News World US How the Australia-US alliance will shift with Joe Biden in the White House
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How the Australia-US alliance will shift with Joe Biden in the White House

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The US presidential election – dubbed the “most important election” in our lifetimes – will have huge consequences for Australia and the world.

If Joe Biden is formally elected, we can expect a different relationship with our most important ally.

Here are some of the ways Australia’s future may be different if Democratic leader Joe Biden becomes president.

US-Australia relations

PM Scott Morrison enjoys a rare good relationship with President Trump.

David Smith, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney’s United States Study Centre, said he “wouldn’t expect that to change” if Mr Biden won.

“With a Biden president, I wouldn’t see much problem with his relationship with Morrison. He was vice president for eight years. I don’t see it being different,” Dr Smith told The New Daily.

Mr Biden has been a good friend of Australia, visiting several times before and after his first stint in the White House.

Joe Biden with his three grandchildren visits Taronga Zoo in 2016. Photo: Getty

It’s likely that Mr Biden would have to do some global damage control to repair fractured relationships with allies spurned by Mr Trump, but the task would be somewhat easier in Australia, which has largely escaped the ire of the President.

“The relationship between Australia and the US has been really pretty stable. Nothing much about it has really changed, because, for the most part, the relationship is not being conducted at leader-to-leader level,” Dr Smith said.

“It’s conducted at lower levels and it has been very stable. I wouldn’t expect that to change.”

Trade

Australia good trade relationship with the United States is unlikely to change, and may in fact become somewhat smoother, absent Mr Trump’s obsession with trade surpluses and deficits with foreign nations.

But there are thoughts that, with a Biden win, our ongoing tension with China may somewhat lessen.

The Chinese government has accused Australia of being America’s “lapdog” when it comes to criticism of the rising superpower – such as Australia calling for global action on Chinese human rights issues, and an international COVID inquiry – and doing Mr Trump’s bidding.

China has suspended barley imports from WA-based CBH.
Australia’s trade relationship with China may improve.

Some international analysts see China’s pressure on Australian exports as a proxy punishment or warning to the US.

Mr Biden is not nearly as antagonistic toward China, meaning a new leaf under a Biden presidency may somewhat go towards healing the fractured trade ties with our most important buyer.

“He’s not as obsessed with trade deficits. There may be some move for the US to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Dr Smith mused.

International agreements

Mr Trump has continually attacked global institutions like the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the Paris climate agreement and more, either slashing American contributions or pulling the US out of the compacts entirely.

Dr Smith said he saw Mr Biden looking to reverse or stem those cuts.

“Biden would definitely want to rejoin the WHO. You’d see a far less hostile arrangement with international agreements,” Dr Smith said.

“It would be vital for the success of those agreements for the US to re-enter. The WHO would find it a lot harder to do its job without US involvement. The world would welcome the US back into those.”

What that would mean for Australia, it’s hard to say.

But a reaffirming of important global agreements and co-operation, from Australia’s most important ally, would be helpful for these groups – and shore up Australia’s participation, potentially even further expanding our commitments, under such international compacts.

Climate

Most of Australia’s big trading partners have signed up to a net-zero emissions by 2050 climate pledge, with China by 2060.

The US has not, but Mr Biden has committed to such a target, and to re-enter the Paris climate agreement on his first day in his office.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has been ravaged by climate change. Photo: University of Exeter/Tim Gordon

This would heap pressure on the Australian government to commit to a similar emissions target, with our big ally on board.

The New Daily understands the Australian Labor Party would use a Biden win, and his commitment to net-zero emissions, to bully the government into stronger climate commitments by pointing out we are alone among our big allies in not having a similar goal.

Coronavirus

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the US, killing more than 230,000 Americans – the world’s highest death toll – and infecting more than 9.4 million people.

In Mr Trump’s America, where face masks are treated as optional, health advice is undermined and distrust in public institutions is encouraged, that trajectory is set to continue.

Under Mr Biden, America’s COVID response will be “much more centrally directed, coherent, driven by evidence and much more professional”, said Dr Charles Miller, a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at Australian National University.

“I think things will get better once Biden is in charge because he’s prepared to listen to the experts, whereas Donald Trump is not,” Dr Miller told The New Daily.

The US has been the worst-hit country by the coronavirus. Photo: Getty

Part of Mr Biden’s COVID response includes making coronavirus tests “widely available and free” and offering 12 weeks’ paid sick leave for American workers.

Unlike Mr Trump, who has tried to secure exclusive use of a COVID vaccine for Americans only, Mr Biden said he wants to help “vulnerable nations” treat outbreaks.

But Dr Miller warned even if the Democrats win the election, “we shouldn’t expect miracles”.

“Things won’t change overnight,” he said.

“Remember, a lot of the American response to the coronavirus is at the state level.”

Travel

Australian hopes of travelling to the US depend on how quickly it can get the coronavirus under control.

No matter who wins, that task could takes years.

But Dr Miller said “it’s going to happen more quickly if Biden wins than if Trump does”.

“That’s simply because Biden is more likely to get the disease under control than Trump,” he said.

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