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Factbox: The foreign policy issues that divide Trump and Biden


(C) Reuters. U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One as he travels to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, at Morristown Municipal Airport, in Morristown


By Simon Lewis and Michael Martina

(Reuters) – Republican 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 toward joint defense measures.

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

Here’s a look at their foreign policy differences:


Under Trump, U.S.-China relations have slid to their lowest levels in decades over issues ranging from Chinese telecommunications gear maker Huawei, to Beijing’s disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea. Trump says he is the first president in decades to stand up to Beijing, and his campaign accuses Biden of appeasing China as U.S. manufacturing jobs declined.

Biden has countered that Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was a historic blunder, and that he disregarded warnings from the U.S. intelligence community over China downplaying the severity of the crisis.

Trump entered into a high-stakes trade war with China before reaching a partial Phase 1 trade deal in January. Trump has since shut the door on Phase 2 negotiations, saying he was unhappy with Beijing’s handling of the pandemic. [nL2N2EL22T]

In July, Trump issued an executive order to end the United States’ special commercial treatment of Hong Kong after Beijing imposed national security legislation on the former British colony, and his administration abruptly told China to close its Houston consulate amid accusations of spying. [nL3N2ET1XV]

Biden argues that China relishes a chaotic Trump administration, his alienation of American allies, and his abdication of U.S. leadership roles in global institutions, such as the World Health Organization.

Biden says he will correct this by bringing multilateral pressure to bear on China through renewed relations with U.S. allies. Senior campaign officials say he will also expand restrictions on China over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, where it has erected detention camps housing a million or more largely Muslim Uighurs.


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 program.

After Iranian proxies and U.S. forces clashed in Iraq, Trump ordered 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 program 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.


Trump has said he wants a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan to end America’s longest war, but has not set a target date.

In February, the Trump administration reached a deal with the Taliban on phased U.S. force reductions, but it was dependent on the Islamist militant group meeting conditions. Escalating violence since then has raised questions about whether Trump can bring all U.S. troops home anytime soon.

Biden contends he will bring the vast majority of U.S. troops home from Afghanistan and narrowly focus the mission there on fighting al Qaeda and Islamic State.


Biden would rejoin the Paris climate agreement and strengthen alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), moves he 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. Biden has warned that Russia, China and others who try to interfere in U.S. elections will face serious consequences if he is elected president.

Trump announced in June that he would reduce the number of U.S. troops in Germany by about 9,500, prompting criticism from Democrats and fellow Republicans who argue that the U.S.-German alliance helps counter the influence of Russia and China.

Biden campaign aides say they are troubled by the move, and that Biden would revisit the issue as president. [nL1N2EF2OQ]

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