While Donald Trump’s cavalier approach to foreign policy may have won him some battles at home, it has battered the image of the US among its key allies and partners. 

A recent 13-country survey conducted by non-partisan think-tank the Pew Research Center found that the US's reputation internationally has taken a serious hit under the Trump administration, particularly due to the poor handling of the coronavirus.

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In the UK, just 41% of respondents expressed a favourable opinion of the US, the lowest percentage registered in any Pew Research Center survey ever conducted in the country. Meanwhile, in Germany and France perceptions of the US were similarly poor, almost matching the record lows recorded in 2003 over the Iraq War.

A median of just 15% of respondents in the 13 countries surveyed say that the US has done a good job of dealing with coronavirus. At the time of writing, the US had both the highest number of cumulative Covid-19 cases (more than 7.5m) and related deaths (more than 210,000) among any country in the world, according to Johns Hopkins data. 

Even President Trump himself tested positive for the virus on October 2, having been nonchalant and dismissive about its severity and the need to wear protective face masks.

Trust dwindles

Amid a backdrop of negative feelings towards the current president, he has become far less trusted than fellow world leaders of major economies. Among the six leaders included in the survey, Mr Trump received the lowest level of confidence regarding world affairs, while Germany’s Angela Merkel received the highest marks.

A median of 83% across the nations polled have ‘no confidence’ in President Trump, a higher number than both Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Xi Jinping of China. While this loss of confidence may not directly affect investment decisions, it certainly could have made investors think twice.

The link between soft power and FDI can be a tenuous one, yet the political shockwaves seen during Mr Trump’s term, and more recently in the coronavirus pandemic, will have had their own impact. 

While Mr Trump’s deregulatory agenda will have been welcomed within international business circles, perception could yet affect their willingness to invest. A study undertaken on investment destination comparison tool fDi Benchmark found that while the burden of government regulation in the US has decreased under President Trump, the perceived level of public sector corruption has soared.

This article first appeared in the October/November print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here