The Straits Times says

Returning the US to a more familiar role

It is a sign of the pandemic-hit times that when Mr Joe Biden marked his inaugural presence on the world stage as the United States' newly installed president, he did so without leaving the White House. A natural glad-hander, he addressed the annual Munich Security Conference via video link at the weekend and announced that "America is back" and ready to re-engage on the international stage. Earlier on Friday, speaking to the Group of Seven leaders, he made it clear that after a four-year hiatus during Mr Donald Trump's controversial tenure, multilateralism is back on the table for the Biden presidency. All this followed Washington halting the process of the US quitting the World Health Organisation (WHO). For most, this would be a welcome change.

The United Nations headquartered in New York, the Bretton Woods institutions - the World Bank and International Monetary Fund - based in Washington, the Switzerland-based WHO and World Trade Organisation, and security arrangements such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) constitute key elements of the patchwork that make up the global order. Mr Trump's "America First" policies and tendency to see national interest through the thinnest of prisms - trade imbalances and defence budgets - often failed to recognise how much these arrangements played into US power and global influence. Mr Biden, the most seasoned US politician to become president, with a Senate career that started in the 1970s, is capable of undoing the damage.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2021, with the headline 'Returning the US to a more familiar role'. Subscribe