By George Wachira* – Business Daily, Nairobi
–Expectations may be high, but the new president is unlikely to have much time at his disposal to address the wider world issues, many of which have evolved through acts of omission or commission by Trump’s administration.
–Biden is expected to mostly prioritise the weighty domestic agenda (pandemic, economic recovery, and social reforms) on which he was elected.
–It is true that the world has in the past four years mostly learned to move on without US direct and indirect involvement in many global economic/political issues.
Today is January 20, 2021, the day Trump is exiting his job with Joe Biden taking over as President of USA, a leadership transition that is expected to re-align global politics and economics.
Expectations may be high, but the new president is unlikely to have much time at his disposal to address the wider world issues, many of which have evolved through acts of omission or commission by Trump’s administration. Biden is expected to mostly prioritise the weighty domestic agenda (pandemic, economic recovery, and social reforms) on which he was elected.
It is true that the world has in the past four years mostly learned to move on without US direct and indirect involvement in many global economic/political issues. However, there are still a few global legacy issues that will remain work-in-progress for US as Biden takes over from Trump.
In the past four years, European governments and companies managed to keep the Paris Climate Pact ongoing. The Biden administration will re-join the Paris Accord and hasten the climate change agenda with increased US support and uptake of renewable energy. There will be the inevitability of US oil industry adopting energy transition policies and business models in line with their European counterparts.
In the last three months of his rule, Trump appears to have given the trio of PM Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and his son in law Jared Kushner a “carte blanche” to draw a new diplomatic map of the Arab world. They have achieved a historical diplomatic rapprochement between Arab states and Israel, and this will provide stronger guarantees of peace in the Middle East and stabilize global oil supplies and prices. Biden can only build on this achievement.
However, the same cannot be said about Iran, a legacy problem to be inherited by Biden, and which he will trend more cautiously. USA will likely choose to handle the Iranian subject jointly with the EU, mostly to revert the issue to the 2015 Agreement. This may be Biden’s condition for relaxing sanctions imposed on Iran by Trump.
However, there is also every likelihood that Israelis could inadvertently push USA into a premature quagmire with Iranians. And this time around, nearly the entire Arab world will likely be in diplomatic unison with Israelis, with Russia, China and possibly Turkey siding with Iranians. Yes, going forward, Israel is likely to remain a key variable and irritant for Biden, as was experienced by Obama.
In respect of Trump’s sanctions against the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas export pipeline from Russia to Germany, Biden will likely allow the project to go to completion. The project is now at its last mile, and it is not a politically significant issue for USA. Biden has much more significant political and security issues to settle with the Russians.
It is with the Chinese that Biden will have no option but to complete (in whatever format and approach) the trade and economic wars started by Trump. I am sure Biden is aware of the political support the Americans and indeed most of the world, had with Trump’s trade and economic wars with China. Trump interrupted Chinese ambitious plans for global economic, political, and even military dominance. China is a subject that Biden cannot escape from, but he will do it in his own style.
In general, Biden will no doubt work on strengthening selected global institutions which were weakened by Trump administration, especially where these serve US wider interests.
In respect of engagement with Africa, Biden can only take on from where Obama left, knowing that Trump made virtually no attempt to engage Sub-Saharan Africa. The Chinese stranglehold and domination of Africa trade and Infrastructure is a subject that USA, EU, and Britain will not ignore. The African leaders will on their part need to take initiatives to engage the US and West, especially in trade and investments.
Kenya is one of the few African countries that engaged Trump administration in areas of trade and infrastructure. The business engagement model between USA and Kenya is more balanced compared with the lopsided relations with the Chinese.
Finally, Biden’s leadership qualities will allow him to redefine US new global perspectives and priorities, while stewarding USA back to collective global responsibilities. Wednesday January 20 2021
*Mr Wachira is director of Petroleum Focus Consultants.