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Biden’s ‘better build’ could build a better U.S. foreign policy

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In response to economic collapse caused by COVID-19, Democratic presidential candidate Joe bidenJoe BidenCoons pushes back leading progressive Senate challenger in Delaware Biden courting veterans amid fallout from Trump military controversies Biden campaign manager touts ‘multiple paths’ to victory MORE proposed an ambitious sustainable infrastructure program called Build Back Better. While Bidens’ proposal is national, this concept is just as powerful if applied globally. Indeed, a similar global initiative could help the United States regain the advantage of the soft power it ceded to China while reestablishing relations with its American allies in the fight against climate change.

By applying the Build Back Better approach internationally, the United States could make up for lost time against China by establishing relationships with developing countries. In recent years, China has used foreign investment and aid as the main foreign policy instrument to strengthen its soft power. Since 2013, China has already invested around $ 200 billion through its Belt and Road initiative to build infrastructure projects in 138 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Meanwhile, under President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump says he doesn’t think he could have done more to stop the spread of virus Conservative activist Lauren Witzke wins GOP Senate primary in Delaware, Trump defends claim coronavirus will go away, citing the “ herd mentality ” MORE, U.S. foreign aid has fallen dramatically in low priority government areas such as climate change mitigation and adaptation and Infrastructure.

A green foreign infrastructure program would bring America back to the international playing field and contrast sharply with the Chinas Belt and Road Initiative. The United States could provide investment and assistance to low- and middle-income countries for green infrastructure, such as solar and wind technologies and climate resilience projects. This could be accomplished through traditional USAID foreign aid programs, loans from US-backed international institutions such as the World Bank, and private sector investment assistance from US International. Development Finance Corporation.

Many developing countries might consider such a program worthwhile after their experience with recent Chinese infrastructure investments. As President Xi Jinping has voiced lip service to the idea of ​​a green belt and a green road, many more Chinese infrastructure projects have been brown and polluting rather than green and clean. A growing number of recipient countries have felt buyers’ remorse after projects have proven exploitative and insensitive to social and environmental concerns. China moved the Kenyas Lamu coal-fired power plant forward with no environmental assessments required, to be ultimately blocked by the Kenyan courts. The Hambantota Port Modernization Project in Sri Lanka created a debt burden so huge the government couldn’t afford it and transferred ownership to China.

In the wake of these stumbles, China quietly reduced its lending. Last year, overseas energy financing by China’s two political banks was at its lowest level since 2008. China issued just three loans for $ 3.2 billion Belt and Road energy projects in 2019, a 71% reduction in just one year. The reputational damage to the program and its pause in lending sets the stage for a US agenda focused on market-based economic recovery and sustainability and managed by trusted and transparent Western institutions.

Such a global engagement by the United States could also improve relations with its traditional allies. Over the past four years, US actions such as abandoning the Paris Climate Treaty have strained relations with Europe. The principles of Build Back Better align closely with the agendas of U.S. allies, such as the European Union’s Green Deal and South Korea’s Green New Deal, which focus on reducing carbon emissions, strengthening climate resilience and slowing biodiversity loss. Promoting green infrastructure and climate resilience as part of the global economic recovery could help rebuild ties with our longtime friends abroad.

A unified US and European vision of a green recovery could also push China to focus on green infrastructure lending and reduce reliance on fossil fuels in its Belt and Road initiative. President X is a previous commitment to a new vision of green development … which is green, low carbon, circular and sustainable provides a blueprint for this course correction. Appropriate leadership could allow the United States, Europe and China to join forces to advance a global green recovery that would lay the groundwork for achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

A foreign policy framework that rebuilds soft power and US alliances, while improving the environmental impact of China’s investment program, is a triple victory. But to be successful, the United States must act while countries craft their stimulus packages and before China relaunches its overseas infrastructure investment. If Biden is elected, an administration focused on the national economy should move quickly on the international front as well. The reaffirmation of American leadership in the post-pandemic world may depend on it.

Elizabeth Losos is a Principal Investigator at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University and leads a research program on sustainable infrastructure.



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