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Trump’s International Economic Legacy

If US President Donald Trump loses November’s election, he will most likely leave an insignificant imprint on some parts of the global economic system. But in several others – especially US-China relations – his term in office may well come to be seen as a major turning point.

PARIS – It would be foolish to start celebrating the end of US President Donald Trump’s administration, but it is not too soon to ponder the impact he will have left on the international economic system if his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, wins November’s election. In some areas, a one-term Trump presidency would most likely leave an insignificant mark, which Biden could easily erase. But in several others, the last four years may well come to be seen as a watershed. Moreover, the long shadow of Trump’s international behavior will weigh on his eventual successor.

On climate change, Trump’s dismal legacy would be quickly wiped out. Biden has pledged to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate agreement “on day one” of his administration, achieve climate neutrality by 2050, and lead a global coalition against the climate threat. If this happens, Trump’s noisy denial of scientific evidence will be remembered as a minor blip.

In a surprisingly large number of domains, Trump has done little or has behaved too erratically to leave an imprint. Global financial regulation has not changed fundamentally during his term, and his administration has flip-flopped regarding the fight against tax havens. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have carried on working more or less smoothly, and Trump’s furious tweeting did not prevent the US Federal Reserve from continuing to act responsibly, including by providing dollar liquidity to key international partners during the COVID-19 crisis. True, Trump has repeatedly spoiled international summits, leaving his fellow leaders flummoxed. But such behavior has been more embarrassing than consequential.

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