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How Does the US Election Affect Australia?

The United States presidential election is one of the most anticipated events in the world. In particular, the 2020 election between incumbent President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden is one of the most polarising elections in recent memory.

While the US election has no direct bearing on Australia, there are some ways that this election can affect Australia, largely dependent on who takes the presidency.

Trade and economy

America has one of the world’s biggest economies and is a major trade and financial partner for Australia, so the financial weight of the United States is hugely important. After the US’s handling of COVID-19, it is certainly in Australia’s interest that the US election puts the country in a position where it can grow its economy and control the pandemic. Dr Keith Suter, a former United States correspondent at 7 News, backs this up by saying: 

“Australia, and indeed the global economy, needs the American economy to get back up on its feet and start firing again.

“That’s important for Australia’s economic prosperity in the long run. But also … an America that is crippled by COVID, and its economy is crippled by COVID, at some point that starts to erode the ability of the United States to be a global superpower. And again, that starts to impact Australia’s national interest as well.”

Regardless of who wins the presidency, the uncertainty surrounding the election is bound to have a negative effect on American stock markets. This volatility isn’t only bad for the United States, but for Australian and international markets too. If the President decides to challenge the result of the election at the Supreme Court, this may result in even more volatility in global financial markets. 

Climate change

As the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree that the climate is heating up and nations must take immediate action to prevent disaster, the US election promises to be a huge milestone in the climate change debate. 

Donald Trump’s past actions have seen him leave the Paris Climate Accord and, before he was even President, claim that climate change is a Chinese hoax. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has been clear that he supports the US rejoining the Paris Accord and even wants to implement a change to renewable energy for the United States. 

As one of the most powerful nations, how the United States handles climate change is obviously very important to the rest of the world.

Democratic responsibility

In a recent statement, Donald Trump claimed that he had won the election, suggesting that the election was being stolen from the Republican Party and that this ‘was a fraud on the American people’. Trump also threatened to have the Supreme Court stop votes being counted in key battleground states, especially in Pennsylvania. 

Speaking on BBC’s coverage of the US election, Andrew Neil quizzed UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on the UK’s stance on Trump’s statement. Neil questioned what the UK would do if Trump is successful in stopping votes from being counted. Raab didn’t want to be drawn into speculating on the US election, so simply reiterated that the US election ought to be decided by the American people. 

As close allies of the US, the UK and Australia should be very concerned with one of their closest allies making concerning statements about their election. As suggested by Neil, it could fall to America’s allies (such as Australia) to ‘have a word’ with the United States to remind them of the democratic process. 

Unlike Raab, Australian politicians have already started publicly condemning the President’s statement. Politicians such as Penny Wong and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull reiterated that every vote must be counted. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said that the government would let “democracy take its course” before responding to the result.