Three questions. Four different takes. Our GED team reflects on Biden’s first 100 days from the lens of their work. Emily Benson looks at his record on domestic U.S. economic policy and Christian Bluth on his U.S.- E.U. relations record. Cora Jungbluth focuses on his record on U.S.-Asia relations, and Thomas Rausch wraps up with a look at his record on multilateral economic policy. Four trade policy experts discuss Biden’s 1st hundred days.

Question 1: What is your take on Biden’s first 100 days?

Emily Benson: It was clear from the Biden campaign that rebuilding the U.S. domestic economy would be high on the president’s agenda, and they are certainly delivering on that promise, particularly with the American Jobs Plan and the $2 trillion infrastructure package.

With Ambassador Tai professing to focus on worker-centric trade, it also looks like the administration is following through on its campaign promises to cater to a domestic audience on matters of international commerce. It has also become clear that many of the ambitious domestic economic goals will be linked with sustainability.

Overall, it seems like the constant news cycle of the Trump administration has been replaced by an ongoing policy dump from the Biden administration. The president and his staff are invigorated and ready for systemic change, but it remains to be seen just how much Congress will buy into many of these sweeping policy proposals.

Christian Bluth: Not a huge amount has happened in EU-US relations during the first 100 days of the new administration. But that’s perhaps not very surprising, given that there are substantive differences between the two partners to overcome, for example, when it comes to Trump’s punitive tariffs, WTO reform, economic relations to China, and the North Stream pipeline.

What has happened is that the E.U. and the U.S. have mutually approached all these subjects and entered into dialogue on the substance of these issues. There seems to be a willingness to find solutions and to collaborate more closely in the future. The fact that this doesn’t happen overnight and takes some time is only natural.

Cora Jungbluth: Biden’s Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, referred to U.S.-China relations as the “biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century” in his first major speech. While this does not come as a surprise, it well describes the U.S. approach to Asia: policy actions in this region will center on dealing with and containing China.

The Biden administration has already started to engage more with the Asian-Pacific region again, for example, in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“Quad”) with Japan, India, and Australia. Advances towards ASEAN, as an important regional middle power, however, still seem to be missing.

Thomas Rausch: President Biden’s main message to the world has been: America will punch its weight again in international diplomacy (Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World | The White House). Instead of underdelivering in important multilateral initiatives, it will take the lead; instead of over-asserting its greatness, it will use its diplomatic muscle to advance solutions that benefit not only itself.

Biden’s three most important steps in this direction have been: First, the assembly of an accomplished and diverse foreign policy team; second, a set of executive orders to reverse some of Trump’s biggest foreign policy blunders (most notably, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord); third, a nuanced diplomatic approach reflecting that other countries can be both competitors and partners at the same time. Overall: a solid B+.

Question 2: What was the biggest success, what the biggest omission or failure?

Emily Benson: The clearest success of the Biden administration has been its level of ambition when it comes to “Build Back Better.” The administration sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide Americans with policies that seem obvious in Europe but which have been overlooked for decades in the U.S.

This includes fixing bridges, building a national train system, ensuring clean drinking water, and expanding internet access. The administration sees that many of these policy areas are fundamental to a healthy economy, and so they are seizing on the moment to protect the health of the country. A potential failure of the administration is to promise big and underdeliver, which will hinge on its ability to get these sweeping packages through Congress.

Christian Bluth: There is nothing that I would describe as a clear and outright failure. It’s also hard to say what would be an omission, given that dialogues on substantive issues are only just starting. Maybe it would have been nice to see more movement at the WTO reform front.

But there is also nothing that can immediately be described as a success – dialogues are too early to have delivered much concrete action yet. But it is certainly a success that the two sides are talking again and that there is a sense of confidence that differences can be bridged and common positions on economic and world policy issues can be found

Cora Jungbluth: I would point to Xi Jinping’s participation in Biden’s climate summit as a first success to seriously push for progress in global efforts to tackle climate change. Without China, those would remain futile. The two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases have to work together in the coming decades and take the lead on the way towards climate neutrality. Healthy competition and mutual monitoring would do no harm here either.

