In our latest #BrusselsCalling media debate, BSA | The Software Alliance CEO and President Victoria Espinel quizzed journalists from both sides of the Atlantic on the US Elections. Our star-studded media panel included Steven Erlanger (NYT), Dan Lippman (POLLITICO), Tara Palmeri (Investigative Reporter), Sophie Pedder (Economist) and Peter Spiegel (FT). Here are our five takeaways based on the journalists’ insights:
Quick bounceback for EU-US relations under Biden
If Joe Biden were to win, rebuilding the transatlantic relationship would be quick, according to Daniel Lippman. The train-loving presidential candidate is not the newest kid on the international block, having visited Europe many times. As a first act, he could rejoin the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, which would not only be welcomed in Europe, but would have domestic support as well. As part of the liberal internationalist wing of the Democratic Party, Biden would definitely try to reinvigorate the multilateral system, said Peter Spiegel. He could count on Europe for this. Biden might even be one of the last ‘romantic transatlanticists’, said Steven Erlanger, referring to the US generation, who fought side by side with Europe in the wars of the 20th century.
…but no return to the status quo ante
You can never step into the same river twice. Even if Europe would welcome a Biden presidency, it would not mean a return to the pre-Trump years. The strategic environment has changed, as tensions between the US and China have increased, said Peter Spiegel. The role of NATO will also be altered. Steven Erlanger pointed out that the US will continue to ask Europeans to pull their weight and pay for their own defence.
Fixing things at home, before focusing on the world
According to Tara Palmeri, foreign policy would not be the top of Biden’s agenda. He would have to tackle problems at home first. His constituency expects him to fix healthcare, tackle environmental challenges and curb the COVID-19 epidemic. To the disappointment of some in Brussels, Biden is not an instinctive free-trader, so little change can be expected in terms of trade liberalisation. In any rate, protectionist sentiments are on the rise in Europe too.
Macron as Biden’s BFF?
With Angela Merkel leaving office next year, Emmanuel Macron could become the most experienced leader coming from a larger European country. According to Sophie Pedder, the French president and the Democratic nominee have many common, even if not complementary, ideas, such as enhancing strategic autonomy and promoting Western 5G vendors at home. Macron might see Biden’s presidency as an opportunity to assert himself as Europe’s interlocutor in the White House and put an answer to the infamous Kissinger question – “When I want to ring Europe, who should I call?”
More time to focus on substantive policy issues
White House correspondents are having to be more selective about covering the campaign on the ground, and there are fewer in-person briefings. The pandemic-related challenges have however opened up the opportunity for more in-depth coverage of issues rather than the superficial distractions of campaign rallies, added Peter Spiegel. However, there are still a number of topics, which could be explored in the aftermath of the elections, such as how did mail-in-ballots work on such a large scale or what role did foreign interference play, if any.