World leaders welcomed Joe Biden’s election win with many hoping the Democratic US president-elect will spur a reset in ties, bringing a renewed focus on global issues like climate change and a more collaborative approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
In his four years as president, Donald Trump upended decades of accepted American foreign policy. He criticised longstanding allies in Europe, withdrew from international agreements and organisations, and set aside human rights concerns to cultivate ties with more authoritarian leaders.
Former Vice President Biden, meanwhile, promised a more multilateral approach, leveraging relationships with allies in Europe and Asia. Even so, he’s expected to continue a tougher line on trade matters and will need to balance public sentiment at home, which is for America to stop shouldering so much of the burden for global defense.
Here’s a roundup of the key reactions around the world so far:
Iran and the Middle East
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the election a “spectacle.”
“Regardless of the outcome, one thing is absolutely clear, the definite political, civil, & moral decline of the US regime,” he said on Twitter.
The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and imposed sweeping sanctions to try to force Tehran to accept a tougher deal that also limits its missile program and ambitions in the Middle East. Biden has indicated he may seek to rejoin the pact.
The president of Iraq, Emir of Qatar and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed all sent their congratulations to Biden.
But there was no statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arguably was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. Trump repeatedly broke with US precedent to boost Netanyahu’s nationalist agenda, recognising Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights and moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.
There was no comment so far from the leaders of Turkey or Saudi Arabia, who also had cozy ties with Trump.
India and Asia
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi focused on Harris as a source of pride for Indian-Americans, calling the incoming vice president “pathbreaking.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke of “shared values” in the U.S.-Australia alliance as he congratulated Biden and Harris. The U.S. has sought under previous administrations to bring more countries together in Asia to counter China’s military and economic clout. Australia has found itself increasingly in China’s cross-hairs also on trade.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga spoke of strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance under Biden; Trump had periodically mused about forcing Japan to pay more for the American troops housed on its soil.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country would work “side-by-side” with the Biden White House.
President Emmanuel Macron called on the incoming American administration to “work together” with France. “We have a lot to do to overcome today’s challenges,” he said on Twitter.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said she looked forward to working with Biden. “Our transatlantic friendship is indispensable if we are to face the greatest challenges of our time,” she said in a statement posted on Twitter by her spokesman.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for a fresh start for transatlantic ties — what he called a “New Deal.”
“Joe Biden made clear during the campaign that he sees the global strength of the U.S. in team play and not going it alone. We also want the west to play as a team again,” Maas said in a statement. “Only that way can we make our common values felt in the world, only then can we have the necessary clout.”
China is likely to face a stronger stance from the US under Biden on human rights issues and for its crackdown on Hong Kong. But state media focused their initial reactions on Trump, rather than Biden. Trump has made repeated references to voter fraud, without providing significant evidence, and has said he plans to fight on via the courts.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, said Trump’s actions could continue to reverberate. “Given his unique personality, and mobilisation capability that other defeated candidates don’t have, if he rejects this result and sticks to this attitude to the end, it will have far-reaching impact,” Hu said on Twitter.
Meanwhile the People’s Daily had a bit of fun with Trump’s claim to have won the election by a large margin. President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory, said she looks forward to further the democratically controlled island’s “friendship” with the US. “The values on which we have built our relationship could not be stronger,” she said in a tweet.
While Tsai’s party has more in common with Biden’s left-leaning coalition on trade, environmental and social issues, he has for decades advocated the “strategic ambiguity” sought to minimise the risk of a direct conflict with China over Taiwan. Under Trump, the U.S. approved billions of dollars in armed sales to the island, including a $600m deal approved in the past week for Reaper drones.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had an at-times prickly relationship with Trump, including on trade, spoke of the “extraordinary relationship” between the countries in his statement congratulating Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
“We will further build on this foundation as we continue to keep our people safe and healthy from the impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic, and work to advance peace and inclusion, economic prosperity, and climate action around the world,” he said.
Mexican leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who struck up a close relationship with Trump, held off his congratulatory message, saying the process is not over and that votes are still being counted. “We don’t want to be imprudent,” he said at a press conference.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited shared priorities including climate change, trade and security in sending his congratulations to Biden. He also acknowledged the election of Harris as the first woman, the first Black person and the first Indian-American as vice president.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Biden a “strong supporter” of the defense grouping, which found itself under fire from Trump for insufficient contributions from member states aside from America.
“A strong NATO is good for North America and good for Europe,” he said in a statement. “We need this collective strength to deal with the many challenges we face, including a more assertive Russia, international terrorism, cyber and missile threats, and a shift in the global balance of power with the rise of China.”
Commission chief Ursula Von Der Leyen said a renewed partnership was of particular importance given current global issues including the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The European Commission stands ready to intensify cooperation with the new Administration and the new Congress to address pressing challenges we face,” she said in a statement.