In my opinion, the biggest mistake was to not fully support India in its fight against COVID19 amidst surging cases and an ever-rising death toll. On the contrary, the Biden administration even restricted exports of intermediate goods needed for accelerating vaccine production in India. The U.S. could have positioned itself again as a responsible and caring superpower, knowing that a global issue like a pandemic needs global and not national solutions.

“America first” in regards to the lives of Indian people leaves a bitter taste. China was happy enough to fill the gap –  but surely, it did so for strategic rather than selfless reasons. But helping for a strategic reason is better than not helping at all. The U.S. attitude towards India could hamper its efforts to collaborate with Asian powers to contain China.

Thomas Rausch: The biggest success for the Biden administration was how quickly and smoothly it brought back a sense of normality to U.S. engagement with the rest of the world. After four chaotic years of Trumpian “Twitter diplomacy,” it is good to see a coordinated and constructive approach to world affairs again.

While I applaud the Biden administration for joining the COVAX initiative aimed at distributing more money and vaccines to poorer nations, I think it should have put an even higher priority on the international response to the pandemic. Beating COVID-19 is a global endeavor of utmost urgency that needs the U.S. as a team leader.

Question 3: What should we anticipate from the Biden Administration for the remainder of 2021

Emily Benson: With Democrats poised to lose the House of Representatives in the midterm elections in 2022, the Biden administration realizes that any sweeping policies—environmental, economic, digital, or otherwise—will need to be achieved in the first half of President Biden’s term. The rest of 2021 will likely see a continued push by the administration to propose policies that would result in sweeping change for most Americans, whether expanding health care, reducing drug costs, or forgiving student loans. For now, it appears that the administration will continue pushing forward with long-overdue policy reforms.

Christian Bluth: Climate action ranks high on the agenda of the Biden administration and the G7 and G20 meetings, but most of all, the COP meeting in Glasgow later this year will be important in showing to what extent climate action can be grounded in multilateral cooperation.

I think it is also likely we’ll see more engagement in various areas of economic policymaking, from global tax reform to settling subsidy/tariff disputes between the U.S. and giving impetus to WTO reform. Maybe there will also be attempts to turn the E.U. into a closer ally against China – although I am not yet sure how willing the E.U. would be to follow the confrontational U.S. approach to China. The answer may also depend on the outcome of elections in Germany and subsequent shifts in E.U. foreign policy priorities.

Cora Jungbluth: Biden has emphasized several times in his speeches that rivalry with China has become a permanent threat to the U.S., and he seems to be willing to push for a like-minded country alliance against China, however that might look. The E.U. especially should expect more pressure from its old ally to position itself clearly alongside the U.S.

This will complicate things since the E.U. would very much like to avoid choosing between the two superpowers. The same could happen to Asian countries, which might find themselves in an even more uncomfortable position than during the Trump era due to their close proximity and ties with China. The U.S. would therefore do well to consider inner-Asian interests in its approach to the region.

While many Asian countries certainly are wary of China’s ambitions, they also want to get along on good terms with this important economic partner. They might not share the same notion of “containing” as the U.S. does.

Thomas Rausch: If the Biden administration is serious about putting diplomacy in international economics first, we should judge it on the following three actions: First, proposing highly regarded interlocutors for ambassadorial positions in major countries and getting them confirmed quickly (there are no nominees for the E.U. or China so far): second, defending its draft proposal for increased discretionary spending on international affairs and foreign aid during congressional spending battles; third, meaningful and well-crafted initiatives to re-invigorate climate change and trade talks well ahead of the next high-level conferences in November (London climate conference) and December 2021 (WTO ministerial conference).

In the end, actions speak louder than words. We’ll be following the Biden administration actions that impact trade closely and share our opinions in future posts. For more insights from our team, check out: Biden’s Long Awaited Trade Agenda – Our experts weigh in