The next US administration: Prospects for Italy

A participant waves American and Italian flags from the back of an antique police car during the annual Columbus Day Parade along Fifth Avenue in New York October 8, 2012.  REUTERS/Keith Bedford (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)

Executive Summary

Italy is watching the outcome of the U.S. presidential election closely, as the results could have significant implications for cooperation on security, trade, and global challenges. On the economy, a second term for President Donald Trump could mean more tariffs, whereas an administration led by former Vice President Joe Biden is more likely to pursue conflict-free trade relations with Europe. On climate, there will almost certainly be more commonalities with a Biden administration than a second Trump term, as Biden has repeatedly identified climate change as pillar of his domestic and foreign policy agendas. On security issues, a second Trump administration is expected to continue its alternatingly dismissive and antagonistic approach toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and contribute to protracted tensions around defense spending. Meanwhile, Biden has said he will prioritize the restoration of American leadership and trust between transatlantic allies; he (like Trump) would likely continue reducing the scope of U.S. involvement in North Africa and the Middle East, which are key areas for Italian and European security interests. Finally, the candidates’ postures toward China and Russia are of great interest to Italy in light of technology competition concerns, as well as minding the trade-offs between economic opportunities and security risks.

There are at least four actions that the next U.S. administration should consider in its future engagements with Italy: Recognize that fostering new industrial linkages with transatlantic allies and protecting jobs at home is not a zero-sum game; seek overlap with Italy’s green economy plans and capitalize on existing cooperation in the renewable energy sector; restore trust with allies and leverage Italy as a capable security partner; and coordinate with allies on China and count on Italy as partner to dialogue with Russia.