Foreign policy and the US election

Oct 28, 2020

Foreign policy has rarely been raised as an issue in the state-by-state verbalities ahead of the November 3 election. Nearly all the discussions have focused on domestic economic and social issues, with repeated arguments about the contrasting personalities and frailties of former vice-president  Jo Biden and the incumbent at the White House, Donald Trump.

That is not how it is seen across the Atlantic in Europe or across the Pacific. Leaders in countries in the continents that front these oceans have no influence over who wins what is arguable the most important contest for half a century, though the experience of 2016 showed that Russia and China were both disrupters, and Iran is threatening.

It is in Europe where you find the most desire for a Biden victory, particularly in Germany, which currently holds the chair of the Council of Ministers, and France. In the Asia Pacific ASEAN countries, and New Zealand are hoping Biden wins, while the Morrison Australian government, to put it politely, is ambivalent. 

Some Australian commentators have suggested a Biden presidency might have little interest in the Asia Pacific, generally. That is not true, and not founded on fact. The Democrat challenger has made a clearly stated pledge to reset four years of US isolationism. The banner ‘Restoring America’s Leadership’ would replace Trump’s ‘America First’. 

Biden pleases Europe and Asea by pledging immediately to move America back into  the Paris accord on climate change, to stop the US withdrawal from the World Health Organisation, to line up with Europe in rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, and to reverse Trump’s war of words with Europe on NATO. He has indicated he will pick up Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia by joining the Trans Pacific Partnership. 

Significantly, Biden has Obama’s former deputy secretary of state, Tony Blinken, as his foreign policy adviser. 

Blinken made a speech earlier this month at a US Chamber of Commerce event when he announced that, if elected, he would call together the leaders of the early in his term to discuss common domestic concerns such as societal inequities and trust in governance, as well as repairing trade and economic relations.

The goal would be to “develop a common strategic vision and a road map for countering challenges, whether it’s coming from Russia, or China in different ways, or Iran,” he said

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