LONDON – Congratulatory tweets from world leaders are still coming in, but a number of pressing international issues are already calling for the attention of President-elect Joe Biden and his team.
In light of domestic crises like the coronavirus pandemic, an economic recession, and a national reckoning with racism in Biden’s homeland-Blotter, the new president may have to first overturn bold international initiatives, said Bonnie Glaser, senior advisor for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Think Tank.
“More than ever before, domestic policy priorities will supplant any foreign policy agenda for at least the first six months,” said Glaser.
That means Biden needs to set strict priorities for the global concerns he addresses, said Peter Trubowitz, director of the US center at the London School of Economics.
With that in mind, it is here that Biden is likely to encounter important issues and challenges facing the US around the world.
For Biden, an avowed multilateralist who values working with the US’s traditional allies, international cooperation will be high on the agenda – and health policy is no exception.
One of Biden’s first steps as President-elect on Monday was the appointment of a Covid-19 Advisory Board to lead the new government’s response to the domestic pandemic.
Biden swore restore immediately the United States’ relationship with the World health organization. President Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from WHO and cut funding for the health authority’s handling of the pandemic.
“It is clear that the Vice President is more interested in a multilateral approach to this pandemic and global health issues in general,” said Thomas Bollyky, director of global health programs at the Council on Foreign Relations. The Biden campaign reached out to Bollyky for advice on public health at the beginning of the campaign.
Bollyky said there was no question that the U.S., under Biden, would play a greater international role in controlling the pandemic and will work with allies and international institutions to make it happen. However, Biden will likely focus on getting the internal situation under control first, as the US continues to see a record number of cases.
“The reality is that the next two to three months are likely to be pretty grim,” said Bollyky.
With Biden’s victory, countries around the world should find an America that is far safer to consult and coordinate its allies on security issues than under Trump, experts say.
In Europe, Trump questioned the value of the NATO alliance. However, Biden has vowed to strengthen transatlantic ties and pledged to upgrade NATO’s “military capabilities”, which will reassure allies like Poland and the Baltic states on their eastern flank facing an increasingly assertive Russia.
According to Keir Giles, a Russia expert from the Chatham House Think Tank in London, Moscow would likely push back its ambitions more than under Trump. Over the past four years, Russia has taken advantage of the vacuum created by the US absence or withdrawal, particularly in Syria.
In Asia, Biden has pledged to work more closely with US allies to counter China, where the US ambassador resigned last month and was not replaced. Beijing has also taken a more assertive approach regionally and globally in recent years by claiming much of the South China Sea and clashing with its neighbors. In particular, it has increased pressure on Taiwan – the democratically run independent island that China regards as a breakaway province.
Biden must decide how far the United States is ready to assist and arm Taiwan. “If Biden is to build US credibility with allies in Asia, it would be wrong to move away from expecting robust US efforts to defend Taiwan,” said David Gordon, former director of policy planning at the State Department.
Trump rocked South Korea earlier this year by urging Seoul to dramatically increase its payments for stationing American troops in the country, a move Biden took said was the blackmail of a longtime ally. North Korea prevailed under Trump, who announced its great relationship with its leader Kim Jong Un, would reset relations between opposing nations, but failed to reach an agreement on reducing Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
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Even so, given the many challenges Biden faces, it’s not clear that North Korea will be an early priority for Biden, said Cristina Varriale, a research fellow who focuses on North Korea at the Royal United Services Institute’s think tank in London.
Biden’s election could also create an opportunity for new negotiations with Iran.
The President-elect has promised to re-admit the United States to the United States 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, from which Trump withdrew when Tehran returned to compliance. This promise has unsettled US long-term allies such as Israel, which sees Iran as an existential threat, and Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as the main competitor for regional dominance.
The Iranian rial rose to a two-month high against the US dollar on Saturday after Biden won.
neighbours Afghanistan It is likely that US troops will be scaled back under a Biden administration, though Trump likely did not promise a full withdrawal last month. The president-elect has vowed to bring the majority of US troops home and focus American efforts there on combat groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State terrorist organization.
Biden’s view that climate change is a global challenge that requires international cooperation should mean a major reversal of Trump’s four-year climate policy, according to experts.
Biden has pledged to re-join the landmark Paris Agreement, an international effort aimed at keeping climate change in check, which Trump withdrew from.
World leaders have taken note of the position of the president-elect, with some using the topic to find common ground with him. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose government is desperate for a trade deal with the US after the UK has left the European Union, identified this as one of three critical issues the two countries must tackle together.
China’s state-owned newspaper Global Times also highlighted climate change as a potential area of cooperation with the new government. Biden advisors said the new government is open to building common ground with China on climate, despite deep disagreements over trade and other issues.
