Back in Europe, Biden tries to show his allies the US is with them

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ROME (AP) – Almost five months after President Joe Biden declared “America is back” on his first presidential visit abroad, the president’s challenge now that he’s back in Europe is to convince the world that America is here to stay.

Attending twin summits in Rome and then Scotland, Biden calls on world leaders to side with a country that seems unable to agree on its own future.

His visit comes in the context of the ongoing struggle to get his national signing program through Congress. The president’s fellow Democrats have steadily cut Biden’s proposed spending on families, healthcare and renewables to bolster support for the plan and have fought against the tax hikes needed to pay for it.

Because support for the $ 1.75 trillion package of expanded social programs is unclear, the president’s separate $ 1 trillion infrastructure package is also on hold. This leaves the president asking the world to judge him by his intentions rather than his results.

Biden administration officials say U.S. allies understand the mess of the legislative process and are not fazed, but world leaders are also keenly aware of the sag in Biden polls, the prospect of a Republican resurgence in Congress. in the 2022 midterm election and the specter the presidency could pass to former President Donald Trump or someone with a similar policy two years later.

The White House’s point of view, put forward by senior administration officials at briefings in Rome, is that American alliances have suffered tremendous trauma during the last administration and that the healing work under Biden is underway. Classes.

A senior administration official said on Saturday that the White House believed the allies wanted Biden to get as much progress as possible when there was a president deeply committed to transatlantic alliances.

“The administration has created very high expectations of some sort of resetting transatlantic ties with ‘America is back’ rhetoric,” said Benjamin Haddad, director of the Europe Center of the Washington Atlantic Council think tank. “I think there were probably too many expectations for us to just turn the page on the past four years.”

Biden promised the United States would be a more engaged and predictable partner for the allies after four years of Donald Trump’s “America First”.

But early in his presidency, he frustrated his allies on the international stage and fueled his Republican critics. The setbacks included the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and a diplomatic row with France over a plan for the United States to equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

Biden also disappointed his Eastern European allies, including Poland and Ukraine, over his decision to lift sanctions against German entities involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The United States has long called the Russia-Germany gas pipeline a threat to European energy security because it increases the continent’s dependence on Russian gas and allows Russia to exert political pressure on its neighbors. The imposition of sanctions against Germany, however, would have sparked a new dispute with one of the United States’ closest allies.

European allies have also bristled at the Biden administration’s restrictions on travel from European Union countries due to the coronavirus pandemic. The administration said it would lift restrictions on travelers from 33 countries next month, including EU members, China, Iran, South Africa, Brazil and India.

Progress was made at the G-20 as the White House announced on Saturday that the United States and the European Union had reached an agreement to settle their diplomatic dispute over steel and aluminum tariffs from the Trump era.

The tariffs were issued for national security reasons and led to retaliatory taxes by the EU. They will not be completely removed. European steel and aluminum will enter the United States duty-free and the EU’s retaliatory duties will end.

As the prospects for what would be the biggest U.S. investment ever in the fight against climate change improve, the delay in getting there has only reinforced the inconsistency of U.S. policy on the eve of the summit. Glasgow, stressing that the priorities of one president can be reversed by the next.

If Congress does not pass legislation for meaningful climate action by the United States itself, “it would be as if President Trump was withdrawing from the Paris agreement, again,” the United States said. US climate envoy and former Secretary of State John Kerry to the PA earlier this month. .

In a closed-door session with House Democrats Biden attended hours before leaving for Rome, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cited the president’s trip as she tried to rally the Democrats votes around the $ 1 trillion infrastructure package, trying unsuccessfully to gain support for a Thursday vote.

“When the president gets off that plane, we want him to get a vote of confidence from this Congress,” she said. She referred to conversations she’s had with world leaders wondering if America’s democracy can measure up.

“The rest of the world is wondering if we can function,” Biden told lawmakers, according to a source close to his remarks.

Biden tries to prove it with his actions at the Group of 20 summit in Rome and then at the UN climate summit in Glasgow.

On Saturday, he met in Rome with Germany’s Angela Merkel, Frenchman Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Boris Johnson to coordinate strategy on the deal with Iran. The four-way meeting was intended to be a study unlike that of the Trump administration, when the Iranian nuclear issue was one of the main hot spots between the United States and Europe.

Biden also met individually with Macron on Friday, in an attempt to cross a separate line on a secret US-UK deal to sell Australia’s nuclear submarines that cost France tens of billions of dollars. by ending its own planned sale of submarines to the ally.

“For me, this is really the start of a process of trust, of trust, that we are building together,” Macron told Biden.

William Howell, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, said Biden’s challenge says less about his skills or national political support for his agenda and more about the contemporary state of American politics.

“The widespread stalemate, polarization and mistrust that characterize our domestic politics … will give foreign leaders some pause before they strike costly long-term deals with us,” Howell said.

The president has secured a global agreement to establish a global minimum corporate tax, a long sought-after move designed to prevent companies from shifting profits to offshore tax havens. But the legislation implementing it in the United States is part of a larger body of laws that have yet to be passed by Congress.

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Madhani reported from Washington.


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