Despite the ongoing, and frankly failing, legal machinations of the Trump administration, President-Elect Joe Biden is due to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on January 20th 2021. After a Presidency which has rewritten the norms of the running of the White House — and what is understood as Presidential behaviour — President-elect Joe Biden has a lot of work on his hands to repair relations with many key nations on the world stage.
Biden’s first 100 days in the role will do much to form how relations between major world powers take shape over his administration.
In this article, we look at the future of the UK-US special relationship, US-Indo relations, and the potential for US-Russia relations to remain frosty.
Biden piling pressure on the UK over the NI border
Brexit talks are reaching their nail-biting conclusion, with the very real prospect of no trade deal being finalised between the UK and Europe. Boris Johnson has gone as far as claiming there is a “strong possibility” of no trade deal with the EU.
It appears that the political waves of change being felt on the other side of the Atlantic will sweep across the pond, to impact UK-EU trade negotiations. This is in part due to Biden’s ancestral connections to Ireland, a part of his identity that he has been keen to stress over the years.
Biden came down hard on Johnson after he attempted to modify the UK’s withdrawal agreement from Europe, during Brexit talks with the EU. This stance is apparently motivated by the Irish lobby in Washington. They have been pressing Biden to ensure that the Irish peace process, initiated by the Good Friday agreement, is not compromised by the potential for rising tensions, which could flare up in the aftermath of a no-deal Brexit. The worst-case scenario could result in a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The lobby’s nose was tweaked by Boris Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, over their worries that it gives leeway to Parliament to bypass international law.
A statement released by Congressman Richard Neal, chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and a member of the Friends of Ireland caucus, sounded a warning to Boris Johnson: “The UK’s departure from the EU at the end of this year and any US-UK trade agreement must preserve the Good Friday Agreement, which has maintained peace and prosperity for British and European peoples since 1998.”
Is this the end of the ‘Special Relationship’?
This rising tension could be compounded by a less than warm reception from Biden. The President-elect is known to feel lingering resentment over Johnson’s comments as Foreign Secretary, when he once said then-President Barack Obama had “an ancestral dislike of the British Empire”, in an implicit reference to his Kenyan ancestry.
So, it’s clearly not all sunshine and roses when it comes to the special relationship. This, allied to Brexit trade deal uncertainties, leaves a lot of questions when it comes to UK-US relations.
The expected UK-US mega trade deal in the aftermath of the UK leaving the EU is in serious doubt.
The UK–Canada trade deal opens up new opportunities
In direct contrast to the difficulties of securing a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, there’s brighter news for British businesses from the US’ northern neighbour, Canada.
An announcement on Gov.uk outlines the trade deal, which was ‘agreed in principle’, between the UK and Canada in October.
The agreement is the start of a journey towards a new custom UK-Canada trade deal, which will be ratified in 2021.
The government have signalled that the agreement gives clarity to UK businesses that export goods and services to Canada.
“Today’s agreement gives certainty for UK businesses exporting goods and services to Canada worth £11.4 billion. The trade deal supports British industries including automotive manufacturing and food and drink, which between them provide jobs for more than half a million people across the UK.”
Which sectors benefit from the deal?
Could the new agreement provide a surge in UK companies exporting their goods and services to Canada? It certainly seems that way, especially in the automotive sector, as the new deal means that zero tariffs will be placed on UK car exports to Canada.
Car exports to Canada were worth £757 million in 2019. With tariffs reduced to zero, we could see explosive growth in car imports to Canada. Without the agreement, Canada’s 6.1 per cent car tariff would be placed on automotive exports from Britain.
There’s good news for the food and drink sector as well, with tariff-free trade on 98 per cent of goods to Canada – this includes fish and seafood and soft drinks.
Plus, producers of agricultural, seafood and chocolate exports will still be able to benefit from the tariff-free settlement currently in place.
Will China-US relations improve?
Early 2020 saw a worsening of China-US relations with the trade war between the world’s two largest economic superpowers taking up plenty of column space. With Trump leaving office, both countries might expect a return to the China-US economic relationship.
However, this might not be on the cards after all. A headline in the South China Post, quoting a Chinese Government advisor, warns: “Don’t assume US-China relations will get better under Joe Biden”.
Zheng Yongnian, the Dean of the Advanced Institute of Global and Contemporary China Studies, commented: “The good old days are over … the cold war hawks in the US have been in a highly mobilised state for several years, and they will not disappear overnight.”
This view is backed up in certain quarters in the US too. Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief economist for Asia-Pacific at Natixis, the corporate and investment bank, had this to say: “Frankly speaking, the first words we’ve heard from Biden aren’t very appealing”.
But, what exactly has Biden said on his China stance? Well, earlier this year he described China President Xi Jinping as a “thug”, and he looks likely to take a tough line on the country’s human rights abuses.
Organisations that operate in Chinese markets, or are hoping to move into China’s import markets, may find this news dispiriting. But on a more optimistic front, with Trump leaving office, Biden will be keen to avoid further disgruntling China by introducing new economic sanctions on the country.
Russia-US relations to turn frosty again?
Relations between the two main protagonists of the Cold War have thawed somewhat during the current administration, with Trump keen to befriend President Putin. How will they develop with the incoming Biden administration? Are we about to see a return to Cold War frostiness between the US and Russia?
A recent poll shows that Russians seem to think so. The poll by Russia’s leading independent polling organisation, the Levada Centre, reveals that the percentage of Russians who expect US-Russian relations to improve has fallen to just 12 per cent. During Trump’s inauguration in 2017, 46 per cent expected relations to improve.
Biden has commented to CNN that he believed Russia is “an opponent” of the US. He has made it clear that he will crack down hard on Russia for election interference, something which soured relations in the final days of the Obama era.
While wielding the whip with one hand, Biden offers a reconciliatory olive branch with the other. This comes with Biden offering to work together with the Kremlin to keep arms control treaties in place, which would limit Russia developing its nuclear arsenal.
Tough trading conditions to continue in 2021
Uncertainty reigns. Brexit, and the resulting trade deals the UK is negotiating are in constant flux. The timeline of the dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccine will mean some form of lockdown restrictions will be in place in countries across the globe until potentially summer 2021. Last but not least, we’ve yet to see how Biden’s policies will influence international relations and the world’s economies.
What we do know is, now more than ever, the value of localisation is more important than ever in this globalised yet highly fractious world. The need and value of respecting cultural differences take on more credence over this time – that’s why all our translators are not only experts in the sectors you operate in, but they’re also native speakers of the markets you operate in or are looking to enter in 2021.
With global economies teetering on the edge, the value of powerful translations, and localisation strategies to keep your business moving in the right direction, are paramount to your success in overseas markets in 2021.