US President Joe Biden (Image: AP/Carolyn Kaster)

He has secured more votes than any US presidential candidate in history. He’s a conservative compromise candidate for many on the left, and a folksy Castro to those on the right.

But Joe Biden is about to change the US and the world. Here’s how:

Paris climate agreement

Biden said he will rally the rest of the world to act more quickly on curbing emissions by reversing Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate accord. This will recommit the US to cutting greenhouse gases by up to 28% by 2025, based on 2005 levels, and could have political repercussions in Australia, further isolating the Morrison government’s passive approach.

The global gag

The “global gag rule” — officially known as the Mexico City policy — has been imposed by every Republican president since Ronald Reagan.

It blocks federal funding for non-government organisations that provide abortion services, counselling or referrals, or advocate for decriminalising abortion or expanded abortion services in their home country. Trump took things even further than his predecessors, expanding it to cover all US global health funding.

Under Trump’s expanded policy, if a staffer at an international health service — whether it deals primarily with say, HIV/AIDs, malaria or nutrition — even refers a client to a different service that talks about abortion, its agency’s funding was at risk. The policy is a disaster on many levels; it puts women’s lives at risk and leads to, among other things, an increase in abortions in some affected countries.

While Biden’s record on abortion is far from spotless, he has committed to using an executive order to rescind the global gag on his first day.

World Health Organisation

Chalking it up as another quick item to cross off the list on his first day, Biden will halt the US withdrawal from the World Health Organisation. Trump pulled out in July and announced the US would no longer provide funding to WHO, calling it a “puppet of China”.

Although it was still some months away — members are required to provide 12 months’ notice — it was a decision described by one global health professor as “the most ruinous in modern presidential history”.

Rape kit backlog

One of the policies put forward by vice-president-elect Kamala Harris during her run at the Democratic presidential nomination was to allocate $1 billion to help states tackle the huge backlog of untested rape kits.

In the past decade, hundreds of thousands of rape kits — which include physical and DNA evidence gathered from victims — have gone untested because law enforcement agencies are not prioritising them or do not have the resources to test them.

Immigration

Biden has said he will repeal Trump’s restrictions on travel from Muslim-majority countries, end restrictions on asylum and reinstate the deferred action for childhood arrivals — or DACA — program. DACA allows undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children — often referred to as the “dreamers” — to remain in the US.

All of the above are on day one, via executive order.

Iran Nuclear Deal

In 2018, Trump pulled out of the 2015 deal between the United Nations Security Council and Iran which, put extremely simply, would provide Iran with billions in eased sanctions and unfrozen assets in return for limiting its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, eliminating its medium-enriched uranium and limiting its enrichment activities.

The status of the deal under a Biden presidency is not straightforward. After the US withdrew, Iran effectively did too and now has 12 times the stockpile of low-enriched uranium as was allowed under the deal. Biden has said he will re-commit the US to the deal (as well as “strengthen and extend” it) if Iran start complying with it again.

Whether that happens may well on depend on Iran’s coming election (June next year). Relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani will be leaving office, and the field of candidates is likely to be dominated by the hardline conservative voices who have flourished in the country since Trump’s election in general and the US withdrawal from the deal in particular.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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