How would a Trump-Biden re-match impact corporate governance?

How would a Trump-Biden re-match impact corporate governance?

The November 2024 US election race is shaping up to be one of the most curious and polarising in recent US history. The Republican frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, will campaign while defending himself against 91 criminal charges. Meanwhile, incumbent President Joe Biden will face into the challenge of convincing a sceptical electorate that his age isn’t an issue.

Voters may be keen to avoid a Trump-Biden rematch, but with no other candidate garnering enough clear support at this point, it almost feels inevitable.

Polls from late 2023 show that more voters trust Trump to handle issues such as high inflation and record levels of illegal immigration better than Biden. Although this is politics, which means things could quickly change at any point over the next 9 months.

Foreign policy implications

The candidates are poised to diverge significantly on foreign policy. A second term under Biden would likely involve bolstering international alliances, particularly through continued support for the transatlantic alliance and Ukraine against Russia. Biden aims to fortify ties with Asian nations to counterbalance Chinese influence, advocating for collective action on trade and technology regulations. Initiatives like AUKUS would be prioritised to enhance regional security partnerships.

Conversely, a Trump administration would probably deprioritise alliance-building efforts, risking estrangement from global institutions. This approach may fracture unity among US allies, especially regarding conflicts like the Ukraine-Russia War and competition with China. While Trump would likely maintain most of the US trade and technology controls on China – many of which he implemented during his previous term – he would likely deprioritise their multilateral adoption and abolish many of the US-China dialogues that were established in 2023, thereby destabilising the relationship.  

These shifts could introduce additional uncertainty for businesses as trade agreements are renegotiated and unforeseen policies are implemented.

Regulatory challenges and opportunities 

Both Trump and Biden could present risks and opportunities for businesses.

  • Climate: Biden will be pushing on his climate agenda, including supporting renewable energy production and a clean energy transition.
  • The risk of regulatory fines would be lower than under a Trump administration.
  • Antitrust action and labour rights: this would be a key priority for Biden, leading to more compliance requirements and prosecutions for offenders. While a second term would give Biden more time to install federal judges and civil servants, Senate Republicans – should they emerge victorious – would block many of his nominations.
  • Domestic agenda: Trump would likely attempt to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and halt the distribution of green subsidies and incentives that have not yet been allocated.  While businesses would lose significant financial incentives as a result, this would be offset by a widespread deregulatory agenda, including the rollback of admin-heavy, climate-related regulations – such as emissions standards or the SEC’s proposed climate disclosure rules.  This would reduce compliance costs for businesses, especially in the green energy, automotive and manufacturing sectors.

Under either administration, the existing divides between Republican and Democratic states will only become more accentuated. Republican-controlled states would resist Biden’s various regulatory and climate policies, while Democrat-controlled states would aim to retain and strengthen Biden’s climate agenda under Trump.  As such, businesses will increasingly need to navigate diverging state and federal regulatory agendas.

Whatever the outcome may be, the 2024 election will underscore the volatility of the US political system and it will undoubtedly be one of the most relevant in history for organisations across the world.