Tag Archives: US Election Series

Uncertainty is the Only Certainty: US Election Update and Impacts

Uncertainty Is the Only Certainty: US Election Prognosis and Impacts

Hosted in full accordance with the latest COVID-19 regulations at Radisson Blu Scandinavia, AmCham member leaders gathered for US Election Updates and Impacts – the latest edition in AmCham’s ongoing US Election series.


Featuring former US Ambassador Barry B. White, Kelly Ann Shaw, Eirik Bergesen, Hilde Restad, and Knut Magnussen, issues addressed ranged from Presidential, Senate and House elections to trade, foreign, and defense policy positions under a Biden or Trump II administration. To cap it off, participants engaged panelists in a highly interactive Q&A session, leading to robust exchanges on multilateralism, media coverage of the elections, the role of science in the public space, and US trade and tariff policy going forward.


Ambassador Barry B. White

Kelly Ann Shaw

Eirik Bergesen

Hilde Restad

Knut Magnussen

Ambassador White Returns to Norway

The session opened with Barry B. White, who joined virtually from Boston. White gave an impassioned rundown of the US election, noting that the Democrats hope to take states such as Florida, Iowa, and Ohio (among others), and perhaps could even put Republican stronghold states such as Georgia and Texas in play. Striking a note of caution, however, Ambassador White also reminded participants it was critical for Democrats to retain swing-states such as New Hampshire, Nevada, and Minnesota.


The ambassador then put his pundit hat on to break down the business cases for both Trump and Biden. Arguments for Trump rest upon tax reductions and deregulation, whereas perceived Biden policies offer businesses increased predictability, flow of labor and a refined trade posture. White also highlighted competitive Senate contests in Colorado, Arizona, Maine, Iowa, North Carolina, Montana, and Georgia.


Quoting American poet Maya Angelou, Ambassador White noted that “people will forget what you have said and what you have done, but people will never forget how you make them feel.” The election, therefore, may very well be decided by how Trump has made the American people feel on issues such as healthcare, the economy, jobs, and race.

Trade in a Time of Rising Economic Nationalism

Hogan Lovells Partner and former White House Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs Kelly Ann Shaw joined from the nation’s capital to discuss the evolution of trade policy in a Biden or Trump II administration. Shaw, who also played a critical role in the China Phase I and USMCA negotiations and served as the lead negotiator for the US for the G-20, G-7, and APEC, noted that a sudden change in US trade policy in the event of a Biden presidency is unlikely.


“Trade is just as much controlled by Congress as the President – and the outcome of the Senate and House races will therefore be just as influential as the presidential elections,” she added.


Tariffs, she said, would be difficult to unwind for either potential administration, noting the “genie is out of the bottle” when it comes to the use of tariffs and active enforcement to achieve a variety of economic, security, and political objectives. There is bipartisan support in Congress for tougher stances on trade and multilateral trade organizations such as the WTO, and negotiations with China.


On the area of trade negotiations, however, Shaw foresees key differences between Trump and Biden administrations. She noted that Biden will not engage in any trade negotiations in his first year in office, putting economic agreement negotiations with the UK, Kenya, and possibly the EU on hold. Trump, in contrast, would continue such negotiations.


The focus for either candidate, however, both among the electorate and on the Hill, is squarely on domestic issues, not foreign policy and global trade, a trend further entrenched by COVID-19.


“COVID-19 can lead to more economic nationalism. Until we get our respective houses in order, there will be less emphasis on what we can do together, meaning that the differences will be on the margins.”


It was a sentiment she added to during the Q&A session, where she examined the logic behind US participation in various multilateral trade organizations.


“In many ways, the US is between a rock and a hard place. It is often thought that we can either stay in institutions stuck in last century’s ways of thinking or give China global leadership – these are not good alternatives; a third way forward has not yet emerged. In this regard, where the US remains committed does not get enough airplay.”

Commentary from Norwegian US Experts

In-person panelist and Bjørknes University College Associate Professor Hilde Restad, put White’s and Shaw’s comments in the broader historical context, noting that it was conservatives promoting free trade who were the first opponents of the President’s unique personal brand of economic nationalism. Trump’s actions, Restad added, would take time to recover from.