However, Biden has expressed his willingness to hold China, the world’s second largest economy and its largest greenhouse gas producer, accountable on the matter. His platform promises to make future bilateral agreements between the US and China on carbon reduction conditional on China removing “unjustified export subsidies for coal and other high-emission technologies”.
A Biden presidency could provide fresh impetus and a new consensus for international efforts to combat climate change, said Laura Diaz Anadon, professor of climate policy at Cambridge University.
“Perhaps it could even help some countries improve one another, partly because well-designed strategies for first-mover countries on clean technologies could bring some competitive advantage,” she said.
Biden’s platform calls for a global climate summit to directly involve the heads of state and government of the major carbon-emitting nations, but also promises to “name and shame global climate criminals” and prevent countries from cheating on their climate protection commitments.
How Biden implements US trade policy is likely to differ miles from Trump’s, experts say.
“The main difference between Biden and Trump’s trade policies is that a Biden administration works more closely with Western allies and uses international institutions more constructively,” said Jeffrey Schott, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former Treasury Department official.
America’s toughest trade challenge – China – likely won’t even end with a new President in the White House. Trump, who signed a Phase 1 trade deal with China in January after the two countries got into a costly trade war, made tough on Beijing an important part of his re-election campaign. Under Biden, tensions with China would persist, but attempts would be made to avoid clashes or surprise movements with allies over trade.
Bloomberg Economics appreciated In 2019, the cost of US gross domestic product lost to the trade war will rise to a total of $ 316 billion by the end of 2020. For China, the tariffs caused export damage of 35 billion US dollars to one in the first half of 2019 United Nations report.
The substance of Biden’s policy towards China is not much different from Trump’s, as there is a consensus in Washington that Beijing is involved in intellectual property theft, blocking access to its markets, and a range of unfair trade practices. But the tone and tactics under Biden will be different – and most likely less confrontational, experts and former U.S. officials said.
It is still open how Biden will deal with the trade war and under what conditions he would be willing to lift the tariffs imposed by his predecessor.
The same goes for the tariffs Trump imposed on goods from the European Union, which Biden could either maintain, unconditionally reset, or combine with working together on other issues such as Chinese investment and 5G technology.
“It’s hard to see Biden, who has limited political capital, immediately using it for trade policy,” Trubowitz said.
One of the Biden government’s first trade priorities would likely be to restart the appeal process on World trade organizationaccording to Schott. Under Trump, the US blocked the appointment to the WTO Appellate Body, which acts as the supreme court for international trade, and has therefore been unable to make decisions.
The UK, one of the US’s closest allies, is eagerly awaiting how Biden will handle its long-awaited post-Brexit trade deal. It was a top priority for the UK, and Trump’s support for Brexit had officials hoped a deal could be relatively painless.
However, Biden made it clear in September that he would not support a trade deal with London if it jeopardized the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland, which has been the scene of some 30 years of sectarian violence.
As part of his plan to restore US “moral leadership” around the world, Biden said he would re-commit America to promoting human rights around the world.
He told the New York Times Earlier this year, when he is president, “human rights will be at the heart of US foreign policy”. He’s also vowed to host a global “Summit for Democracy” that will encourage nations to promote human rights at home and abroad. Biden and his supporters accused Trump of ignoring human rights abuses around the world – except in China – and failing to hold authoritarian rulers accountable.
“Human rights are likely to feature regularly in the vocabulary of a Biden presidency as an important part of US foreign policy and global values,” said Chaloka Beyani, an associate law professor at the London School of Economics who specializes in international law and human rights.
And while the Trump administration has criticized China’s treatment of Muslim minorities – especially the Uyghurs – and protesters in Hong Kong, Biden has at times gone further than the outgoing president in attacks on China, after previously calling President Xi Jinping a “thug” . “
In the Middle East, countries like Saudi Arabia have seen a change in the US approach under Trump, who not only failed to criticize Riyadh’s rulers after the assassination of the Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi, but also actively announced his cordial relations with the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman . Biden has pledged to reassess US relations with Saudi Arabia, which has built a strong relationship with Trump under the Crown Prince despite brutal crackdown on dissent.
“In the Middle East, given some considerations based on poor human rights and government records, it is less likely that some countries will receive privileged or preferential treatment,” Beyani said. “A Biden presidency is unlikely to be populist on human rights.”
The Biden team will likely make it clear that “Alliances are a one-way street and that there are some criteria they must meet in order to be allies,” said Ali Soufan, former FBI agent and CEO of Soufan Group. a private security consultation.
Biden is not expected to make any significant changes to America’s close relationship with Israel, which has been criticized for its treatment of the Palestinians.
However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he looks forward to working with Biden and his administration, a marked change from the Palestinians’ refusal to contact the Trump administration for saying they are pro Israel .
Reuters contributed to this report.
Rachel Elbaum and Yuliya Talmazan reported from London, Dan De Luce from Washington, D.C.