Why this November’s Presidential and congressional elections will have huge consequences for the U.S.-China relationship, climate change and the world economy.
Nader Mousavizadeh has spent the past 20 years in leadership positions in global institutions at the intersection of geopolitics, policy and markets. He is a member of the World Resources Institute’s global board of directors and is the founding partner and CEO of Macro Advisory Partners.
Frank Kelly served in the George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations, as well as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. He is currently Deutsche Bank’s Head of Government and Public Affairs for the Americas.
Both men are uniquely placed to offer expert insight on the battle for the U.S. presidency. And on August 27, they joined Salman Mahdi, Vice Chairman, Deutsche Bank International Private Bank, to discuss the impact of the potential outcomes.
A new America. A new world.
Mousavizadeh opened the discussion by outlining the two defining global trends of the last 20 years: the rise of China and the changing face of globalisation. He stated that within those contexts, the arrival of Donald Trump as president is not necessarily surprising – but is nonetheless consequential.
In his view, President Trump came to the presidency with the conviction that “alliances structurally for the United States were not an enabler of American power but a limitation on American power.” This has accelerated the morphing of globalisation from being a story of integration to a story of fragmentation. In turn, this has reshaped the U.S.’s relationship with the world.
In Europe, the U.S. is no longer seen as an umbrella of security and guarantor of global stability, while Asia and the Middle East have both witnessed the gradual withdrawal of American power and influence.
Crucially, Mousavizadeh argued, this is exactly what President Trump said he would do. Should the American people re-elect him, it will vindicate this policy. And reinforce the sense felt throughout the world that the U.S. sees globalisation, not as “an instrument of American power, but really a hindrance of American power.” This will have a profound effect on the “the further separation of the United States from its close allies in Europe and a further deepening of the divide in China.”
Should Joe Biden win, the outcome may be very different. A Biden presidency would come with a fundamental view that much of what America has given up, in terms of its leadership role and place in the world, would need restoring. But does that extend to its relationship with China?
China: ally or adversary?
Under President Trump, there has been pushback “across all the main dimensions of (the) relationship” with China, Mousavizadeh suggested. In short, the two countries are decoupling, and this trend is likely to continue should President Trump be re-elected. But what is Joe Biden’s position on restoring a relationship that’s “more important to the global economy” than any other?
Our speakers agreed that his approach would be less ad hoc, less volatile and more legislated, bureaucratised and systematised. But while this is “a different way of achieving objectives; it is not necessarily a different set of objectives.”
Within the Democratic party, people will be pushing for a hard line in terms of human rights and labour standards. While the national security team around Biden have a fundamentally hawkish view of China.
So, while we can expect cooperation on areas such as climate change, under Biden we may well see “a setting in stone of this more adversarial relationship.”
A world apart on climate policy
When Frank Kelly was asked about President Trump’s climate policy, his response was simple: there is no climate policy. “It’s full steam ahead with fracking, oil, development. The President's moving to allowing increased drilling above the Arctic Circle, selling off federal lands to be drilled on etc.”
However, for Biden, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues will be the most important on the table. He has already moved up his timeframe for emission control from 2050 to 2030 and would probably sign back up to the Paris Climate Accord within days of being elected. Furthermore, Mr. Mousavizadeh posits that, should Biden win, there will be significant investment towards a green transition as part of a large stimulus package.
From an investment point of view, he also pointed to a number of disruptive factors that could move the needle towards the sustainable end of the spectrum. The first of these is a fundamental generational shift in values that, as he put it, is “hard to overstate.”