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Episode 69: Biden's Early Days and the Pacific Islands Forum

15 Mar 2021
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
President Joe Biden walks along the Colonnade of the White House Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, to the Oval Office. Source: The White House

Also discussed in this episode of Australia In the World: US foreign policy and the inaugural Quad leaders meeting. 

The major focus this episode is the early weeks of the Biden administration, which has raced out of the blocks with numerous foreign policy actions, and some have been controversial. Nevertheless, how does it feel to have things (roughly) back to normal again? Putting the news of the day to one side, Allan and Darren direct their attention to two speeches, one given by President Biden, and the other by Secretary of State Blinken, which chart a course for US foreign policy. What will it mean for the US to lead again? Is a “foreign policy for the American people” simply “America First with better manners”? Darren sees parallels with PM Morrison’s concept of “negative globalism”, and he does not see this as a terrible thing! And all the new administration’s emphasis on democratic renewal, what would a realistic plan in this domain look like – is one even possible?

The White House also realised an interim national security strategic guidance entitled “Renewing America’s Advantages”. At an impressive 7,000 words in length, it presents much more detail on how the Biden team sees the world. Darren wonders however at the inherent contradictions in its objectives, while Allan notices—tucked right at back of the document—a remarkable, even radical, vision for reforming the basic structure of national security policymaking in Washington. Canberra should take notice.

Next, with the inaugural Quad leaders meeting happening later that day, Allan and Darren both offer their thoughts about the grouping and what it can become into the future.

Finally, the Pacific Islands Forum is on life-support following the announcement that its five Micronesian members intended to withdraw following a dispute over the election of a new Secretary General. Why does this matter for Australia and what is to be done?

We welcome our new AIIA intern Dominique Yap and thank her for research and audio editing today. Thanks also to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World, US State Department Headquarters, 4 February 2021:

Anthony Blinken, “A Foreign Policy for the American People”, Speech, Washington DC, 3 March 2021:

Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, “Renewing America’s Advantages”, March 2021:

Sinica podcast, “Getting Chinese politics wrong, with Jude Blanchette”, 4 March 2021:

Tweet thread from Darren explaining the formation of his Clubhouse group, The IDC: The Interdepartmental Committee: