President Biden has started his term in office by reversing many of Trump’s decisions. In a ‘day one’ flurry of executive orders, Biden has cleared the way for the US to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement; halted America’s departure from the World Health Organization (WHO); strengthened environmental and lobbying rules that his predecessor had weakened; lifted a a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, and rescinded a declaration of national emergency Trump had used to justify funding an (unfinished) US-Mexico wall.
Can Biden undo the damage of the Trump years? The US-EU relationship has clearly suffered over the past four years, with disagreements over everything from steel and aluminum tariffs, to NATO spending, to US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. With a new administration in the White House, are normal relations about to resume?
What do our readers think? Our reader Jthk wants to know whether we can expect the US trade wars with China and Europe to end under President Biden. To get a response, we put Jthk’s comment to Jörg Wojahn, Head of the European Commission’s Representation in Germany. What would he say?
I think, under the new US administration there is a big chance that Europe and the United States can come closer again, and can cooperate much more closely again. There are some underlying competition issues between the two blocs – between the EU and the United States – but this can all be overcome through dialogue, through negotiation, and through commitment to our multilateral system. We very much hope that with the new administration (and I think there is a lot of reason for hope) that we can strengthen the World Trade Organization in the first place, and that we can – through negotiation and dialogue – find a lot of common ground, and a lot of agreements with the US. So, I think the times of trade wars with the US should be over.
Trump frequently complained about European contributions to NATO, and famously threatened to pull the US out of the Alliance. Our reader, Delta9t, wonders if there will now be less pressure for EU governments to invest in defence spending under President Biden.
We put Delta9t’s comment to Prof. Marina Henke, Director of the Centre for International Security at the Hertie School of Governance, to see what she would say:
Finally, Donald Trump was the first US President since Jimmy Carter not to enter US troops into a new conflict. Natasha is worried that President Biden might drag Europe into new wars. Is that likely? What does Professor Henke think?
I don’t think so. As I said before, the US is on a trajectory of retrenchment or restraint. This is the result of the last two decades, since 9/11. The US responded to the terrorist attack by deploying military abroad and fighting the terrorist attack on foreign soil. As many of your readers know, this hasn’t been very successful. The middle east is still extremely unstable, and so is Afghanistan. What you can see now in Washington, not just under the Trump but also under the Obama administration, is a change in strategy. There is a reluctance to get engaged outside. There is even a reluctance in upholding the liberal world order, spreading democracy and even in upholding human rights.
Some would still say there was this last “hoorah” in Libya, where the United States did get engaged. But if you look closely, and I did a lot of research on Libya, it was actually not a US initiative. It was really a European initiative. And here, the Europeans need to look at themselves. It was the French and the British driving this military intervention. Yes, the Americans under Obama were helping. “Leading from behind,” as Obama called it.
I really think this era of foreign interventions, the threat of the United States dragging Europe into these adventures is over for now. That does not mean it is over eternally, but I really don’t think this is a threat in the next four years. However, what Europe needs to think about is what it will do vis-à-vis China, which is where all American focus will be on under Biden.
Can President Biden repair the damage of the Trump years? Has the USA become an unreliable partner and should Europe become more independent? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts!