Here we are: Day One of Joe Biden’s presidency.
Arguably the most important question for us is ‘what does this mean for New Zealand’.
There’s no doubt the outlook is better for us under Biden than under Trump.
For a start, relationships matter a lot in politics and it was as clear as mud that there wasn’t much warmth between Jacinda Ardern and Donald Trump. Their political brands are repellent to each other. Trump didn’t know who Ardern was the first time he met her, he mistook her for Justin Trudeau’s wife. Ardern has marched in a protest against Trump. Trump never invited Ardern to the White House.
Biden, on the other hand, shares a lot of Ardern’s values.
We will benefit from Biden’s position on multilateralism: his commitment to things like Paris Agreement and the WHO. Doesn’t matter whether you agree the Paris Agreement is the way to go. The fact is NZ has signed up and it would take a brave government to pull out. If we’re in, we want the States to be in otherwise we’re wasting our money, so Biden helps us avoid that.
But, I think we should avoid overstating the benefit to NZ of a Biden administration. The singularly most important thing to us is trade. It doesn’t look like Biden is a hero on that front.
He hasn’t committed to re-joining our Trans Pacific Trade Agreement and actually he has promised not to negotiate any new trade deals before dealing with domestic issues. He’s also pushed a "buy American" stance which hints that he’s taking a more protectionist approach.
On China, our biggest trading partner, he’s probably going to maintain Trump’s tough stance, but – and this is what might make it niggly for us – he will be smarter, more strategic, and have better diplomats who could put more pressure on allies like us to fall into line.
So, while it’s nice to have a grown up in the biggest job in the world, and while Biden better aligns with our national values, let’s not expect too much too change for us.