Although relations with the rest of the world were all but
ignored in the presidential election, the winner confronts an array
of foreign-policy issues that hold profound implications for the
United States' political and economic well-being.
In fact, overseas issues could well rival domestic concerns in
the next four years. The world remains rife with nasty regional
conflicts, while some big powers such as Russia and China may face
delicate transitions of leadership.
The new administration's approach to trade will affect US jobs
and corporate profits, while its stewardship of Middle East peace
efforts and policies in the Gulf could impact the availability and
price of oil.
The new president's conduct of foreign policy will also impact
his overall relations with Congress. With the country no longer
facing the Soviet threat and the public favoring a balanced budget
and fewer global commitments, his ability to advance US interests
abroad will be affected by the funding of the foreign-affairs
Many analysts say whoever occupies the White House will have to
press Congress to restore GOP-authored budget cuts that have
slashed foreign-aid programs, hobbled State Department operations,
and forced embassy closures. As a result, they say, the US has lost
diplomatic clout, forcing it to rely more heavily in international
crises on unpopular and costly military responses with uncertain
"A major task right off the bat will be trying to straighten out
the day-to-day management of foreign policy, but that will depend
on Congress," says Stephen Hook, a foreign-policy expert at Kent
State University in Ohio.
Many experts say the new president will face a range of issues
that transcend international borders and are helping fuel
post-cold-war conflicts and regional tensions that affect US
interests. These include global environmental degradation, the
growing disparity in wealth between developed and developing
nations, overpopulation, food shortages, and serious health
But with the US facing no overt threats to its power and
preoccupied with pressing domestic concerns, the new president will
likely be able to focus on the "high politics" of the most
important foreign-policy issues.
Many experts say his top priority should be devising a balanced
approach toward communist China that safeguards US economic
interests and allies in East Asia, while averting a cold- war-style
rivalry with the world's fastest-growing economic power. This won't
"China is probably the No. 1 serious problem for American
foreign policy," says Stephen Gilbert, head of national security
studies at Georgetown University in Washington.
China has become America's fifth-largest trading partner, and US
firms are hungry to invest in the world's most populous market. …