Background on the candidate’s statements, positions, and record on diplomacy, global development, and America’s role the world
On U.S. global leadership:
- President Donald Trump has defined his foreign policy around his “America First” mantra, saying he is “not a globalist” and adding that “I want to help people around the world, but we have to take care of our country, or we won’t have a country.”
- In a major international speech as president, he told the world that “America First does not mean America alone” stating that “I will always put America first, just like the leaders of other countries should put their country first.”
- The Administration’s National Security Strategy is centered on the theme of great power competition – often naming China and Russia – and frames its worldview through the lens of “growing political, economic, and military competitions we face around the world.
- Describing “sovereignty” as a guiding foreign policy doctrine, he told the United Nations General Assembly “we must protect our sovereignty and our cherished independence above all.”
On resources for diplomacy and global development:
- For three years in a row, the president has proposed cutting funding for the State Department, USAID, and other diplomatic and development agencies by as much as 32%. His former OMB Director Mick Mulvaney described the Administration’s first budget proposal as a “hard power budget” and “not a soft power budget.” In addition, the Administration has terminated aid to hot spots including the Northern Triangle, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, and Pakistan.
- President Trump has been largely critical of U.S. foreign assistance, saying that “the United States is the world’s largest giver in the world, by far, of foreign aid. But few give anything to us.”
- When announcing the Administration’s foreign assistance review, the president said “we are taking a hard look at U.S. foreign assistance… Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”
- Under the Administration, USAID has introduced the Journey to Self-Reliance, aimed at strengthening “the ability of partner countries to sustainably support their own development agendas” and “achieve greater development outcomes and work toward a time when foreign assistance is no longer necessary.”
On global development priorities:
- The Administration has launched two signature global development initiatives, including the new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative to advance U.S. interests around the world.
- The Administration has played a leadership role in enhancing America’s development finance capacity and will soon launch the new U.S. Development Finance Corporation (currently OPIC) with the goal to “make America a stronger and more competitive leader on the global development stage. In addition, the president signed the BUILD ACT into law in 2018 with strong bipartisan congressional support, which will double the new agency’s finance capacity.
- The Administration has prioritized women’s economic empowerment with the president participating in the launch of W-GDP, a signature global development initiative led by Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump to empower 50 million women worldwide by 2050. Building on the bipartisan Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, signed into law in early 2019, President Trump stated that “investing in women helps achieve greater peace and prosperity for nations.”
- The Administration has also prioritized promoting international religious freedom, rallying world leaders to the cause at two State Department ministerials and promoting assistance “to protect religious minorities from persecution and atrocities.”
On global health:
- During a COVID-19 White House Task Force briefing, in response to a question on U.S. support for efforts to combat global health epidemics including HIV/AIDS and malaria, President Trump stated “We have to keep doing that…That’s humanity.”
- In May of 2019, the Administration released its Global Health Security Strategy calling for a “whole-of-government approach” to combat “biological threats and pandemics.”
- On global health partnerships, the Administration has stated it “strongly supports the Global Health Security Agenda… to accelerate progress addressing infectious disease threats” and reaffirmed support for the strategy at the GHSA Ministerial meeting in November of 2018.
- The Administration launched PEPFAR 3.0 focused on controlling the HIV epidemic and signed into law the PEPFAR Extension Act of 2018 to reauthorize this landmark program for an additional five years. At the same time, the Administration’s budget requests have called for substantial cuts to global health programs.
- President Trump has often pressed America’s allies and partners to step up in burden sharing with the United States, stating that “The United States will not be taken advantage of any longer.”
- In his inaugural address, he stated that the United States would always “seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
- The president has said that he would renegotiate traditional American alliances like NATO if allies were not willing to increase their share of the military or financial burden.
On global economic engagement:
- As President, Trump has focused on advancing a global economic agenda rooted in “fair and reciprocal trade” aimed at balancing U.S. trade deficits, selling more U.S. products abroad, and attracting foreign investment into the United States.
- He has made the renegotiation of trade agreements one of his Administration’s top priorities, including the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) as a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
- Upon taking office, one of the president’s first executive actions was to withdraw the United States from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, fulfilling a campaign promise.
- Trump has deployed tariffs in trade negotiations, most notably with China, as leverage to help protect domestic American industries as well as address his concerns over trade imbalances.
On aid to the Northern Triangle:
- In recent months, President Trump has become increasingly critical of assistance to Central America, saying “Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them.”
- This is a departure from views on foreign aid that he shared during the 2016 campaign where he stated in a FOX interview “if we don’t help” countries facing disasters, then it would create “bigger problems” because “we don’t want to see total instability,” adding that the alternative could be more expensive and end up on the “other side of the ledger… could really be a disaster.”