There are two things that give us a clear indication of a Biden Administration’s focus on both trade and substantive foreign relationships. One historical and the other is taking form as I write. Historically, the Obama/Biden government focused on China as a worthy trade partner and currently, Biden’s China centric appointments to his foreign policy and trade team. Neither should give Europe or the post-Brexit UK any comfort.
As Vice President, Biden focused on China. He made multiple trips to Beijing. He frequently referred to these during his presidential campaign as being one of his core strengths in repairing the relationship with China, trampled on by Trump with tariffs and continued rhetoric painting China as an adversary.
The new Biden team is very pro-China. It consists of several former executives from American big tech who view the EU as a declining and increasingly regulatorily hostile environment. China is the real prize for global tech players. Presenting itself as sensible around regulations and market constraints, and the promise of exponential growth.
There is also the disparity in population. Europe’s 385 million, after the UK’s departure, is less than a third of China’s 1.4 billion. Britain’s 65 million one-twentieth the size. Faced with spending time with a declining EU and a relatively small British market, Biden will most likely choose to allocate resources where he can get the most bang for the buck. His focus on China will also be sharpened by the hundreds of millions that flowed into his campaign from US companies stroking Chinese market growth plans. They will be looking for a return.
There are the stories in the 70’s during the early stages of the common market, when American negotiators would take meetings with the then 250-million-person Europeans. Promising to pick up with the UK off the back of those meetings. They never took place. It may well be the turn of the EU to find that the excitement of a new market with significant growth opportunities will place them firmly outside a closed door. The UK should be wondering if we will even be in the building.
Several articles have painted the President-Elect as a pragmatist. If correct, Air Force One will be on the ground in Beijing early January.