As tensions boil over in the United States, exemplified by the insurgency at the capitol and with the threat of larger riots incoming up until Inauguration Day, the possibility that President-elect Joe Biden will quickly resume his focus towards external trade and climate change policy is increasingly unlikely.
After the November election, EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen spoke with the Biden administration and was comforted to hear that he intended on rebuilding trust and good trade relations with the European Union. However, even at the time policymakers were aware that the President-elect ran on a “Buy American” platform, and while he could be expected to be significantly more professional and diplomatic, as well as agreeing to immediately re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement, he was unlikely to be more liberal with free trade.
After the events of 6 January where hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol building, armed members of the National Guard were deployed over Washington, DC and will remain deployed until after Joe Biden is inaugurated on 20 January. The FBI has also announced that armed protests are to be expected in all 50 capital cities in the United States and are especially concerned about a larger uprising on the day Joe Biden is signed into office. Just today, the TSA confirmed a passenger with 100 bullets in his carry-on bag at Arlington’s National Airport and all travellers to and residents of the greater D.C. metro area have been issued warnings of curfews and that bystanders are at risk of harm from violence or from the response by authorities.
To curtail this, every major social media platform has taken huge steps to reduce the spread of further disinformation and messages that incite violence from President Trump and conspiracy theory groups. Whatever happens in the next few weeks, Joe Biden will have to spend a significant amount of focus regaining control over the United States and calming the tempers that will still burn in President Trump’s wake. Expectations should be tempered about how quickly the President-elect is to open external communication with other countries before attempting to remedy his current situation at home.
Still, The EU Commission remains tentatively hopeful, with President Von der Leyen announcing in her statement on 7 January that “Joe Biden now has a daunting task ahead of him. He must bring peace and unity; he must bridge deep divides and he must address the big issues of the future – overcoming the pandemic, how to deal with the global economic crisis as a result of this pandemic, how to protect our planet from climate change, how to advance digitalisation and above all, how to strengthen democracy. Europe stands ready to work very closely with the new American President on all these issues. After these four very arid years that we have experienced, we are now looking forward to four fruitful years of dialogue, cooperation and good collaboration.”
However, many other politicians and analysts have expressed concern over getting too involved in the US at all, regardless of how cooperative Joe Biden becomes. With the knowledge of citizen divide and the possibility of a newly elected president in another four years with different priorities from Joe Biden, the European Union should proceed with care and develop its commitments to furthering trade relations with a variety of global partners.