Canberra and the Biden administration are natural allies on trade – if awkwardly out of step on climate

Blinken, Campbell, and Mr Bidens National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan are all veterans of the Obama administration, when the leaders in Beijing began publicly snubbing Washingtons decades-long effort to engage China into greater economic and even political liberalism. Then came the fleeting Pacific pivot, followed by Mr Xis broken pledge not to militarise the South China Sea.
A decade later, the revamped Biden doctrine is for managed competition with China rather than the impossibility of containing it, through rebuilding at home Americas lead in technology and productivity. President Biden sees no contradiction between domestically driven foreign policy and working with allies, though it was clear in his inauguration speech that he expects them to actively contribute rather than simply shelter beneath American strength.
The US is well aware that Australia has been the front line in Chinas strategy of using its economic heft as a geopolitical weapon.
But Washington is well aware that Australia has been the front line in Chinas strategy of using its economic heft and share of global trade as a geopolitical weapon. Mr Sullivan says that the US will seek support to push back. America alone is 15 percent of global GDP, he says, but China cant ignore the proportion represented by the US with its allies.
This is music to Canberras ears: not to browbeat or contain China, but to make sure that, along with America, Beijing too recommits to a rules-based order. Also, China cannot seek further advantage for its mercantilist trade policies by gaming the worlds trade rules. In restoring support for the World Trade Organisation, the US should seek its reform in this regard, and Australia must be its solid ally.
The next step should be for the US to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement led by Barack Obama specifically to ensure that China did not set the trade rules for the region. Mr Trump dumped it on his first day, and it is also opposed by the Democrats so-called progressive wing. But as they shudder at the damage done by four years of Mr Trumps isolationism, surely its time to reconsider.
However, as well as competing with China, Mr Biden wants to co-operate with it on climate change. Thats where its the Morrison governments turn to be awkwardly out of step. Even if Congress curbs what the President can achieve, his climate tsar John Kerry is expected to visit Australia.
That would be the time for the government to commit to net zero emissions by 2050. It would let the change in America become the peg on which a proper Australian climate and energy policy framework can at last be hung.