TACOMA, Washington — On the debate stage and along the campaign trail, the U.S. presidential candidates face major questions regarding race, the novel coronavirus and immigration. It may not be the biggest question on the table, but the candidate’s stand on foreign aid policies is another unsurprising point of disagreement.
Donald Trump’s Stand on Foreign Aid
Back in 2016, Trump stressed his “America First” plan in his Presidential Announcement. His strategy was clear: put American interests at the forefront of foreign policy. Trump explained, “It is necessary that we invest in our infrastructure, stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us and use the money to rebuild our tunnels, road, bridges and schools—and nobody can do that better than me.”
Trump’s plans to slash funding shook up the non-governmental community and threatened the role of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Those countering Trump’s plans argued that cutting aid could result in prolonged military operations and interfere with diplomatic relations.
Proponents to aid highlighted that funding supports poverty reduction efforts and creates more jobs, which translates back to increased investment in American markets. According to an article by the Baltimore Sun, “South Korea, Japan, Ghana, Kenya, Vietnam and Germany all once depended on U.S. aid. Now each is playing a major role in the global economy and providing stable, profitable markets for companies such as Coca-Cola, Apple and Microsoft.”
For the past four years, Trump has made three propositions to cut billions in foreign assistance. However, there has been little effort by the Trump administration to push his proposals through after facing backlash from leaders in congress. Back in 2019, “Trump decided to definitively drop the plan to withdraw the funding, a process called rescission.”
This year, Trump’s budget sought to make a 21% cut in foreign aid. His budget would increase military funding and shift resources to U.S. infrastructure. Being an election year, it is unlikely his budget will go through.
Pulling US Funding to WHO Amid Global Crisis
Perhaps the most significant victory for Trump’s agenda was his decision to pull funding for the World Health Organization back in May. The choice followed growing tensions between the United States and China due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“China has total control over the World Health Organization despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying, which is approximately $450 million a year,” said Trump when defending his choice to pull funding.
WHO was created to coordinate international health policy, with a specific focus on infectious diseases. Since its inception, WHO has been at the forefront of responding to outbreaks like Ebola and Smallpox. The organization now faces the novel coronavirus pandemic. The United States has been the greatest donor to the agency.
Since taking office, Trump also has broken ties with the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. cultural agency, a global accord to tackle climate change.
Joe Biden’s Stand on Foreign Aid
In his campaign, Biden has highlighted his experience working on foreign policy concerns. He has served as a chair of the Senate Foreign Relations and as vice president under President Obama.
Biden sponsored multiple bills centered on humanitarian and democratic concerns, including the International Violence Against Women Act of 2007, the Burma Democracy Promotion Act of 2007 and the International Development Association Replenishment Act of 2008.
In stark contrast to Trump, Biden’s advisors have reported that he plans to bring foreign aid back to the center of foreign policy. According to Biden’s website, he promises to host a global summit that will bring together the world’s democracies to institute a new agenda on human rights and fighting corruption abroad.
He also plans to end the Global Gag Rule, which prevents money from going to international NGOs, and order a review of Temporary Protected Status to vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in vulnerable countries.
Rebuilding Relations with US Allies, Freedom and WHO
In April, Biden published an article entitled “Why America Must Lead Again.” Biden appeals for democracy, arguing that Trump has “belittled, undermined and in some cases abandoned U.S. allies and partners.” He warns that “Democracies—paralyzed by hyper-partisanship, hobbled by corruption, weighed down by extreme inequality—are having a harder time delivering for their people.”
Biden cites a report from the Freedom House, which revealed that of the 41 countries consistently ranked “free” from 1985 to 2005, 22 of them have registered net declines in freedom over the last five years.
In a June 30 speech in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden announced that he will repair relations with the World Health Organization if he is elected. He was still critical of WHO for being slow to call the outbreak a pandemic. His argument centers on the dangers of “vaccine nationalism,” in which national interests to win the race to find the vaccine override a global effort, supported by shared resources.
Like many other issues, Biden and Trump hold contrasting views on where U.S. money is best spent and a different stand on foreign aid policies. In the White House, the strategy focuses on American self-interests, keeping U.S. tax-dollars in the country. Biden hopes to play on the international stage, maintaining the United States’ role as a champion of democracy and freedom.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons