Joe Biden’s new administration will benefit Portugal

  • Lusa
  • 8 February 2021

According to the political scientist and American University professor Paul Manuel, Joe Biden's new administration will benefit Portugal in the future.

The consistency and traditional approach to external relations of Joe Biden’s new administration will benefit Portugal, political scientist and American University professor Paul Manuel told Lusa on Monday.

“President Biden and this administration, with the State Department back and able to do its job, means we will see much better relationships and more consistent policies,” said the academic, who leads the Leadership Program of the School of Public Affairs at the Washington, D.C. based university.

According to Paul Manuel, in the direct relationship between Portugal and the United States, “there was never a feeling that Trump was particularly hostile” and the former President was not seen as a major threat to bilateral relations.

However, Trump “was erratic”, one never knew what he was going to do, and that was a problem.

“What any relationship needs is stability, transparency and consistency, and that is what the new administration is bringing in, the old guard foreign policy,” he added.

Some immediate issues of interest to Portugal and the Portuguese-American community include the return of Portuguese as a critical language to the federal Startalk programme, from which it was withdrawn in 2020, and the approval of legislation that will give Portuguese citizens access to E-1 and E-2 visas, reserved for people who want to enter the United States for trade or significant investment.

“I think we will see a much more favourable approach from this administration”, said Paul Manuel.

In the more global context of international relations, the professor stressed that “a restoration is taking place” and a recalibration of connections.

“Biden’s speech at the State Department was a clear indication that things are back to normal, that we will focus on diplomacy,” he said.

“The people who were eliminated, the so-called ‘deep state’ that Trump didn’t like, they’re all back,” he continued.

Even so, the effects of the previous mandate will remain, the academic considered.

“One of the lessons in the alliance with Europeans,” he said, “is that President Trump has encouraged them to become more independent, self-sufficient, and that is probably not a bad idea.

Even if many things go back to the way they were with Biden, “maybe we need to have a plan B or make European interests a little more independent”.

This process could be done in a considered and concerted way since there has been a normalisation of relations between the powers.

“Europe now has plenty of time to make the adjustments it could not make with President Trump, when it was all sudden and erratic, seeming to come out of nowhere”, said Paul Manuel.

“What Trump did in terms of foreign policy was a shock to the system,” the political scientist described. Even with the former president out of the picture, it is not certain that what happened is definitely past, not least because the phenomenon of populism and polarisation is growing, he said.

“Europe must take greater responsibility for its own interests, its defence, its trade policy, and it has the means to do so,” he said.

“But I think it has to pay more attention to it, to protect itself against the possibility of another populist president,” he added.

The redefinition initiated by the new administration is also taking place at a time when Donald Trump is undergoing a second impeachment, which the world will see from Tuesday onwards.

Paul Manuel stressed that Joe Biden’s government will try to stay focused on its agenda and not let the trial divert attention from its initial objectives.

“The first 100 days are traditionally the most important when there is a policy window that is open,” he said.

“From the point of view of political strategy, it makes sense for the Biden administration not to spend too much time thinking about this,” he argued.

This explains the sparse comments of the current White House tenant on the process: “President Biden has been very intelligent in his approach, stating the need for accountability and supporting ‘impeachment’ in general, but saying no more than that,” the academic noted.

His focus is on the Covid-19 pandemic and the rapid distribution of vaccines, because, he said, “once we can get back to normal, the economy will take off and all the problems associated with containment, economic and social, will disappear”.

Once the pandemic is over, Biden will focus more on what has been important in his career in Washington, which is working with both sides and getting legislation through.

“We will be able to see an effort on the infrastructure,” said Paul Manuel, “and there may be bipartisan work to improve the health system.