“While the US can revert to working to achieve consensus internationally, the idea that the US will simply snap back as if nothing happened is not workable.”

Fellow panelist Eirik Bergesen, host of TV 2’s Trumps verden, drew upon his experience as a Norwegian diplomat when adding that the idea of putting a country first is not necessarily radical in and of itself, it is rather Trump’s zero-sum negotiating style, the conflation of America First with Trump First that creates challenges.

Calling upon his extensive economic background, DNB Senior Economist Knut Magnussen, like Shaw, focused on the economic and trade policy ramifications of either potential administration.

“Whether it’s termed ‘America First’ or ‘Buy American,’ trade policy won’t significantly change either way. We can’t hope for tariff reductions or agreements.”

A change in NATO and defense spending is unlikely, regardless of changes within the US administration, Magnussen noted,   citing that Norway’s secure economic situation vis-à-vis COVID, and the continued decline of Oslo’s relationship with Moscow, will likely translate to Norway continuing to spend at or above the two percent GDP target. 

Q&A Session and Conclusion

At the conclusion of the panel, audience members engaged presenters on a diverse range of topics, including the Trump administration’s recent surprise imposition of steep aluminum tariffs and the importance of multilateralism.


During the Q&A session, Shaw and White both noted the extensive professionalism of the Norwegian MFA, with Shaw adding that “if any country can navigate a relationship with the US in the years to come, it’s Norway.”


Shaw added that regardless of who wins the election, volatility and uncertainty will be tough to avoid. “Uncertainty is our future – and what is certain is that it will be uncertain.”


“I truly believe that 65-70% of Americans agree on most issues. However, it’s getting through the political noise that’s challenging, given that the partisan divide can seem so great,” concluded Ambassador White in an uplifting, unifying tone.

Ap's Jette Christensen and Hydro's Egil Hogna ask questions durring the Q&A session.

How American Public Opinion Will Shape the Next US Administration with the German Marshall Fund’s Bruce Stokes

How American Public Opinion Will Shape the Next US Administration with the German Marshall Fund's Bruce Stokes

Preceded by a week that featured perhaps the most contentious debate in US history and the stunning revelation that the President himself had contracted COVID-19, Bruce Stokes, Non-Resident Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund, joined AmCham members from across the Nordics for a masterclass on how surging US demographic transformation will affect the upcoming presidential election – and the coming administration. The event was a part of the Nordic AmChams US Election Series.

Full recording available on the right

State of the US Presidential Race: A Look Behind the Numbers

Before joining the German Marshall Fund, Stokes served as the director of Global Economic Attitudes at Pew Research Center, and he drew upon his extensive polling and analysis expertise when presenting a broad spectrum of recent polling. The polls highlighted various trends, ranging from Trump’s job approval to increased partisanship.

Stokes then explored the factors driving these trends. A particular focus was the tremendous rate of change in the US, which he explained by noting the increasing rapidity by which the House, Senate, and White House change party hands.

“Between 1960 and 1979, the House, Senate, or White House changed hands three times. In the twenty years to follow, from 1980-1999, it happened four times. However, between 2000 and now, it’s happened eight times.”

A critical factor in understanding the American perception of change, Stokes added, is demographic development. The US is rapidly becoming more diverse, with more than 38% of the US population having a non-white background. Simultaneously, middle- and lower-class wages have stagnated, and regardless of background, fewer and fewer Americans can claim to have realized the American dream by earning more than their parents.

All in all, Stokes concluded, these trends have coalesced to create a demographically divided, highly partisan electorate.

