Factbox: The foreign policy issues that divide Trump and Biden

  • World
  • Friday, 01 May 2020

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump greets former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama after being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

(Reuters) - President Donald Trump won election in 2016 promising to put “America First,” overturn what he said were unfair trade deals and force U.S. allies to pay more towards joint defense measures.

In a Nov. 3 election, he will face off against former Vice President Joe Biden, who pledges to restore U.S. global leadership and reverse many of Trump's foreign policy actions.

Here’s a look at their foreign policy differences:


Trump slapped tariffs on Chinese goods in hopes of bringing back U.S. jobs, but the trade war hurt U.S. farmers and cost manufacturing jobs. Trump reached a partial "Phase 1" trade deal with China in January, but told Reuters on Wednesday the deal had been "upset very badly" by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden would remove tariffs for agricultural products but would take a hard line on China’s alleged steel dumping and intellectual property infringement.

Biden accused Trump of cozying up to Chinese leader Xi Jinping and not taking a robust response to China’s handling of the novel virus that emerged from the city of Wuhan and led to caused the highest number of cases and deaths in the world in the United States.

Biden said he would send more U.S. health officials to China to counter the spread of the virus, and called for an international investigation into the origins of the new coronavirus.


Trump has questioned the benefits of U.S. military interventions in the Middle East, especially the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and pulled out of a nuclear deal reached with Iran, European nations and Russia during the administration of President Barack Obama.

But Trump has sent more troops to the region after the withdrawal increased tensions with Iran.

Biden, who was Obama's No. 2, has said he would deal with Iran through diplomacy and re-enter the agreement, but only if Iran first returned to compliance with the deal's restrictions on its nuclear programme.

After Iranian proxies and U.S. forces clashed in Iraq, Trump ordering the January strike that killed powerful Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

Biden said the strike “put the United States and Iran on a collision course” and proposes a narrower focus for the U.S. military in the region on counterterrorism and working with local allies.

Biden wants to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which Trump has defended.


Trump met with North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un three times in 2018 and 2019, but efforts to get Kim to abandon the country’s nuclear weapons programme have stalled.

Biden has accused Trump of giving away U.S. leverage over the North Korean regime for little in return and said he would not meet Kim without preconditions.

In recent weeks, Kim has disappeared from public view, prompting rumors about his health and raising concerns about instability.


Biden would rejoin the Paris climate agreement and strengthen alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, moves Biden says would undo damage to American leadership and credibility inflicted by Trump.

The president has angered NATO members and other U.S. allies, while refusing to criticize Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin, even when U.S. intelligence officials concluded the Russian military had interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

He has cast himself as a tough negotiator and sought to paint Biden as soft on U.S. rivals. The Trump campaign criticized Biden for pledging to restore U.S. relations with Cuba, claiming Biden was “selling out” Cubans and Venezuelans to appease the left of the Democratic Party.

Biden plans to invest $4 billion in Central America to address the poverty and corruption in the region that have sent migrants towards the southern U.S. border.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Jonathan Oatis)

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