World leaders seek fresh start with Biden

JOE McDONALD
·3-min read

World leaders have cheered Joe Biden's election as US president as a chance to enhance cooperation on climate change, the coronavirus and other problems after four years of President Donald Trump's rejection of international alliances.

Trump has yet to concede defeat, but Western and Asian allies expressed hopes for a fresh start following Trump's "American First" trade policies, withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement and attacks on NATO and the World Health Organisation.

In Asia, a region on edge about the strategic ambitions of China's ruling Communist Party, the elected leaders of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan invoked "shared values" with Washington and expressed hope for close relations.

"I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the Japan-US Alliance and ensure peace, freedom, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond," said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Twitter.

There was no immediate official reaction from Beijing, which is mired in conflicts with the Trump administration over trade, security and technology. But Chinese social media users welcomed the change. A post on the Sina Weibo microblog service, signed Gong Teng Xin Yi, said, "Congratulating Biden, the old friend of Chinese people on winning the election."

After Trump said he won "by a lot," the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily responded on Twitter, "HaHa."

There was also no immediate reaction from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was friendly with Trump. Other leaders who supported Trump including President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Biden.

Most Western allies welcomed a fresh start with Washington. Many have been dismayed at Trump's criticism of decades-old military and economic alliances.

"We want to work in our cooperation for a new trans-Atlantic beginning, a New Deal," said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Twitter.

Others expressed hope Biden might revive cooperation on health, climate and other issues following Trump's rejection of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and pressure on Canada, Mexico, South Korea and other partners to renegotiate trade terms.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters he looked forward to a "great partnership" with Washington. He cited challenges including the coronavirus and "ensuring a free and open" Indo-Pacific region, a reference to China's disputes with its neighbours over control of vast tracts of ocean.

"American leadership is indispensable to meeting these challenges," Mr.Morrison said.

The Prime Minister will invite the President-elect to visit Australia for the 70th anniversary of the alliance next year.

Other leaders who sent congratulations included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Britain's Boris Johnson and New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern.

The election outcome drew mixed reviews in Iraq, where Biden is remembered as a champion of the US invasion in 2003. Still, Iraqi President Barham Salih described Biden as a friend and trusted partner.

While outspoken disappointment was scarce, several prominent leaders who have maintained warm relations with Trump's administration kept silent.

That included President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would wait "until all the issues are resolved."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Twitter profile photo shows him sitting beside Trump, described Biden as a friend of Israel and said he looked forward to working with him and Harris to "strength the special alliance" between their countries. In a separate statement, he thanked Trump for raising US-Israeli relations to "unprecedented heights."

The outcome inspired disbelief in Slovenia, the homeland of first lady Melania Trump. Prime Minister Janez Jansa was the only leader who congratulated Trump even before all votes were counted and showed support after Biden's win was announced.