Trump vs. Biden: Impact on Pakistan’s Future

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By: Qamar Bashir

The United States of America, the only superpower, is often perceived as arrogant, destructive, bullying, imposing, and ruthless against its declared or perceived enemies such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Vietnam, Japan, and Germany. When it comes to supporting a country, it puts all its weight behind it to safeguard its own interests and the interests of its declared or perceived allies, like it has been doing with Israel, Europe, and other countries in its good books.

The US government, with its massive and brute economic and military power, has the capacity to use its might to destabilize any country or economy. At this point in time, it is neither afraid nor intimidated by any other power. However, when it comes to its own people, the US government is the most benevolent, protective, and caring, knowing very well that it can only survive with the support of its people. If that support is withdrawn, the government will collapse like a house of cards.

It is for this reason that all public leaders, regardless of their level of public service, whether heading a village council, city council, state council, or as presidential candidates, must present themselves before their people.

They must let the people judge their leadership qualities, their acumen, agility, presence of mind, ability to sustain extreme mental or physical pressure, clarity of thought and action, their ability to solve difficult and complex problems, and their capacity to maintain, improve, and permeate American superiority over the rest of the world.

In a Presidential debate held yesterday, two contrasting visions for America’s future were laid out before the American people. On one side was Donald Trump, an introvert advocating for a bold retraction of American economic and military aid to all recipient countries and  redirect these substantial funds towards rejuvenating America’s aging infrastructure such as investments in roads, highways, trains, subways, and airports, with the dual aim of modernizing critical infrastructure and creating new jobs for Americans.

Opposing him was Joe Biden, who embodies a more traditional American foreign policy stance. Biden’s strategy is to continue providing economic and military aid to allied nations, thereby fostering their development and increasing their dependence on the United States. This approach aims to maintain and expand America’s global influence by creating a network of vassal states, securing strategic alliances grounded in the belief that American security and prosperity are best ensured through active engagement and leadership on the global stage.

According to pre-debate surveys, the public largely anticipated an even-handed debate between the candidates. However, the dismal performance of Joe Biden marked a lack of clarity and precision. moments of hesitation, less assertive presence collectively impacted his ability to connect with the audience and convincingly present his vision for the future. This bad performance swayed the public opinion in favor of Donald Trump reflected in a CNN survey 55% in favor of Trump and 40% for Joe Biden. Similarly, a YouGov survey revealed that 60% of respondents felt more favorable towards Trump after the debate, while only 35% felt the same about Biden.

Interestingly, the debate was not about the performance of Trump and Biden during their respective tenures but how they outsmart each other during the debate. 

If it had been the performance of the governments, Joe would have outperformed Trump on many key performance areas.

During the Trump period GDP growth averaged 2.5% from 2017-2019. In contrast, the Biden administration oversaw a strong rebound with GDP growth of 5.7% in 2021, moderating to around 2.6% by 2023.

Unemployment fell to a 50-year low of 3.5% under Trump before surging to 14.8% in April 2020, then decreasing to 6.7% by year-end. Under Biden, it continued to decline, reaching 3.5% by mid-2023.

The S&P 500 rose 67% during Trump’s term and continued to rise by 35% under Biden by December 2022.

Environmentally, Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement and rolled back regulations, focusing on fossil fuel production, whereas Biden rejoined the agreement and aimed for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 through renewable energy investments.

Trade policies under Trump were protectionist, including tariffs on China and renegotiating NAFTA into USMCA, whereas Biden maintained some tariffs but focused on rebuilding alliances and engaging in multilateral trade agreements.

Internationally, Trump pursued an “America First” policy, while Biden emphasized repairing alliances and took firmer stances against Russia and China.

From Pakistan’s point of view, the Joe administration has been much more friendly, forthcoming, and actively pursued cooperations in many sectors including anti-terrorism, Afghan peace process, building economic, trade, investment and people to people contacts. 

For example, under Trump, demand to do more against terrorism resulted in significant cuts in economic and military aid, and trade experienced limited growth. Trump’s administration forced Pakistan to align its Afghan Policy with the US and applied pressure through sanctions.

In contrast, the Biden administration provided targeted assistance in health and climate sectors, encouraged U.S. investments in Pakistan’s technology and renewable energy sectors, and resumed security cooperation and military training programs.

The Trump and Biden administrations have taken different approaches to protecting the interests of expatriate Pakistanis in the U.S.

The Trump administration’s travel bans and stricter visa policies created challenges and uncertainties for many Pakistani expatriates.

In contrast, the Biden administration has reversed many travel bans, eased visa processes, provided comprehensive COVID-19 support, and increased engagement with expatriate communities, including Pakistani Americans.

This has ensured their health, economic stability, and inclusion in policy discussions, reflecting a more inclusive and supportive approach compared to the previous administration.

Whereas, the choice for the government of Pakistan, and for Pakistani expatriates is very clear, but for the American electorate’s decision to choose a President will be influenced  by a combination of factors, including performance in debates and the performance of previous administrations.

Though debates can significantly sway undecided voters and highlight the candidates’ competencies in real-time, making them a critical component of the electoral process. However, many voters also consider the tangible outcomes of past administrations, such as economic performance, healthcare improvements, foreign policy achievements, and responses to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ultimately, the decision will likely be a blend of both factors: the immediate impressions made during the debate and the longer-term evaluation of each candidate’s track record in office. Voters weigh these elements to determine which candidate they believe will best address their needs and lead the country effectively.

By: Qamar Bashir

Former Press Secretary to the President

Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France

Former MD, SRBC