Thursday, 18 July 2024

What would a Donald Trump election victory and presidency mean for Italy?

Roberto Masiero By Roberto Masiero | March 18, 2024 | United States

With polls now consistently showing that Donald Trump possesses a slight but steady edge over Joel Biden, it is worth considering what a second Trump presidency would mean for Italy. However, much has changed for Trump, the United States, and Italy since the 2016 election, which first brought Donald Trump to power, so it’s worth first considering these changes.

When Trump assumed office in January 2017, he was an unknown entity on the policy front as he had never held elective office.  He had also never operated on the worldwide stage in any capacity other than business deals, which had shown him to be a shrewd, effective dealmaker who knew how to manage his business and grow his brand in different cultures with different challenges across the world.  Today, Trump is perhaps the world’s best-known political entity and brand.  His four years in office provide a crystal clear road map for what a second Trump term would look like for Italy.  

For most of the Trump term, Italy was governed by a technocratic coalition with leaders basically selected by the European Union.  It was weak and lacked any national mandate to do big things or take major initiatives.  Today, Italian Prime Minister Giorgio Meloni is the strongest leader in a generation, with high approval ratings and a clear mandate to lead the country.  She has also emerged as Europe’s strongest conservative leader, and her profile in the United States is steadily growing.    

So, if Donald Trump becomes the first president in over a century to be re-elected to non-consecutive terms, what will it mean for Italy and Western Europe?

First, on the foreign affairs front, Trump’s America First operating principle is serious about NATO and individual European states paying their “fair share” for national defense.  Italy currently spends 1.7% of its budget on national defense, which is below the 2% minimum threshold that Trump has stated is the minimum threshold for European countries.  He will strongly push Italy and other NATO members to spend more on defense.  

A Trump victory will mean the American commitment to pouring tens of billions in aid to Ukraine will be scaled back.  American support for Israel in the face of the Hamas terrorist attacks will dramatically increase.  American willingness to confront Iran will also certainly increase as it’s important to remember that Trump ordered the killing of Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, and ended the Iranian Nuclear deal, which had been negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.  

Second, on the environmental front, a Trump presidency will mean American energy production will be encouraged and freed up to innovate and grow.  This is a dramatic departure from Biden.  This means that LNG exports to Europe will be allowed to expand, which will lower energy costs for Italy and lessen the continent’s reliance on Russian natural gas.  Meloni, who has battled the Green New Deal extremists, will have a close and powerful new ally in the American White House on this issue, which will strengthen her hand in protecting Italians when it comes to keeping energy prices down and protecting individual freedoms.  

Third, on immigration, Trump will clearly end the open border meltdown at the American southern border, and he will provide strong support for Prime Minister Meloni’s efforts to force the European Union to regain control of its borders and end the national security threat resulting from unrestrained migration and illegal immigration.  Trump and Meloni see eye to eye on immigration, which means the Italian Prime Minister will have a powerful new ally on the issue. 

Fourth, on tax and regulatory policy, Trump will prioritize extending the life of his tax cuts for another decade and rolling back Biden-era regulations that harm business productivity.  The Trump tax cuts of 2017 will expire at the end of 2025, meaning that Americans across every tax bracket will see a personal income tax increase UNLESS Trump wins and then extends them.  The impact on Italy is simple:  a stronger American economy means a bigger, more prosperous market for Italian goods and services.  

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly for Italy, Trump and Meloni clearly share a conservative, freedom-oriented, anti “politics as usual” outlook that will make them immediate allies on so many fronts.  They also have a warm personal relationship.  Meloni has successfully become a key leader across Europe WHILE still maintaining her independence and conservative bona fides.  In June, she will host in Italy the Group of 7 meeting.  A Trump victory would only strengthen Meloni’s hand within Europe as the next emerging leader of a stronger, freer, more prosperous continent in partnership with the United States. 

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