The Global Legacy of the Trump Administration

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

E. Keogh investigates how the Trump administration’s actions will have major political and socioeconomic consequences for the rest of the world.

President Donald Trump’s reign over the people of the United States has finally ended after the historic win of President Joe Biden. For many, however, Trump’s term has left a lot to be desired, particularly in the inconsistency of his international trade policies and decisions. Democrats wish to reverse what President Trump seems to have accomplished during his Presidency, while some Republicans think he didn’t accomplish enough, and see his term as an opportunity lost for trade conservatism. Although the candidates in this year’s election managed around 79 million votes (Biden) and around 73 million votes (Trump), substantial elements of those voting bases rather ‘held their nose’ in doing so, thinking of the greater good. 

With less than 2 months until Trump must leave office, can he do anything in terms of trade deals and policy reforms to finalise his legacy and make anything more difficult for President Biden to reverse? His time in office has already left a lot of work for the president-elect, but can he go even further in the time left to him in the Oval Office, doubling-down on the division he has thus far embraced and encouraged in the American people? 

Trump has been committed to pulling out from otherwise widely-respected and elevated agreements, with perhaps the best-known example being his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017. Conservatives in the United States have made it known they did not want to be a part of the global effort to stop climate change since 2015, saying that it would have a negative effect on the US economy. This will have a direct impact on a global scale. Although the majority of global emissions of CO2 are caused by US corporations, the fact-denying regime of Trump has shifted and recategorised the otherwise generally acknowledged consensus of climate change’s real threat as being an element of the popular media’s campaign of “fake news”. 

One of the most notable events of Trump's presidency was his trade war with China. The US has accused China of unfair trading practices and the theft of intellectual property, whilst China believed the US was trying to curb its rise as an economic superpower. What followed was a series of tax tariffs from both countries, the most recent of which was a 15% tariff on Chinese goods, and anywhere from 5%- 25% tariff on US goods. Overall the US had imposed around $360bn worth of duties on Chinese goods, and China had imposed around $110bn worth of tariffs on US goods. Despite this, imports from China still grew. 

Huawei, one of the fastest-growing technology providers was banned from the US on May 15th 2019 following a national security order from President Trump. Although the order was well-founded in the amount of security risks its technology posed, such as backdoor risks, the fact that Huawei overtook Apple’s number 2 spot as the global no.2 seller of smartphones was a motivator. Trump said the US would have no tariffs against homemade technology, and encouraged companies to “do it the old fashioned way” from inside the US. 

In 2020, the two countries agreed that they had reached “stage one” of a new trade deal between them. This was in exchange for the US halving some of its tariffs and China raising US imports by $200bn above 2017 levels, and they would reinforce and tighten restrictions on the use of intellectual property. In 2020, China had only managed to boost US imports by around 51%. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has only highlighted the ignorance that Trump’s presidency has made prevalent again. If the death tolls, infection figures, and lack of action don’t make it clear enough, the fact that in the height of the pandemic President Trump and the United States delivered its formal intent to leave the World Health Organisation (WHO) on July 6th 2020, indicates his insularity and apathy. They have fulfilled their financial obligation to WHO which means they are allowed to withdraw, but with the current situation, to have a global superpower withdraw from the organisation that holds itself responsible for the international public health is extremely concerning.

This wouldn't have only affected the US economy, as one of the trading superpowers of the world, and while it would have the biggest impact on the people of the US, it would affect trading worldwide as the rest of the world continues to suffer the consequences of COVID-19. Many small businesses will suffer from repetitive restrictions. Bigger US businesses, such as Amazon, have actually made more of a profit operating during the pandemic - in Q2 of 2020 Amazon more than doubled its profits, and in Q3 of 2020 nearly tripled its profits compared to the same quarters in 2019. Although this isn’t a direct result of Trump's dealings, the fact that he let the pandemic go unchecked for so long, and contributed to anti-masker rhetoric has allowed amazon to thrive in a time where smaller businesses are being shut down. It’s evident that even people here in Ireland, people will gladly pay for items to be shipped to their doors in record time, rather than supporting local businesses due to the higher price tag attached. 

The Iran nuclear deal, signed in 2015 by some of the largest superpowers in the world, has come near to collapse thanks to President Trump. The deal, meant to curtail the production of nuclear weapons in exchange for sanction release, only lasted two years before Donald Trump forced America to leave, citing that the deal had not effectively worked to slow their production, or stopped the Iranians regional influence. The goal of the deal would be that if Tehran wanted to develop any nuclear weapon, it would take at least a year for anything to come to fruition, and this, in turn, would allow world powers the opportunity to respond accordingly. 

IAEA inspections are still allowed to take place. Although Iran has far exceeded its stockpile of enriched uranium as allowed by the agreement, it’s nowhere near the purity needed for weapons-grade uranium. The deal was left in shambles, and after the targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani, Iran announced it would no longer limit its nuclear activity. President Joe Biden has expressed that the US will rejoin the deal, but with Iranian analysts predicting the win of a more conservative president in the next Iranian election, the future of the agreement is uncertain, especially because the failed negations have left the Iranian economy in shambles. The banking and oil regulations that trump reimposed have had and will continue to have negative effects on Iran, and will make a future deal even more difficult to negotiate.

Generally, every president has their achievements and downfalls, but for President Trump, his legacy consists of a long line of failed trade deals, agreements, worsening the state of economies of multiple countries, allowing climate change to continue on its destructive path, being the only US president in history to be impeached twice, and leading his mind-washed, facist followers to attempt a coup that failed miraculously. From the position Trump has left the US in terms of trade and agreements, it’s a tough round ahead for the Biden administration, however, the only way is up.