East Asia, Middle East and Islamic World Respond to USA Election

by Joyce Slayton Mitchell

NEW YORK – We know what Americans think… Biden first and Trump close behind. How about the rest of the world? Those far-away places with whom we have had all kinds of agreements and disagreements? What do they think of our election? The Asia Society of New York City scheduled a session to find out with Chan Heng Chee, Singapore Ambassador-at-large, Vali Nasr, American-Iranian specialist in Middle East and Islamic World, Dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Wendy Cutler, Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, working on U.S. trade initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region.

Listen to their first response of what to expect from Biden before January 20. Nasr reminds us that Saudi Arabia and Israel benefited from Trump. The Middle East and Islamic countries will hedge their bets because another election could happen in four years and no one has any idea about Trump’s behavior until January 20. A lot of damage could happen in 72 days with Pompeo strolling the globe with no one watching. Asia expects USA problems with new agreements because so many Trump backers are still in place. The USA lost a lot of credibility in past four years because US government people were not there, Trumps people who were in Asia didn’t know history, they were non-professionals and most didn’t listen to any views other than Trump’s. Many of our foreign diplomatic offices were vacant and other governments lost the support they were used to from the USA.

Ambassador Heng Chee pointed out that the world has lost trust in America. Trump’s government was not there in Asia for agreements on trade, help to smaller countries around the world or pro-science issues on climate change and the pandemic. Non-leadership came out of the USA; Canada picked up that responsibility for climate change. The panelists agreed that Biden will lower the temperature around the world, still Korea and Japan won’t assume America will go back to where it was – a uni-power. A reinvention is expected by East Asian leaders, realizing ever-changing partnerships in trade and common problems. Asia and Islamic countries are looking for ways to live with China and the USA, looking for a reliable and stable economy. In the last few years, Turkey and Iran have turned East to China for trade agreements.

Cutler pointed out her surprise in the world’s interest and understanding of U.S. democracy and queries she has received worldwide. She has been involved with U.S. government trade agreements through three previous new presidents and never heard such detail and high interest in our Electoral College.

The three speakers were asked to speak about the issue they would talk about if Biden gave them 30 minutes to speak to his Cabinet regarding his first 100 days in office:

Ambassador Chen Chee (Singapore):

Domestic priority: Control Covid-19. International priority: Show your presence. The U.S. military has been in East Asia for years, but no U.S. government people in four years. President Biden, come to East Asia and talk about climate change.

Professor Vali Nasr:

U.S. has been absent in India, China, and West Asian countries for past four years. Build them into Biden strategy early. Attend ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)

U.S. trade negotiator, Wendy Cutler:

Bring APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) to USA for next meeting on climate change.

If you had 30 minutes, 15 even, what would you ask our President-elect Biden to consider in his first 100 days? In what ways do you imagine America restoring our world-wide reputation as the light on the hill, leader of the free and the brave? Free and brave to welcome the unwelcomed of the world with opportunity for health, education and their pursuit of happiness for themselves and others.

[Joyce Slayton Mitchell is a summer resident of Hardwick, and also spends her time in New York City and Beijing, China.]