Aiken PR

The Briefing

What might a Biden presidency look like for our small part of the world?

by Aiken PR

27/10/2020

This small part of the world has a soft power in the US that seems to extend beyond the Oval Office. How can we take advantage of that under a Biden presidency?

The US presidential election is slowly winding its way to its conclusion, but would you believe that election day is only next week? This time around, to me at least, the election is creeping into view rather than overshadowing anything and everything around it.

There’s probably good reason for that. The incumbent President has sought to withdraw the US from the world stage, bar the odd involuntary but seemingly necessary act of destructive diplomacy. Under the direction of Donald Trump, the moniker of ‘global policemen’ has not been appropriate. That’s not to say the importance of the US both in the world and to us on the island of Ireland is diminished. US strategic influence remains and with a change of tenant in the Oval Office, it could soon be felt again.

Perhaps part of the slightly deflationary feeling resonated by the US presidential election is that, despite the rise of promising and ambitious young politicians on the far side of the Atlantic, American voters are to be presented with two candidates who, in appearance, are rather similar.

Donald Trump is not to everyone’s taste, understandably so. Yet the Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, has his own well documented flaws. This isn’t to say that none among us aren’t similarly flawed or that our politicians could, or ever should somehow not be flecked by the odd loose comment or poor decision.

The lesson you learn at school, at university, at work, is that you learn from your mistakes. So, it’s certainly right that politicians are beholden to that old cliché. Yet, anyone who watched, read or heard about the first presidential debate can’t help to have felt a slight welling of disappointment.

Fortunately, last week’s debate was a significant advancement on the first, at least in the fact it matched more closely with what we consider back and forth debate in the human language. The lack of excitement is not just down to the candidates then, there is also the slightly pressing problem of managing an election during a global pandemic.

Putting aside the rather large question of how the US has managed the pandemic and the interplay between the White House and individual states, there are large practical difficulties in delivering an election in an age of social distancing. In terms of what that means for electoral outcomes, we already know that, with a week to go until polling day, an unprecedented number of Americans have already voted in person or by post.

In 2016, just under 137 million Americans voted in the presidential election. So far, almost 49 million Americans have voted in person or by post. Though it doesn’t negate the possibility that the polls placing Biden ahead are wrong, it does seem to suggest that, if they are accurate in recording sentiment, a last–minute surge bringing Trump to victory is less likely than in 2020.

That presents the question what will a Biden presidency look like and what will it mean for business in our small corner of the world? First of all, though there will be change, it might not be as seismic as you expect. Trump’s turn inwards and efforts to stem the flow of manufacturing jobs leaving the country is something that is unlikely to change much under Biden. The Democratic challenger’s ‘Made in USA’ focuses on domestic renewal and targets similar voter groups as Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’.

Taking a broader overview of foreign policy, Biden has a preference for “fair trade” as opposed to “free trade”. Though the rhetoric may differ, Biden will not be freewheeling around the globe encouraging more trade. This might have negative effects on the UK, where Biden has taken a negative view of Brexit and also the current Prime Minister.

However, US–UK relations are long–standing and typically above individual leaders. More than that, the US will see an ally in the UK on the issue of Chinese strategic investment and climate change. For Dublin, that will mean the tightrope walk balancing investment from East and West is set to continue but the Taoiseach’s Shared Island Unit could become a useful vehicle for a President keen to maintain accord.

Northern Ireland has a particular relationship with the US spanning many years. The name Clinton and Mitchell trip off the tongue in any conversation that relates to the peace accord. Biden has gone out of his way to promote the importance of protecting the peace process and Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, has also shown recent defiance to the UK in trade negotiations over any move that would endanger the Good Friday Agreement.

It’s true that this small part of the world has a soft power in the US that seems to extend beyond the Oval Office. The question is, how can we take advantage of that under a Biden presidency?