Politics

Trumps New Budget Seeks to Trim Foreign Aid, Counter Chinese Influence

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump released his $4.8 trillion budget proposal on Feb. 10, calling for steep reductions to foreign aid, in line with previous years.

Across the international affairs budget, the overall reduction to foreign assistance is 21 percent, according to the budget proposal, including cuts to United Nations programs. Eliminations of various international aid programs are expected to save nearly $170 million compared to last year.

The budget requests $40.8 billion for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a 22 percent decrease from last year.

The savings include the elimination of spending for international development organizations such as the U.S.-based nonprofit The Asia Foundation. Other cuts are proposed to embassy-based small grants for events and programs, including sending American artists to a poetry festival in Finland or supporting a foreign student to attend Space Camp.

Critics argued that the reduction in the international affairs budget increases the risk for critical military operations.

“The president disagrees with the idea that we should continue to have such robust levels of funding in the foreign aid category,” Russ Vought, acting director of Office of Management and Budget, told reporters on Feb. 10.

Despite deep cuts, he said, spending about $40 billion in foreign aid was still substantially higher compared to other countries.

“What we believe that, at the end of the day, its time to rethink how we do foreign aid in this country, that we need to move beyond the reality of spending money for a Bob Dylan statue in Mozambique, for the NASA Space Camp in Pakistan, for the professional Cricket League in Afghanistan.”

Trump also proposed fundamental restructuring to humanitarian assistance programs.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, reacted to Trumps proposal to cut foreign aid among other things, in a statement. He criticized the president for putting forth “a destructive and irrational budget.”

“He has broken his promises to the American people. Defaulted on the bipartisan budget deal he made with Congress,” he stated on Feb. 10.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Russ Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on July 24, 2019. (Blake Wu/NTD)

Countering China Threat

The administration says spending for international programs will focus on “great power competition” and national security.

For example, the proposal expands the budget for the International Development Finance Corp. (DFC), a critical tool for countering Chinas “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The new agency, which began operating in January, focuses on investing in emerging markets. It aims to compete with China in funding not only traditional infrastructure projects but also advanced technologies, including 5G.

“We have to be there as an alternative because I could see China take down a whole bunch of emerging countries,” Adam Boehler, chief executive of DFC, told Financial Times in December 2019.

Congress doubled the DFCs funding in 2019 to $60 billion and allowed the new agency to make equity investments.

The budget also provides $1.5 billion for the Indo-Pacific region to ensure “the region remains free, open, and independent of malign Chinese influence.”

The budget proposal mentions China, or the words “Chinese influence” or “Chinese propaganda” nearly 20 times. In addition, “Russia,” “Russian influence,” “Russian aggression,” or Russian are mentioned more than 10 times in total.Read More – Source