Sunday, 29 November, 2020

Will Biden’s Presidency Boost Global Cooperation?

Hira Bahadur Thapa

Following the November 3rd presidential election in the US, predictions are afloat about how Joe Biden’s foreign policy would look like. The US presidential election is an international event. It has direct bearing on the shape of global economy and the conflicts roiling societies thousands of miles away. Possessing years of experience as a senator and vice president, Biden can bring that wealth into his new job for the benefit of his country and the world. Unlike President Donald Trump, Biden has vowed to strengthen multilateralism for better handling global challenges.

Restoration of trust
His experience as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should also give him leverage in restoring trust among allies and partners, which is the key to strengthening the foundations of multilateralism. As opined by Richard Haass alliances constitute the great structural advantage of US foreign policy. Global pandemic dominated the 2020 presidential campaign. As a true believer in science, Biden has demonstrated his willingness to rejoin the World Health Organisation. An empowered WHO is needed to end the pandemic and prepare for inevitable future outbreaks as well as to tackle noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The US’s continuing presence in the organisation is vital for WHO’s success in the fulfillment of its vast mandates
Demonstrating his preference for multilateralism Biden has said, “as a nation we have to prove to the world that the US is prepared to lead again - not just with the example of our power but also the power of our example” (Foreign Affairs, November/December). The president-elect pledges to restore the soul of the nation - to make America noble again. His conviction is that the US has both the right and obligation to assume leadership. At a time of growing skepticism about America’s commitment to alliance among its most trusted and traditional allies, the US leadership should exhibit empathy to her friends and partners to win their support. In the opinion of William Burns, a long-time US diplomat, the new president’s sheer persistence and gift of empathy will play an important role to restore allies’ confidence in the US.
Biden’s election success has aroused optimism among world leaders. Perhaps, President Trump’s reluctance to concede defeat and decision to legally challenge the election outcomes, may have dissuaded some of his followers to congratulate the president-elect. Notwithstanding the above, increasing number of European allies who regularly disagreed with the US policies on many issues are among some of the first to offer congratulations to Biden. Congratulating the incoming president, the French President has said, “We have a lot to do to overcome today’s challenges. Let’s work together”. Likewise, German Foreign Minister has displayed enthusiasm “to work together investing in cooperation for a new trans-Atlantic beginning, a new deal”.
Nepal’s Prime Minister has joined other world leaders in offering his congratulation to Biden. He has shown desire to work collaboratively under the Biden presidency. Although US policy towards Nepal does not necessarily change in tune with the change in the American leadership, it is Nepal’s hope that the bilateral friendship will continue to be smooth and deep between the two countries in the days to come. Some predict that the new administration may push for the speedy resolution of the issue of Millennium Challenge Corporation fund given Biden’s hawkish approach to China.
Some American hawks believe that the new administration may favour decoupling from China by shutting Chinese suppliers out of the US market. Actually, trade is a two-way dependency. It is not a zero-sum game. Reducing bilateral trade would be equivalent to that of previous administration’s failed tariffs against Chinese imports. Due to those tariffs, the American consumers have been compelled to pay higher price. Biden presidency will be traditional internationalist as the president-elect appreciates the EU’s historic relationship with the US and its liberal values. Hopefully, closer and friendlier cooperation will be demonstrated on a host of fronts, including trade and action on climate change. The changed US-EU relationship will also bolster the prospects of limiting the nuclear ambitions of Iran, considering the fact that they collaboratively negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015.
This agreement has unraveled following US’s pull out prompting Iran to violate some of the terms of the accord. Biden has promised to revisit the decision to abandon the agreement. The new administration’s coordination with France, Germany and the UK to forge a new approach to Iran pledging to rejoin the agreement may salvage the JCPOA. Optimistically, Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. As one of the largest emitters of carbon emissions, the root cause of rising temperatures leading to climate change, the US engagement in international efforts to cut down the carbon gas emissions will be instrumental to reviving the climate accord.

Global cooperation
Biden presidency looks determined to restore the importance of global cooperation by healing the wounds of isolation and polarisation that afflicted the US for the last four years. Borrowing Biden’s words from his victory speech the new administration is set to make pandemic its number one priority. His conviction that getting the coronavirus under control is crucial to normalcy and economic prosperity reinforces his promise to rejoin the World Health Organisation.
International institutions will receive a boost from Biden’s intention to return to Paris Agreement on climate change, remain in the WHO, and end the disruption of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). His emphasis on multilateralism raises the hope that the incoming US administration would usher in a new era of global cooperation.

(Thapa is a former foreign policy advisor to the Prime Minister from 2008 to 09.


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