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Perspectives on Biden’s win from Italy, Jordan and China

How are other countries reacting to Joe Biden’s victory? Marwan Muasher has served as Jordan’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister and is now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Nathalie Tocci is director of the Institute for International Affairs in Italy; and Minxin Pei of Claremont McKenna College focuses on China. They join Nick Schifrin to discuss their perspectives.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    To talk about world reaction, I'm joined by three guests.

    Marwan Muasher was Jordan's foreign minister and then deputy prime minister from 2002 to 2005. He's now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Nathalie Tocci is the director of the Institute for International Affairs in Italy and a special adviser to European Union Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell. And Minxin Pei is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, where he focuses on China.

    Welcome to the "NewsHour" for all of you. Thank you very much.

    Nathalie Tocci, let's begin in Europe, which is where Biden says is his priority.

    We just went through how Europeans are expressing some relief, some hope about the future. But does Europe also believe that there are changes to the transatlantic alliance that will outlast Trump?

  • Nathalie Tocci:

    Well, yes.

    I mean, I think there are sort of two main aspects where Europeans are not expecting dramatic changes. The first is, I think, in trade policy. I think a degree of protectionism is probably likely to outlive Trump.

    I think, as Europeans, we will expect that things like steel and aluminum tariffs would be taken off. But we would not expect dramatic changes in terms of returning to, for instance, negotiations over a trade and investment partnership.

    Second aspect where I think we would not expect massive changes is in the sort of brewing and more-than-brewing confrontation between the United States and China. In fact, in some respects, particularly when it comes to human rights issues, we would probably expect that confrontation to deepen even further.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    So, that brings us to Minxin Pei.

    How will China respond to that?

  • Minxin Pei:

    Well, China will largely be on the defensive.

    On the whole, I think they are treating this election outcome with relief, but their expectations are relatively low.

    What they are going to do is largely pursue a tit-for-tat strategy, trying to respond cooperatively, if the Biden administration shows goodwill, but they are likely to stick to very hard-line positions if they believe that there's really no big difference between the Trump administration and the Biden administration.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Nathalie Tocci, how much does Europe really believe that America can change under Joe Biden?

  • Nathalie Tocci:

    There has already been, I think, in the sort of last days a debate sort of brewing in Europe about the fact that we cannot simply think that we can sort of flip back to where we were four years ago, and that, indeed, some of the changes that, in a sense, sort of Trump and Trumpism have represented are probably long-lasting, which essentially means that, as Europeans, what we probably have to do is assume greater risk and greater responsibility.

    And, ultimately, that greater risk and responsibility, taking and sharing with the United States, is going to make up the stuff of a healthier transatlantic relationship with the Biden ministration.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And, Marwan Muasher, to you.

    How different does it look in the Middle East with the impending departure of President Trump?

  • Marwan Muasher:

    I think you can expect changes in at least three main areas.

    On the Arab-Israeli conflict, it's clear that the Trump plan is out. And that's good news for the Palestinians, good news for Jordan.

    In the area of human rights and democracy, a lot of Arab countries are not going to feel they can pursue violations of human rights without — I mean, with impunity from the United States. So, you can expect some Arab countries to be concerned about this.

    And the third area is Iran, where I would say you can also expect an attempt to restart negotiations with Iran and have a new agreement on the nuclear issue.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Nathalie Tocci, that aligns, of course, with what Europe is hoping, to restart negotiations with Iran. But, as you pointed out, not all of the U.S. policies will align with Europe.

    So, how fundamentally different do you think the U.S.-European relationship will be under a President Biden?

  • Nathalie Tocci:

    Well, I think it will be fundamentally different.

    I mean, I think one shouldn't belittle just how hard the last four years have been. I mean, for the first time in the history of the European integration project, our closest ally and partner essentially looked at us as being pretty much an adversary, if not at times an outright enemy.

    So, that will fundamentally change, and it will change in terms of attitudes towards European security, sort of seeing eye to eye on a number of issues in our neighborhood, and perhaps, most importantly, approaching some global governance, multilateralism partnerships on a global scale, basically, as, you know, Europeans and Americans playing on the same team.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Minxin Pei, Vice President Biden's team tells me that they are going to focus on domestic issues and focus on the realignment with Europe, and then approach China, hopefully, in their words, together with their Western European allies.

    Do you believe that, in that case, China would respond differently?

  • Minxin Pei:

    If the Biden administration is successful in getting its allies on board, then the U.S. will approach China from a position of real strength.

    But I also want to say that Biden's China policy will not be fundamentally different from the Trump administration's China policy. Where we are going to see the difference is mainly in terms of tone. It will adopt a much less strident tone. It will also adopt much more subtle, sophisticated tactics, and it will be much more selective in terms of where to confront China.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    To the Middle East, again, Marwan Muasher.

    You described the differences that you expect in a Biden administration policy. How will the region respond? And go a little bit more in-depth, given that one of Biden's particular priorities is not only scrapping the peace deal, as you suggest, but really trying to get back into the Iran nuclear deal?

  • Marwan Muasher:

    The Iran deal is a major concern for Gulf countries, who felt that Obama, President Obama, signed a deal with the Iranians, at the expense of Iranian interference in the region.

    So, they would like to see any new deal include elements that would check Iranian influence in the region. But, as I said, the Palestinians are going to be relieved, not because they expect President Biden to initiate anything serious on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but because they can at least expect to stop the deterioration that the Trump plan and the policies of President Trump has done to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Minxin Pei, the question of American democracy is one that's been on the lips of many U.S. officials here when it comes to China, trying to make this an ideological battle between the Communist Party of China and the West. And, frankly, Xi Jinping has also made this an ideological battle.

    Do you think that would continue under a Biden administration?

  • Minxin Pei:

    Oh, absolutely. I think the values issue will be an issue the Biden administration has enormous trends upon.

    On the other hand, I think the Trump — President Trump's refusal to concede plays into China's hand in its own narrative, which is that U.S. democracy is declining, there is enormous decay in the system, and the U.S. should get its own house in order before trying to confront China.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And, finally, Marwan Muasher, I wonder about that idea of U.S. democracy declining from the Middle East.

    Does the U.S. have the influence that it used to in the Middle East?

  • Marwan Muasher:

    Let's remember that President Biden would probably devote most of his time, at least in the early stages of his administration, to domestic issues and to repairing the domestic rift in the United States.

    I think he — his administration is going to have little bandwidth to deal with an issue like the Arab-Israeli conflict, for example, in the Middle East, and would prefer to devote their energies to Europe and China more than to our region.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Marwan Muasher, Nathalie Tocci, Minxin Pei, thank you very much to all of you.

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