American Views on Trade and International Issues

Despite the emergence of a divided, partisan electorate, trade is one issue where Stokes noted agreement. 79% Americans agree that trade represents “an opportunity for economic growth” rather than a “threat to the economy.” The agreement on trade, however, did not extend to other international issues, with both Democrats and Republicans holding decidedly different conceptualizations of international threats, cooperation, and opportunities.

pexels-david-dibert-1117211 (1)

Countdown to Election Day

To conclude, Stokes discussed the various trends around voting and voting difficulties that are coming to define the American political discourse with the election looming on the horizon. Nearly half of American voters plan on voting early or absentee, a trend almost certainly driven by COVID-19. National debates around voting access, Stokes added, have led to an increasingly partisan divide on the difficulties of voting in America, with many Biden supporters expressing concern over voting procedures and Republicans expressing concern over voter fraud.

Mapping the US Political Landscape Ahead of the 2020 Presidential Election with Pew Research Center’s Brad Jones

Mapping the US Political Landscape Ahead of the 2020 Presidential Election

AmCham Norway, in partnership with AmChams across the Nordics, hosted a highly engaging, data-driven session on the US presidential election with Pew Research Center’s Brad Jones.

With under 70 days left until Americans choose their next administration, the US is facing a menagerie of political, economic, and health issues – all culminating in a highly polarized political climate around what many commentators are calling the most important election in more than 50 years.

Jones, a research associate at the Center with a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s top-ranked political science program, guided attendees through Pew Research Center’s extensive research on American political opinion. The insightful data shed light upon the evolution of American politics across a wide range of demographic groups, breaking down how public opinion is shifting around key issues in the runup to the election.

Jones concluded the session by answering attendee questions, highlighting the deep political complexity of the election, the influence of social turmoil in the US on polling, and the intricacies of polling and quantitative analysis in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

Unable to attend the session? A full video recording is available to the right.

About the AmCham Nordics US Election Series


About the US Election Series

With the 2020 US elections only weeks away, AmCham Norway, in collaboration with our fellow Nordic AmChams and the US Embassy in Norway, continues our 2020 US Election Series. Featuring experts and commentators from diverse organizations such as Fox News, TV 2, Pew Research Center, C-SPAN, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the fact-based series is developed to enlighten and engage business and government leaders on a political process that impacts us all.

Other US Election Series Events

Countdown to the November US Elections with Fox’s Jon Decker & TV 2 Norway’s Eirik Bergesen

Countdown to the November US Elections with Fox’s Jon Decker & TV 2 Norway’s Eirik Bergesen

In collaboration with fellow Nordic AmChams, AmCham Norway hosted an exclusive session on the 2020 US Elections with Fox News Radio White House Correspondent Jon Decker and Eirik Bergesen, a political commentator, US expert, and former diplomat currently co-hosting Trumps verden on TV2.

Decker broke down the election state-by-state, bringing together the latest electoral trends with his decades of experience covering American presidential politics. While an escalating unemployment rate, massive protest movements around racial discrimination, and a global pandemic present critical challenges to Trump’s re-election chances, Decker noted that Trump’s core voter base remains unwavering in its support of the President.

Decker argued that three states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan – will likely play the deciding role in the 2020 election. Wisconsin, in particular, stand out as especially critical, and Decker estimates that whoever wins the state of Wisconsin will be the strongest candidate to win the White House come November. Biden’s pick for vice president, Decker added, could be instrumental in securing these key battleground states. He then went on to underline the importance of analyzing the election holistically, eschewing national polls for state-by-state and district-by-district analysis. US presidential elections, as Decker reminded participants, are not decided by the popular vote but rather the Electoral College, something political commentators around the world were starkly reminded of in 2016. Decker concluded by underscoring the difficulty political pundits and analysts alike will have in predicting the outcome, noting “this race for the White House will be exceedingly close.”

Following his presentation, Decker engaged in an interactive discussion with event participants moderated by Bergesen. Bergesen began by reflecting upon the extensive amount of time he has spent in the United States, concluding that he, like many others, did not predict Trump’s victory in 2016. He then noted the genuine interest for US politics in the Nordics, highlighting how many wonder how Trump’s poll numbers remain so consistent, despite a near constant stream of complex political developments. Bergesen and Decker concluded by fielding questions ranging from the impact of evangelical Christians on the electoral cycle to Biden’s choices for vice president.