Joe Biden, as a past Vice-President and long-standing member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, possesses a huge range of experience within the area of foreign affairs. Over his time on this committee, the Democratic Party nominee became a strident American voice against apartheid, a supporter of the Northern Irish peace process, and a protector of the Good Friday Agreement.
During this current election cycle, much focus has been on the domestic issues gripping America. Presidential leadership, racial injustice, ending gun violence, along with effectively combatting the Coronavirus pandemic and others, have been at the centre-point of Democratic party policy over the past four years of president Donald Trump’s term in office.
As yet, not so much has been discussed with regard to foreign policy issues. However, as Covid-19 continues to threaten populations worldwide, Russian interference in elections linger, and relations with major players and institutions persist to weaken, it won’t be long until America’s place in the world becomes a prime topic of conversation leading up to polling day.
For Biden, restoring dignified American leadership both at home and abroad lays among his main campaign focuses. This, in part, includes what Democrats see as the renewal, rebuild and strengthening of historic alliances with fellow democratic nations – especially within the European Union, with whom he would re-establish a multilateral approach.
In contrast to Trump, who has imposed a series of isolationist policies and is a known sceptic of global institutions, Biden has always been a stout internationalist. Alongside restoring a worldwide leadership presence, the campaign has also touted further far-reaching policy proposals. These primarily include reform of global trading systems, protection against threats to cybersecurity, the defeat of the Coronavirus, as well as an extremely ambitious plan to tackle the impact of Climate Change.
Biden has also stated an aspiration to bring together the worlds’ democracies within his first year in office, in what has been termed a “Global Summit for Democracy”. It would be a bid to strengthen institutions, confront the challenge of nations backsliding, and to forge an agenda to address threats to shared values.
Civil society organisations, as well as private sector tech and social media giants would also be invited to assemble in what would be renewed effort to engage co-operatively and recognise responsibilities to preserving open and free societies.
However, Ben Tonra, a professor at the UCD School of Politics and International Relations, told The College Tribune that even under a Biden administration, “relations would likely not return to the status quo,” particularly with the E.U.
“We can’t forget what has happened over the last four years,” Tonra said, as Trump has bought into the spotlight many of the issues which were previously long-standing in transatlantic co-operation.
As a proud Irish American, Biden has opposed Brexit, the Obama administration warned that Britain would put themselves at the “back of the queue” in future trade talks if they left the European Union. Such sentiments were again expressed as recently as last week when Biden joined with many other Democrat colleagues in a damning response to the introduction of the British Government’s Internal Markets Bill.
The proposal has been touted to ensure that trade would remain barrier-free throughout the four nations of the United Kingdom in the aftermath of Brexit. It has also garnered controversy as it sets to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement, a treaty signed with the E.U. at the end of last year. This is a stance which many deem would break international law.
In his remarks, Biden reiterated that the Good Friday Agreement cannot become a casualty of Brexit and that “any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
Similar feelings have also been echoed across Capitol Hill, most notably from congressmen Brendan Boyle, Richard Neal and Peter King, with Speaker of the House of Representatives, Democrat, Nancy Pelosi also stating there would be “no chance” of a trade deal if Withdrawal Agreement is overridden.
Here in Ireland, there has also been massive dismay at the recent bill among political circles. Dáil deputy Neale Richmond TD reaffirmed the Irish-EU position of hopes to negotiate a Brexit trade deal based on the terms of the Political Declaration. The key to this, according to Richmond, is the “protection of the Withdrawal Agreement that is an international treaty with obligations to international law.”
Richmond, who is also a former Chair of the Oireachtas Brexit Committee, continued to stress that Brexit as a whole, in addition to events over the last couple of weeks had been “hugely damaging to the global reputation of the entire U.K,” with the British government “prepared to go into 2021 with no trade deal with either of its trading partners in the E.U. and the U.S.”
Stephen Kennedy – Politics Correspondent