What a Biden win would mean for Southeast Asia

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With another US presidential election comes another debate about the merits of American foreign policy over the preceding four years. But the Donald Trump administration’s record in strategic Southeast Asia – a key battleground for influence vis-à-vis China – elicits more polarized opinions than usual.  

Those who regard Trump’s policies towards Southeast Asia as misdirected and flawed can point to a lengthy list of mishaps, from his withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact on his first full day in office, to his decision in 2019 not to send a sufficiently senior official to that year’s ASEAN summit in Bangkok.

On the other side, Trump has restored previously damaged ties with treaty ally Thailand and boosted relations with Vietnam, preventing both from drifting even closer to China.

Whether a Joe Biden administration would conduct regional policy differently is obviously a matter of conjecture. But analysts and observers believe a Biden win would signal that change is on the way, a shift that would both resemble and differ from his days as vice president under Barack Obama’s administration.   


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