It is expected that the Republican Party will take control of the House of Representatives against the ruling Democratic Party as a result of the U.S. midterm elections, which took place on Tuesday. The Senate races in contested districts are too close to call. The Republican Party, criticizing the Joe Biden administration’s economic policies, took over the House of Representatives and is also eyeing to take control of the Senate after two years.
The Republican Party has been making public announcements that it would revise the domestic and foreign policies of the Biden administration, including its fiscal, energy, and trade policies, once it recovers the majority party position. The Biden administration’s policies are likely to be readjusted by revising critical bills, which can have an expanded impact on South Korea and other countries.
First of all, the U.S. will be further focused on the ‘America Frist’ policy. The Republican Party pledged to strengthen the country’s manufacturing industry and secure the supply chain to reinforce the country’s economy. The ‘American First’ stance was already clear even under the Biden administration, which was making efforts to strengthen solidarity with its allies, as the administration legislated the CHIPS and Science Act and Inflation Reduction Act. If the Republican Party returns to protectionism, which was the stance of the Donald Trump administration, such a stance of the U.S. will be further strengthened.
The tensions between the U.S. and China are likely to be exacerbated. The Republican Party forewarned that it would put forward response measures against China through a dedicated committee within the Congress by saying that the U.S.’s dependence on China is dangerously high. A series of bills to strengthen regulations on export to, import from and investment in China were proposed. China, which confirmed that its President Xi Jinping would continue onto his third term in office, will also actively respond to the U.S.’s policies to keep the country in check.
There is less room for the Biden administration to address external challenges, such as denuclearization negotiations with North Korea, as domestic issues have become more urgent in the face of the Republican Party’s attack. Finding solutions for the North Korean issue through the U.S. became more difficult. As the hard-liners of the Republican Party have a bigger voice now, it cannot be excluded the possibility that alliance issues between South Korea and the U.S., such as increasing South Korea’s share of military defense expenses, may resurface again.
South Korea should closely analyze the changes and impact caused by the midterm elections in U.S. politics and be thoroughly prepared. The U.S. may put more significant pressure on South Korea in terms of its participation in policies to keep China in check and trade. The South Korean government’s foreign policies, which have been focusing on strengthening the alliance between South Korea and the U.S., are facing criticism that they were betrayed by the U.S. as the U.S. adopted the Inflation Reduction Act. Without simultaneous efforts to strengthen bilateral security cooperation and refine the economic and security policies regarding the U.S., the bilateral relationship can be easily shaken.