The American people have voted: Joe Biden is the next President of the United States.
The past four years, European and North Asian allies of the US have dealt with the repercussions of Donald Trump’s “America First” policy
Meanwhile, Australia seemed to make it through Trump’s term without a hitch.
Australia is among the countries that have been relatively successful in forming relationships with high-profile decision makers like Trump.
While the incumbent US President is known for his strong opinions and combativeness, Australian leaders and bureaucracy are able to work well with the said traits, successfully lobbying an exception from Trump’s trade tariffs with China.
Professor Gordon Flake of the University of Western Australia said it best when he summed up what it had been like for Australia the last four years under the Trump administration. He said, “I think no government on the planet has done a better job of managing the chaos of the Trump administration than Australia has.”
While Australia will not be directly affected by the national laws Biden’s administration plans to implement in his term, the US remains Australia’s most important alliance partner.
Given that, what points of Biden’s campaign, if pushed through, would mean a change for Australia?
Global leaders are very much anticipating the re-entering of the US to the Paris Agreement on climate change as soon as Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.
The agreement aiming to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions was formed at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and had been signed by 197 countries, including the US under then-President Barack Obama.
Trump, a climate change denier, withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement which had been signed by 197 countries when it was formed at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Under the agreement, Australia set a target for 2030 of making a 26-28% reduction in its emissions compared with 2005 levels.
These goals have been criticized for being too low, especially given that Australia is one of the world’s biggest per capita greenhouse emitter.
Biden, who placed his net zero emissions by 2050 goal at the centre of his campaign, is expected to urge countries to make meaningful commitments to alleviate climate change.
Lenore Taylor of The Guardian spoke about Biden’s plans for global action against climate change that might possibly leave Australia stranded.
“There are a bunch of things that the Australian government could do but they’re not doing anything to force, encourage, or incentivise Australian industry to curve their emissions,” Taylor said.
Despite publicizing their plans to spend money on the country’s efforts against climate change, the journalist mentioned that “there’s no plan or way to reach and endpoint and there’s no sign of what the endpoint actually is.”
Trans Pacific Partnership
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) between 12 countries, including Australia, aimed at fully integrating economic area and establishing consisted ruled for global investment.
Trump withdrew from the trading block, seeing that the deal could negatively affect the US in terms of American manufacturing and wages.
“So, a Biden victory means that the scope of cooperation… expands exponentially,” Prof. Flaked noted.
Perhaps the weightiest of the changes that could happen in a Biden Administration is the opportunity for Canberra to mend its relations with it’s largest trading partner, Beijing.
With Australian export sectors bracing for potential trade bans in recent weeks, the Australian Industry Group might have to start looking for other markets “if China continues to turn it’s back on Australian goods and services.”
Foreign policy under a Democratic leadership should be expected to make a complete 180 from Trump’s administration. Biden’s outlook focuses on friendships and alliances, which should be an advantage to Australia. His policy would not be weighed down by an “America First” mindset—the mindset that stirred US-China trade relations under the previous administration.
Katharine Murphy of the Guardian noted Biden will be focusing on recalibrating America’s relationship with China, and that “Australia is a part of that picture.”
“If Biden’s alliance-building instinct comes to fruition, Australia has some useful currency to put on the table. We possess some substantive insights for the new administration in how to engage constructively within the Indo-Pacific,” Murphy added.
In the words of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, “There are no greater friends and no greater allies then Australia and the US.”