Pending expectations of Joe Biden one year into his administration

The narrative on the relationship with Mexico has changed, but not the underlying issues such as migration. The U.S. returned to agreements on climate change and participates in the Covax mechanism for equitable access to vaccines against HIV/AIDS.

Pending expectations of Joe Biden one year into his administration
A year into his administration, Joe Biden's expectations remain unmet. Photo by Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

Joe Biden's first year in the presidency of the United States has been complex and marked by chiaroscuros, said Yadira Gálvez Salvador, an academic at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences (FCPyS) of the UNAM. The rise of the Democrat meant the end of a controversial administration of Donald Trump and generated wide expectations at an international level as it was a change from the America First narrative, nationalist positions, and unilateralism; there was confidence that this nation would return to the center of the global dynamics, but this has not necessarily happened, said the university professor.

The bilateral relationship with Mexico was characterized by tension in areas such as human rights and possible energy reform, but with signs of understanding in specific areas such as irregular migration and security cooperation. "The interdependence of our countries forces us to understand that the neighborhood, the region, is destiny. Our economies and our security are interdependent," said the doctor in Political and Social Sciences with a specialization in International Relations.

In the global arena, it was expected that at the end of the Trump administration the United States would return and have more active participation in international organizations; although it has returned to the agreements on climate change and participates in the Covax mechanism for equitable access to vaccines against HIV/AIDS, how US troops left Afghanistan affects its image and that of the Democratic president.

Restrictions remain

In the case of Mexico, the tone of the relationship was modified, the Trumpist narrative was cut, as well as the accusations against Mexico and its responsibility in migration and security issues, as well as the symbolic meaning of the border wall discourse. However, U.S. interests in national security and economy remain.

The discourse has changed, as have the statements that Mexico had to act practically as the wall to the south of the United States, as well as the threats to impose economic sanctions -tariffs on Mexican imports- and to implement actions against irregular migration. Now the discourse on understanding, cooperation, and diplomacy are prioritized, but Biden has not necessarily been more flexible with Mexico because, in the end, the commitments have been maintained.

In the face of the migratory crisis, his government maintains measures such as the 'Stay in Mexico' program, through which asylum seekers have to remain in our country while their resolution is issued. Detentions of irregular migrants returning to Mexico are also maintained. Security is paramount between the two nations, including the fight against drug trafficking to prevent drugs from entering the U.S. through Mexico. Currently, it is important to address the crisis related to fentanyl deaths in the United States.

The transition from the Merida Initiative to the Bicentennial Understanding on Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities must be understood.

"After the tensions that have arisen due to issues such as the detention of General Salvador Cienfuegos in the United States or the issue of DEA agents in Mexico, the Bicentennial Understanding is good news. It is based on the principle of shared responsibility of its predecessor, but now with greater emphasis on reciprocity, a broader agenda that, among other issues, includes arms trafficking and the reduction of homicides in Mexico. We will still have to see how it will be implemented," said the member of the Observatory of the U.S.-Mexico Binational Relations.

Joe Biden's popularity decreases

How the U.S. and its troops are leaving Afghanistan is a major blow to Joe Biden's image. Although it is a decision that was made in Donald Trump's administration, it should have been planned and executed differently. Moreover, it hit the way Americans viewed Joe Biden's administration. Various polls conducted in recent months assign the president 41 to 43 percent approval ratings from voters who are interested in improving their quality of life. Among the issues that concern them are the economy, the pandemic, national security, and migration. The popularity of both the president and Vice President Kamala Harris has fallen.

Joe Biden's administration is participating in the dynamics of vaccine diplomacy: donating biologicals and supplies to overcome the COVID-19 crisis in different countries, including Mexico. This implies a commitment to diplomacy and multilateralism as instruments of U.S. soft power. Among the external tensions are the pressures Washington has with China and Russia.  With the Eastern nation, they are deepening and going beyond the ideological issue, including economic, technological, and concerns about the improvement of the Asian country's military capabilities.

The same happens with Russia over the Ukrainian issue and strategic competition. In addition, the finger-pointing towards Russia over its possible meddling in the 2016 elections. "We must not forget the military capabilities of the United States both for deterrence and for conflict scenarios." Although this nation continues to be the main military power, it is clear the rise of China and Russia and their geopolitical repositioning, established the university professor.

In December, Biden led the Democracy Summit in which more than 100 countries participated and insisted on the importance of democratic institutions and freedoms. This meeting was widely criticized by Russia and China, absent from the meeting in which the presence of democratic nations versus autocratic countries was contrasted. However, it had limited results.

Likewise, it was recently the first anniversary of the takeover of the Capitol by followers of Donald Trump, whom Biden points out as a threat to democracy, due to the non-acceptance of his defeat in the elections. This irruption in the Congress showed the deep polarization that exists, that people are willing to transgress the institutional order and the legal logic, the traditional transfer of powers and to question the capacity of the institutions and their electoral reliability, concluded the expert in foreign policy, security and defense issues of the American Union.