's protectionist policies and hostility towards international organizations are bound to undermine global efforts to coordinate economic recovery, vaccine development and international aid.

• Biden would likely put an end to the hamstringing and underfunding of public health agencies and global efforts at coordination of vaccine development.

• A Democratic president will almost certainly reverse Trump plans to withdrawal the U.S. from the World Health Organization.

The iconic photo of President Donald Trump and other world leaders at the 2018 G7 summit

GLOBAL SECURITY

Foreign policy issues (and even terrorism) have played a relatively minor role in this campaign. Nevertheless, the destabilizing effect of COVID-19 on international order — coupled with economic recession and changing global power dynamics — still make the U.S. view of its role in the world a consequential question for international security. Some countries predict that a Biden administration would offer a reprieve for the U.S.-led international order after the past four years of sniping and retreat.

European self-sufficiency: In Europe, Politico editor Paul Taylor argues that, regardless of who wins, the old U.S.-EU relationship will never go back to what it once was as Washington no longer has the bandwidth to help solve all of the region's problems.

• In the case of a Republican win, Trump's trade war strategy and inward-looking policies are set to continue, further alienating the U.S. from Europe.

• Meanwhile, Biden is likely to return not only to the Paris climate agreement, but also to some form of the Iranian nuclear deal, and reaffirm unequivocally NATO's mutual defense clause.

• Yet, Taylor points out, Europe will still have to step up and play a more active role in both regional and global politics, as a Biden presidency won't mark a return to the post-World War II era in which Europe could afford to live comfortably under the American umbrella.

No more American hegemony: Gerard Araud, a former French ambassador to Washington, argues that Trump's nationalist isolationism is not an aberration but deeply rooted in historic U.S. suspicion of foreign entanglements: "Whoever ends up in the White House in 2021, there will be no return to liberal interventionism or to global American hegemony."

• French President Emmanuel Macron has also pleaded for more European self-sustainability. At the Munich conference in February, Macron urged Europeans to see challenges like Russia and China through a European lens, not a trans-Atlantic one, and to do more to create a serious culture of security and self-reliance, reported La Croix.

The Russian love affair: After four years of Donald Trump doing all he could to warm up to Vladmir Putin, analysts expect that a Biden victory would increase tensions between Washington and Moscow. Russia is already operating under international sanctions on some key sectors, and a Democratic win could mean both additional sanctions and a renewed U.S. commitment to NATO.

• However, Mike Winnerstig, Head of Security Policy at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, points out that Trump's security strategy has more quietly been centered on a return to a rivalry between superpowers, which could come to harm relations with Russia in the long term.

• Writing in Swedish Goteborgsposten, Winnerstig notes that a rivalry with China and Russia will also be the case if there's a Democratic win. But while Biden has been forceful in his Russia rhetoric, he has also expressed a commitment to renew the Russian "Reset" of the Obama-era which could ease tensions.

• Tensions between Russia and the U.S. also have security implications for countries around Europe. For example, Winnerstig doesn't perceive Russia as an immediate threat to Sweden, but rather to countries like the Baltics where a large part of the financial sector is controlled by Swedish banks.

Contrasting opinions in the Middle East and Asia: While Trump has earned the opprobrium of most European partners, there are parts of the world where he is quite popular. Countries like Saudi Arabia and North Korea might fear that a Democratic win could entail closer scrutiny of their human rights records and military actions.

Kayhan London reports that the leadership in Iran is largely rooting for a Democratic win, which they hope will end Trump's crippling sanctions.

• Many Israelis appear to be hoping for another term for the Republican.Throughout his tenure, Trump has moved the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, stepped up pressure on Tehran and sponsored peace accords between Israel and several Gulf countries.

• According to a recent poll by I24news, 63.3% of Israeli citizens believe that Trump will be a better president for their country, while only 18.8% of them have the same feeling about Joe Biden.

• But according to Israel-born writer and historian Gil Mihaely, the most interesting aspect of the poll is that only 43.5% think that a Biden win would change the longstanding relationship. "There is no concern in the sense that people fear a Democratic win," Mihaely says. "On the other hand, there is a certainty that if Donald Trump is elected, it will be better."

Brothers in arms Central to the current administration's foreign policy has been the ramping-up of arms sales, with exports of major arms increasing by 23% between 2015 and 2019 compared to the previous four years. While this has helped exacerbate conflicts in places like Yemen, it has also strengthened ties with old allies in the Middle East and North Africa.

• While Saudi Arabia remains the overall top customer, Morocco has become the largest purchaser in North Africa and the Middle East.

• In an interview in H24Info, political scientist Mustapha Sehimi and director of the Moroccan Institute of International Relations Jawad El Kardoudi agree that a Republican win would mean continued harmony between Washington and Rabat.

• According to Sehimi, a Biden win could cause protesters against the occupation of Sahara to remobilize, and also adds that a reelection of Trump could be a favorable factor in normalizing Morocco's relations with Israel.

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Future

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.


But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

commons.wikimedia.org

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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