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Biden says US 'ready to lead' again on global stage

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WILMINGTON, Delaware (REUTERS) – President-elect Joe Biden said on Tuesday (Nov 24) the United States will be “ready to lead” again on the global stage after he succeeds President Donald Trump in January, pledging to work together with Washington’s allies abroad.

Introducing his new foreign policy and national security team, the Democratic former vice president signalled that he intends to steer the United States away from the unilateralist “America First” agenda pursued by Trump.

The Republican incumbent has unsettled many US allies, especially in Europe, with an antagonistic approach toward the Nato alliance and trade relations, abandonment of international agreements and warm relationships with authoritarian leaders.

“While this team has unmatched experience and accomplishments, they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking and unchanged habits,” said Biden, due to take office on Jan 20.

“It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back – ready to lead the world, not retreat from it,” Biden said at the event in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Biden has tapped Antony Blinken to be US secretary of state, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as US ambassador to the United Nations, Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of homeland security and John Kerry as envoy on climate-related issues.

US foreign policy under a Biden administration is likely to focus on more of a multilateral and diplomatic approach aimed at repairing Washington’s relationships with key US allies and taking new paths on issues like climate change.

Biden said had been struck in calls with world leaders “by how much they’re looking forward to the United States reasserting its historic role as a global leader over the Pacific, as well as the Atlantic, all across the world.”

Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris added, “We will need to reassemble and renew America’s alliances, rebuild and strengthen the national security and foreign policy institutions that keep us safe, and advance our nation’s interests, and confront and combat the existential threat of climate change that endangers us all.”

“I want to say to you,” Thomas-Greenfield said, “America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.”

Biden has been moving swiftly to assemble his team and make Cabinet choices after defeating Trump in the Nov 3 election.

Trump has waged a flailing legal battle to try to overturn the results, falsely claiming that the election was stolen from him.

Transition moves forward

Trump has said he will never concede the election but after weeks of limbo his administration on Monday finally gave the green light for the formal transfer of power to begin. That process had been held up despite Biden emerging as the clear winner and world leaders recognising him as the next president.

Monday’s announcement meant the Biden team qualifies for US$6.3 million in funds and among other things can officially coordinate with the 17 agencies that are part of US intelligence gathering, according to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.

The Biden team also gets access to federal office space, secure facilities for intelligence briefings and the succession plans for executive agencies. In addition, the State Department typically supports a transition team’s discussions with foreign leaders.

One of the first departments that Biden’s team reached out to was the Pentagon, underscoring the importance of emphasising national security during the transition. Trump fired Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Nov 9.

In a small but symbolic move hours after the transition announcement on Monday night, Biden opened a “.gov” website available only to government agencies for his transition, launching buildbackbetter.gov.

Critics have said Trump’s refusal to accept the results and approve the transition of power to Biden undermined US democracy and undercut the incoming administration’s ability to combat the intensifying coronavirus pandemic that has killed about 258,000 Americans and left millions more without jobs.