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Eurasia Group President discusses Biden's foreign policy and trade proposals

Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer joins Yahoo FInance live to discuss the expectations on international trade and foreign policy of the incoming Biden administration.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance's special preview of the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden. Joining us now is Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer. And, Ian, it's great to see you. Thanks for joining the program. Let's start with international trade, because it's been one of the top geopolitical issues of the last four years. So as we transition and look ahead to the next four years, what do you expect Biden's US trade policy to look like?

IAN BREMMER: Well, it's going to be less erratic than what we've seen from President Trump. He's not going to be putting tweets out around trade that will surprise both allies as well as members of his own administration. He doesn't share President Trump's preference for tariffs as a principal tool of trade policy. And he isn't as focused narrowly on trade deficits being problematic the way that Trump has been.

But having said that, I mean, I don't think we're going to see significant moves towards support for multilateral trade deals. Trump didn't like them, Biden did, but Biden wasn't able to do the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his watch. And there's not enough support for him to try to redo it now even though American allies that are part of it would like to see that.

Same thing is true for the Trans-Atlantic deal-- I think that would be very hard. And even new trade agreements that are bilateral, like with the UK or with Brazil, I think are going to be challenging in this administration. That's because the country has shifted. That's because the average American doesn't believe that free trade benefits them, with growing inequality being what it is, and the Democratic Party has absolutely moved in that direction.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Ian, I'm curious-- why did you say the Biden presidency is the top geopolitical risk of 2021-- you called it the asterisk presidency. So what's the significance of that and on foreign policy?

IAN BREMMER: It's not Joe Biden, per se, it's the fact that the United States, the world's largest economy, is also by far the most politically divided and dysfunctional of all of the advanced industrial economies in the world. I mean, the fact that literally 70% of the people that voted for Trump say that the election was stolen-- I mean, we've already seen what happened on January 6, which was after our report came out-- but part of 2021, inconceivable that could happen in Japan, or Germany, or Canada today.

That division doesn't go away just because Biden becomes president. And you know, COVID is a huge problem, and a lot of people have asked me, why wasn't COVID the number one risk? And the answer is because, thank god, we've got vaccines-- a lot of them, and they work for COVID that we're rolling out right now. We don't have a vaccine for political dysfunction and division in the United States. And I worry deeply about that.

SEANA SMITH: And, Ian, talking about that division in the United States, I think the big question now is whether or not Joe Biden is the right person, if he has the right temperament to fix these issues. What do you think?

IAN BREMMER: Of course he has the right temperament. I mean, we've known Joe Biden for decades. And in days where the United States was less divided, he was someone that reached across the aisle in the Senate. He knows these senators on the Republican side. He texts many of them frequently.

McConnell, former Senate Majority leader, actually went to Beau Biden's funeral-- Joe was still that person. But the divisions both inside the Democratic Party and between the Democratic and the Republican Party have never been so great. The impact of media and social media fostering this extraordinary polarization and divide has never been so great in our history.

We've never faced in the history of the United States a non-peaceful transfer of power. Biden will become president with 25,000 members of the National Guard protecting Washington, DC-- can't even take an Amtrak train from Delaware to DC because it's considered too unsafe. That's the reality of the country that Biden is about to become the president of. And I have to say that while President Trump has accelerated the divisions in the US and has weaponized them to a degree, they've been coming for decades.

And so the idea that this is the work of one man to fix and now America is back because Biden's going to be president, I have no doubt he's going to try. And at the margins, he'll have some success, but this is a very, very deep issue. And if you think it's only because of Trump, then you think he can fix it. If you recognize it's much deeper than that, then you have a shot at starting to address some of these problems.

ADAM SHAPIRO: I want to ask you about trade, because the divisive issues here are one thing, but we still have to deal with Russia. We still have to deal with North Korea. So what do you see by the administration doing in regards to those specific foreign policy issues?

IAN BREMMER: Well, they're very different from trade, of course. I mean, when you talk about Russia, the United States is facing a country that we have no trust for. We engage in espionage into Russia, they engage in espionage into us. It's in the cyber realm in an increasingly unprecedented fashion.

You saw that the leading-- the best-known member of the Russian opposition, Alexei Navalny, has just been detained after flying back having survived an attempt to assassinate him. I mean, Biden takes office with relations with Russia at their worst at any point since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. We will put more sanctions, more travel restrictions against Russian leaders, but you know, it's kind of like what we've seen in Hong Kong with China.

They're engaging in lots of behavior we can't stand. But at the end of the day, there's very little that the United States under Trump or Biden would be willing to do that would actually change that behavior. So also a humility in understanding just how much impact our policies can have is probably a useful thing for this incoming administration to engage in.

SEANA SMITH: Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia Group, thanks so much for joining us.

IAN BREMMER: Good to see you guys.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Thank you, Ian.