Joe Biden given ‘one-finger salute’ by Brussels as EU sides with China

Joe Biden: Expert discusses plan to ‘put pressure’ on China

President Biden’s election marked the beginning of a new era in international relations for the US. He has already signalled a major departure from his predecessor Donald Trump through his first executive orders. He has chosen to rejoin the international Paris Agreement on climate change and promised to try to bring the US and Iran into compliance over the 2015 nuclear deal.

Downing Street is also holding its breath for a trade deal with the States now that the UK is completely out of the EU.

However, as Mr Biden’s close friend and former President Barack Obama noted before the EU referendum, “our focus is in negotiating with a big bloc, the European Union, to get a trade agreement”.

Mr Obama, who chose Mr Biden to be his Vice President, also claimed: “The UK is going to be back of the queue.”

Yet, the post-Brexit relationship between the US and the EU already appears to be on unsteady ground.

The bloc chose to sign an investment deal with China at the end of last year before the Biden administration was even in office.

European exports were pulled to China’s large market, overriding objections from the White House to wait or to consider the nation’s divisive approach to the Uighurs or democracy in Hong Kong.

Europe correspondent, Matt Karnitschnig, claimed that this deal with China implies the bloc is not intent on building a relationship with the US in a piece entitled, ‘Europe gives US President Joe Biden a one-finger salute’.

Writing in POLITICO, he explained: “Biden, a dyed-in-the-wool transatlanticist [sic], pushed all the right buttons, stroking the Continent’s bruised ego after four years of relentless abuse.”

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But, Mr Karnitschnig said: “Given the opportunity in recent weeks to show the Biden administration it was serious about geostrategic collaboration, Europe opted instead to show Washington the finger.”

He claimed that “what worries Washington is that Europe is walking into a trap with its eyes wide open” by going into an alliance with China, one of the US’ largest rivals.

Former aide to George W Bush, Peter Rough, even claimed in a report last week that China has a “long-term strategy of turning Europe into an unwitting network of Chinese tributary states” by appealing to the continent in “language crafted for Western ears”.

He added: “The master strategists behind it envision Europe as a Switzerland-on-steroids: economically relevant but politically non-aligned.”

It is a stark contrast to the future envisioned by the Biden administration.

Speaking back on December 2 about his White House plans, Mr Biden said: “The best China strategy, I think, is one which gets every one of our — or at least what used to be our — allies on the same page.

“It’s going to be a major priority for me in the opening weeks of my presidency to try and get us back on the same page with our allies.”

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The EU had already sent a note to the Biden administration in search of a common strategy on the growing superpower from the East at the time, according to reports.

The bombshell news that the bloc had finally forged an investment deal with Beijing after seven years of negotiations on December 30, therefore threatened EU-US relations.

However, Brussels fought back and claimed that the US needs the EU to be a geopolitical force in its own right.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on the day of Mr Biden’s inauguration that, “The United States is back, and Europe stands ready” — despite signing the China deal just weeks before.

Foreign German foreign minister and vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Bloomberg, that it “may be seen as more of a strategic, autonomous approach towards China” but that there is “enough room to maneuver to join hands” for a common strategy on Beijing.

This seems increasingly unlikely, especially in the wake of the comments from the White House press secretary Jen Psaki last week.

She said: “Beijing is now challenging our security, prosperity and values in significant ways that require a new US approach.”

Writing in The Atlantic, journalist Tom McTague explained how the trade deal was an even greater insult to the US that it initially appeared.

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He said: “The continent that the US fought two wars to free, paid to rebuild and has spent 75 years protecting at great, uneven, and continuing cost is now striking deals behind its back with its main strategic rival.

“Some ally.”

However, Mr McTague added that there is another distasteful element within this deal and unmasks “not European strength, but weakness”.

He speculated that Brexit may have proven the EU “is strong and united enough to be a pain for its erstwhile imperial overlord, but not yet strong enough to strike out completely on its own”.

Mr Biden then appeared to prioritise Britain over Europe when he decided to call Prime Minister Boris Johnson first out of the European leaders, after his inauguration.

However, while the UK said the leaders did discuss the “benefits of a potential free-trade deal” during the momentous phone call, although the US did include any mention of an international agreement.

This deflated early hopes of a US-UK contract being on the horizon.

Mr Biden has also expressed his determination to focus on the US first.

He told the New York Times: “I want to make sure we’re going to fight like hell by investing in America first.”

He added: “I am not going to enter any new trade agreement with anybody until we have made major investments here at home and in our workers and in education.”

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