From the halls of Congress to far-flung frontiers in South Asia, seemingly few places on the planet won’t be affected by the election of Joe Biden as America’s next president.
ICWA fellows report on the major issues occupying their host countries.
German officials breathe a sigh of relief
By Emily Schultheis
BERLIN — US-German relations have been much more tense. Amid his shake-up of ties with close partners across Europe, Trump seized on German Chancellor Angela Merkel in particular as a foil for his “America First” policies. In addition to lambasting her and Germany on a regular basis, casting doubt on the value of NATO and abandoning international agreements like the Paris Climate Accord, Trump sent a brash and provocative ambassador, Richard Grenell, to Berlin. He was almost universally disliked in diplomatic and policy circles.
For Germany, which has long depended on America’s global leadership, the anticipated US return to engagement will be a welcome change. Officials here expect Biden to immediately undo some of Trump’s most isolationist moves, including by rejoining the Paris accord and the World Health Organization. A Biden administration could also reverse Trump’s decision to remove thousands of American troops from bases on German soil.
No one believes the Trump-era damage to the transatlantic relationship will be repaired overnight, but even the symbolic shift helps: For a country that prizes multilateral cooperation and consensus, and which has valued the United State as a key partner, having a president genuinely interested in—and committed to—dialogue will make a big difference. Indeed, Germans’ favorable views of the United States have spiked 29 percent since the announcement of Biden’s projected victory.
India’s Modi loses a friend
By Astha Rajvanshi
NEW DELHI — The camaraderie between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump has been on frequent display over the last four years. During that time, strategic ties between the United States and India continued to deepen, with Washington boosting military and political support for India in its stand-off with China—while looking the other way over the government’s increasingly repressive policies toward the country’s 200 million Muslims.
Now many are wondering how the partnership will change under Biden. Progressives hope the new administration will call out India’s human rights violations; on the campaign trail, both Biden and Harris did exactly that. But Washington understands the importance of retaining close ties to New Delhi. It’s a counterweight to a rising China, which both countries consider a top adversary.
Then there’s the highly symbolic triumph of Kamala Harris, whose mother was Indian. The vice president-elect has spoken fondly about her grandfather, who inspired her with stories about India’s fight for independence. Modi himself tweeted at Harris to hail her election “a matter of immense pride” for Indian-Americans.
India’s relationship with the United States is especially crucial at a time when its economy is at its weakest in decades, requiring trade support to bounce back. The pressure will be on both countries to cooperate—or risk potentially serious consequences.
Saudi Arabia should expect a major shift
By David Kenner
RIYADH — The United States has been Saudi Arabia’s most important international partner for 75 years. But the incoming Biden administration promises to alter that partnership in significant ways: On foreign policy, the two countries could soon find themselves at odds over policy toward Iran and the war in Yemen. Democrats in Congress will also likely push for official condemnations of the kingdom’s human rights record, renewing focus on a factor the Trump administration largely brushed aside—and making it difficult for Biden to ignore such initiatives.
Changes in economic policy will be no less profound. Pledging to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord on the first day of his presidency, Biden announced a plan to invest $2 trillion over four years in green energy to “decarbonize” the American electricity sector by 2035. The US effort could eventually lead to a decrease in global demand for fossil fuels. That would be a major problem for Saudi Arabia, since its fiscal health remains largely dependent on the price of oil. The only option for Saudi Arabia to respond and insulate itself from international developments out of its control is to diversify its revenue streams away from energy exports.
El Salvador hopes for a helping hand
By Elizabeth Hawkins
SAN SALVADOR — US policy has an outsized impact on many aspects of life in the region, so with the incoming Biden administration expected to make significant changes to immigration policy, humanitarian aid and diplomacy, his election is being celebrated here. Some have expressed hope American influence could help discourage President Nayib Bukele from following authoritarian tendencies. But as the region recovers from a record-breaking hurricane season, the future of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States is worth a closer look in particular.
Some 300,000 Hondurans and Salvadorans have lived in the United States legally under the program since 1998 and 2001, respectively, having been granted that status after natural disasters rendered a return to their homelands impossible. President Trump ended TPS for those countries, which is set to expire on January 4, 2021, with a grace period for an “orderly transition” before deportations begin. However, Biden has promised to protect TPS holders by blocking deportation to countries deemed unsafe. He has also pledged to propose legislation that would offer them a path to citizenship, in addition to help addressing the root causes of migration and reforming immigration laws.
Among the recent storms, Hurricane Eta caused dozens of fatalities and billions of dollars of destruction, particularly in Guatemala and Honduras. The new administration will face calls to help the region rebuild from these disasters and provide lasting protection for migrants stranded in the United States. Given Biden’s history of advocating for aid to Central America, Salvadorans hope Washington will follow through.
Top photo: Merkel with Biden and then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 2011. (U.S. Department of State photo)