Biden recasts U.S. role on world stage

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, February the 23rd, 2021.

We’re so glad you’ve joined us for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. 

It is application season. You heard our colleague Hannah Harris inviting you to apply to World Journalism Institute.

REICHARD: Good ol’ WJI! I’m a product of that fine course. Very grateful. I took the very first WJI course for mid-career folks.

EICHER: Yeah, and so right now we’re looking forward to the full two-week course for college students and recent college grads. 

Really excited to be returning to Dordt University, too, after having to go all virtual last year—teaching by Zoom just isn’t the same. So back to the classroom for our students. And if you’re thinking about a career as a Christian journalist, I really think you ought to consider World Journalism Institute. We’re taking applications now and into the month of March—the last day for that would be the last Friday—March 26th.

REICHER: Check it out at The web address Don’t put it off. It’s a pretty involved application.

Ok. Next up:  global government. 

Former President Trump withdrew the United States from several global institutions and treaties he considered to be ineffective.  Now, the Biden administration is changing course. WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: During his first hours in office, President Joe Biden signed a stack of executive orders.

BIDEN: The third one I’m going to sign is a commitment I made that we’re going to rejoin the Paris climate accord as of today. 

The Paris Climate Accord sets voluntary standards for carbon emission reductions. Former President Trump said many countries weren’t meeting those reductions and pulled the United States out in 2017. 

President Biden also recommitted the United States to the World Health Organization on his first day in office. The Trump administration withdrew from the WHO last May—citing the UN agency’s ineffective handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And earlier this month, President Biden also moved to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council. Former President Trump left the Council in 2018 over what he called its bias against Israel and hypocritical members like China and Cuba. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said via a spokesperson that he applauded President Biden’s decision.

GUTERRES: The Human Rights Council is the world’s leading form for addressing a full-range of addressing human rights challenges. The council’s mechanisms and special procedures are vital tools for ensuring action and accountability. 

Then, last week, the Biden administration announced it wanted to begin talks to revive the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal.

The Trump administration left the treaty between the United States, the European Union, and Iran in 2018, arguing it failed to restrict Iran’s nuclear missile program. 

President Biden’s secretary of State, Anthony Blinkin, told NBC News these agreements and organizations will help the United States take on rivals like Iran, Russia, and especially China.

BLINKIN: We have to be able to approach China from a position of strength not weakness and that strength I think comes from having strong alliances actually engaging in the world, showing up in these international institutions because when we pull back China fills in. And then they are the ones writing the rules and setting the norms. 

But some foreign policy analysts argue the Trump administration didn’t disengage from the world. It simply withdrew from ineffective and corrupt organizations and agreements. 

James Carafano is a foreign policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. 

CARAFANO: We were in the Human Rights Council under Obama, it never got better. We were in the World Health Organization, it never got better. We were in the Paris accord, we did better in our environment just because we did better. Most of the other people in the Paris accord did not do better. And when you look at the Iran nuclear deal, even before Obama left office, it was very clear that Iran’s behavior was not going to improve, it never improved under the Iran nuclear deal. 

Carafano points out the Trump administration stayed in many other global bodies that do accomplish their objectives like ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization. It sets safety standards and organizes international air space so planes can fly around the world.

CARAFANO: ICAO is not trouble free. One of the things that the Chinese did is they insisted, for example, that ICAO marginalize Taiwan not letting people put Taiwan on their air flights and stuff like that. We didn’t walk out of ICAO right over protests of what the Chinese did. 

The United States also remained committed to INTERPOL—the International Criminal Police Organization. 

CARAFANO: Many countries have tried to use INTERPOL not to put out international arrest warrants, but to howl at their political enemies. Why haven’t we left INTERPOL? Well, because INTERPOL also does a lot of really good international criminal cooperation, you know, cooperation going after criminals that we really need, so we’re not going to leave it. 

Other foreign policy analysts say while the United States was absent from major global bodies, China took charge. Chinese representatives now lead four of 15 specialized UN agencies and groups. No other nation leads more. 

Bill Burke-White is an international lawyer and political scientist with the Brookings Institution.

BURKE-WHITE: If we let China write those rules, they’re going to hurt us. And if we let you know anybody else in the world write them then they’re not going to be in our interest. 

But Burke-White and other foreign policy experts agree the United Nations, the Paris climate accord, the Iran Nuclear Deal, the World Health Organization and others are flawed. So the Biden administration needs to reform them from the inside. 

Steve Charnovitz is an international lawyer at the George Washington University Law School. He calls the approach “build back better.” 

CHARNOVITZ: We do need to build back in these institutions in a better way. And I would hope the United States would play a constructive part of that.

But Heritage’s James Carafano says before recommitting to these organizations, the Biden administration should ask if reform is really possible. 

CARAFANO: What you have to do is say what is the right strategy to block malicious activity and disruptive activity from China and other countries that really want to further their own interests. Sometimes you want to withdraw. Sometimes you want to reform. And sometimes you want to replace.

On some foreign policy fronts, President Biden seems to agree with his predecessor. The Trump administration withdrew from the Obama-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal in 2017. During the Democratic primaries, candidate Biden said he would potentially try to renegotiate the deal. But so far President Biden hasn’t made his position clear. 

The Trump administration also joined previous presidents in blocking appointees to the World Trade Organization appellate court. The body has the final say on international trade disputes. 

President Biden announced yesterday that he too would block appointing new members due to deep concerns with the panel.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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