It may not be official yet, but looks like Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. Like it or not, U.S.A. politics has an impact on the rest of the world, it is only fair to wonder if and how this victory will affect Europe. Provided that the handover occurs smoothly and whenever Biden’s victory becomes official, Trump leaves the White House without too much of a fuss.
Here are four hot topics to keep an eye on.
There is something about Biden that has become almost cliché: he knows everyone in person. This is actually true, at least to some extent. Joe Biden has skills and experience, thanks to his former role as vice president, he is also a well-known proponent of internationalism and he knows many personalities of the international political scene. This means that it will be much easier to rebuild international relationships for Biden than for Trump. Europe can now hope for a new commitment to rebuild what Trump clumsily — and for several reasons — destroyed, such as the relationships between U.S.A. and NATO and other allies. Very often, in fact, Trump went against his European counterparts threatening them with reducing U.S.A. contributions if they did not increase their own in turn.
It should not be forgotten that Trump has led his country out of UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Commission as well, on the basis of an alleged anti-Israel policy by both agencies.
Moreover, on 7 July 2020, Trump took the U.S.A. Out of the WHO, lamenting a poor management of the Covid-19 crisis. In the same circumstance the soon to be ex-president also accused the EU of helping China in hiding its responsibility in provoking the pandemic. This, of course, is something that has yet to be demonstrated as well.
Anyway, Biden’s adviser, Antony Blinken, has already announced that Trump’s foreign policy decisions will be reviewed.
The Mediterranean question remains open, though. A massive U.S.A. intervention in this issue should not be expected anytime soon, or at least not necessarly in favor of European interests. After all, as for Trump, the motto ‘America First’ applies to Biden too.
Climate and ecology
Here is another hotly debated topic, especially since November 2019, when Trump announced the intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which aimed at keeping the increase in global average temperatures under control. Since there is a technical timeframe for any State to actually withdraw from the Agreement, and this period expired right on November 4 2020, Joe Biden may reverse the decision made by the previous administration. Actually, he has already declared himself in favor of the Paris Agreement, and he is notoriously a supporter of the green economy. Biden has also foreseen an investment of 2.000 trillion dollars with the aim of producing 100% clean energy by 2035, and achieving 0 emissions by 2050. Europe, therefore, can expect a renewed green alliance.
We know that Biden’s stance on international trade is slightly less nationalist than Trump’s. However, he did not make any big claims on the subject, or at least he did not dwell too long on the most technical details.
During the years of his mandate, Trump imposed sanctions on other countries in the hope to resolve both foreign political conflicts and the U.S.A. internal deficit. It is no mystery that he acted out of his blatant tendency towards populism, though, and the need for a scapegoat for all evils. His constant China blaming is in fact a clear example of this, born more from the need to charm the most shallow part of his electorate, than from practical considerations. Not that China and the U.S.A. will be best friends anytime soon. Nonetheless, the trades with Europe may get new lifeblood with an advocate of multilateralism such as Biden. This surely is an auspicious opportunity for the EU, which exported goods for 384 billion euros to the U.S.A. in 2019 alone, importing goods for “only” 232 billion.
Anyway, while anothern important goal for the U.S.A. may be to strengthen commercial relations with other states through the World Trade Organization, (often mistreated by Trump), international experts believe that a true transatlantic alliance between the US and the EU is still a long way off, even with Biden winning the election.
Which of course means Iran. So why should relations between the U.S.A. and Iran affect Europe? Because in 2015 Tehran, the United States, together with China, Russia and the EU, entered into a pact to limit the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of the international sanctions that weighed on the country. In 2018 Trump backtracked, reintroducing the sanctions and declaring the deal insufficient. Biden, on the other hand, believes the 2015 agreement adequate, and has declared himself willing to relaunch dialogue with the Iranian authorities, which should help ease the tension globally.
For the EU, and its often conflicting members, Trump has been like fuel to the fire more than once. An open supporter of everything that could serve to disrupt the European Union, from Brexit to right-wing sovereign parties, condescending toward Russia and Turkey, Trump actually forced (albeit unwittingly) Europe to admit the need to be more united, and to work harder to gain a prominent place on the international stage.
If Biden actually wins the election Europe will be able to converse with a more traditional internationalist, who is also well-known in Berlin, Rome, or Paris. And although in the post-covid era the U.S.A. will be busy facing an economic crisis of historical proportions, with Joe Biden as the new president it is reasonable to expect a greater US-EU coordination regarding some of the most important challenges of our times.
Not only ecology and trade, then, but also human rights and democracy, with a particular focus on China, and the issues regarding Taiwan and Hong Kong.