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On January 21, 2021 a virtual meeting took place with the Consul General of the United States in Barcelona, ​​H.E. Mr. Robert Riley. The event, organized by the CEI International Classroom in collaboration with the Cercle d'Economia, was held just one day after the investiture ceremony of the 46th President of the US, Joseph R. Biden. It was, therefore, the first event in which Mr. Riley participated as a representative of the new Administration.

 

The conference began with an introduction by Juan María Hernández Puértolas, Director of Communication at Criteria Caixa and an expert on US domestic politics. The author of the column "Diarios del Tío Sam" in La Vanguardia newspaper analyzed some of the main challenges that Joe Biden's government will face in the first 100 days of his mandate. Among them, he highlighted the need to approve an aid package for families and businesses most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the pending reform of the higher education financing system.

 

In his opinion, the new Administration will be strengthened if it manages to carry out the most transcendental reforms in a consensual way with the Republican Party. Otherwise, he understands that the same thing could happen to the Joe Biden government as to some of the American presidents of the last decades: they addressed controversial issues in an excessively partisan way, and within two years of starting their mandate, their parties lost the majority in the House of Representatives or the Senate.

 

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Likewise, Mr. Hernández Puértolas celebrated Joe Biden's "anti-inflammatory" speech. This, in his opinion, is very positive at a time of polarization in American society, especially after the tension generated by the irruption on the Capitol of a group of supporters of the outgoing president on January 6.

 

The US Consul General started expressing great optimism about the near future of the North American country, as well as the enormous possibilities of its foreign policy, for various reasons. First, he stressed that President Biden has a moderate and conciliatory speech, which will allow strengthening bilateral relations with the traditional allies of the United States and achieving a greater understanding with those countries with which he has important differences.

 

Likewise, the diplomat showed his confidence in the great professionalism and recognized experience of the team selected by Joe Biden to lead the State Department. In fact, he believes that the Democratic leader himself is probably going to be one of the most well versed presidents in foreign policy in the entire history of the United States, having worked in this area with great intensity during his more than 45 years of experience as Senator from Delaware and later as Vice President of the United States.

 

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Mr. Riley also discussed the position that the new Administration will maintain on some of the main current issues in the field of international relations. Thus, a more determined commitment to multilateralism is expected to face the great global challenges, such as the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, its serious economic consequences throughout the world and the threat posed by climate change. This can be inferred from the decisions made by President Biden on his first day in office, such as the return of the US to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the World Health Organization. Likewise, a great intensification of relations with the European Union is expected. Both Washington and Brussels have already expressed their intention to strengthen the strong transatlantic link and endow it with new and ambitious common goals.

 

On the other hand, the Consul explained that other aspects of US foreign policy could, foreseeably, experience less change. This is the case of support for the democratic opposition in Venezuela, which will most likely remain firm in its objective of achieving a democratic transition in that country. Also, in relations with China, efforts will continue to be made to protect the strategic interests of the US, both financial, technological and commercial, although dialogue with the Asian country is expected to be more relaxed and less aggressive. Finally, relations with Spain will continue to be very intense in all areas, in keeping with the old relationship of mutual respect and admiration that exists between both countries.

 

Mr. Riley believes that major transformations in American foreign policy will take place in the coming years, and that these will allow the United States to regain global leadership. He is aware that reaching that goal will be a heavy workload, but he is confident in the ability of the United States to overcome the challenges the country faces today.

 

 

Report prepared by Miguel Ramos González

Student of the Preparation to Join the Diplomatic Corps

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