As he approaches his first 100 days in office, Joe Biden would have restored some globalism to the US presidency. Good. We can’t have a democratic super-power parochial and introverted, especially when totalitarian forces continue to threaten the free world.
The president’s policies bring promise for both the US and the global economies. His US$1.9 trillion stimulus package to address America’s deepening social crisis will see its economy grow six to seven per cent this year, say economists—the best performance since 1984. And IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva estimates the world economy, pushed by America’s rescue package, will grow more than the 5.5 per cent projected at the start of the year.
For a sustainable recovery, long-term investments are necessary. Biden is seeking an additional US$2 trillion in infrastructure investments, manufacturing subsidies and clean energy to be funded mainly by rises in corporation taxes. The manufacturing strategy marks an aggressive industrial policy to restore US global competitiveness, especially against China; and the infrastructure plan includes upgrading 20,000 miles of roads and creating a nationwide network of 500,000 electrical vehicle chargers by 2030. Lamenting America’s “very old infrastructure”, Prof Emily Blanchard says “public investment is critically important”. Biden is following this up with another $1 trillion initiative, the “American Family Plan” targeting education, childcare and strengthening the country’s safety net.
The President’s entire package amounts to almost a quarter of US GDP, massive state spending to reverse decades of “chronic underfunding of public goods that has retarded US growth, deepened middle class stagnation and stirred resentment among large swathes of the population”. Biden says “it’s time to build our economy from the bottom up, the middle out, not the top down. We all do better when we all do well”. He is convinced history would see this as “the moment America won the future”. Great! In our interconnected global village, when one of the world’s largest economies wins the future, there is improved prosperity and security for all nations.
The US has also returned to the global issue of climate change, one of Biden’s top priorities. On becoming president, he immediately had America re-join the Paris Accord and later issued executive orders scrapping the Keystone XL oil pipeline and suspending new oil and gas leases on public land. He plans unprecedented state spending towards a greener economy, US$350 billion directly on electric-vehicle infrastructure and an estimated US$400 billion on ten-year tax credits for generation and storage of renewable energy. The tax credit has stirred great enthusiasm in the private sector because it brings certainty and predictability for green production and investment.
“This now puts the entire clean energy transition into hyper-drive,” said Paul Bledsoe, former climate adviser in the Clinton White House. And Biden’s approach gives him the moral authority to require more of other nations. His climate envoy, John Kerry, visiting China for talks last week, called on Beijing to “assume responsibility” for its part in global warming. This month Biden will host a Climate Summit of 40 world leaders.
This meeting is also an example of America’s return to global leadership. A committed multilateralist, Biden has reinvigorated Trans-Atlantic ties, re-establishing US-European Union (EU) dialogue for policy coordination; and recommitting the US to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). As a result, the West is now collaborating on responses to China and Russia. America has already led the EU, Britain and Canada in sanctioning Chinese officials allegedly involved in the persecution of Uyghurs; led the G7 in condemning China’s “fundamental erosion” of democracy in Hong Kong; and revitalised the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) with Japan, India and Australia to check China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific.
Last week, continuing to re-occupy its global diplomatic space, the US held high-level security talks with South Korea and Japan to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes; and after meeting with Biden at the White House, Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga delivered “unusually blunt” language to China that Japan and the US, joined by a mutual defence treaty, would “oppose coercion or force in the South and East China Seas”, stressing “the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait”.
Last week there were also strong anti-Russian measures “over a wide range of malfeasance”. By Executive Order, Biden banned US financial institutions from investing in new Russian government bonds, and made it possible for the US to sanction “any part of the Russian economy”, a definite disincentive for US firms to do business in Russia. Ten Russian diplomats were also expelled and sanctions imposed against 38 individuals and companies for interfering in US elections and conducting cyber attacks. And, in a telephone call last week, Biden told Vladimir Putin to “de-escalate tensions” in Eastern Europe after Moscow’s massive build-up of forces, including 83,000 troops, along the Ukrainian border.
During that conversation, whilst proposing a summit to Putin, Biden already had two American warships, Destroyers USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt, steaming to the Black Sea from a naval base in Spain. The EU, UK and NATO all expressed “solidarity” with the US. America’s muscularity has returned to global affairs.