21 Jan 2021

Joe Biden inauguration: World leaders react to new US president

9:06 am on 21 January 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed new US president Joe Biden's message of unity, while European leaders describe the inauguration as a good day for democracy.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Biden is a good friend of New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Sam Rillstone

Ardern said in a statement she looked forward to building a close relationship with Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both countries.

"New Zealand and the United States have shared interests in addressing global challenges including climate change, the Covid-19 economic recovery, and the security, prosperity and sustainability of the Indo-Pacific and Pacific Island regions.

"We have a common investment in the international rules-based order and I welcome President Biden's intentions for the US to re-join the Paris Agreement and halt its withdrawal from the World Health Organisation.

"President Biden is a good friend of New Zealand, and we have fond memories of his 2016 visit to our shores. Under his presidency the strong and close relationship that New Zealand enjoys with the United States will continue to develop and flourish.

"President Biden's message of unity as he takes office is one that resonates with New Zealanders and, on behalf of New Zealand, I wish him well as he begins his presidency," Ardern said.

Joe Biden, alongside incoming US First Lady Jill Biden, is sworn in as the 46th US President by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Joe Biden is sworn in as US president. Photo: AFP

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said there are several early signals that indicate New Zealand will be able to build a strong relationship with the US during the Biden presidency.

Among the most important is that Biden will take a science-based approach to the Covid-19 pandemic, by sharing information with people, rejoining the World Health Organisation and reforming the way vaccines are being rolled out, she told Morning Report.

"You need the mandate of the whole of your country to be able to tackle Covid-19."

Nanaia Mahuta

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Mahuta welcomed Biden's focus on climate change and said his intention to rejoin the Paris Agreement would be "another bridge" to securing the relationship.

She was confident the US would also share New Zealand's goals for Pacific countries - building greater resilience through a vaccine rollout and helping to rebuild their economies after the setbacks brought about by the pandemic.

She was also hopeful that Biden would work with indigenous people in the US because of the diversity of the team he has named, his evidence-based approach to Covid-19 and his interest in climate change.

"Early indications are that we can expect the Biden presidency to be leaning into the indigenous peoples of America so that they can be a part of the solution."


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen executive said she looked forward to having a friend in the White House who could work with Europe on fighting climate change, quashing the Covid-19 pandemic and rebuilding multilateralism.

"The United States is back. And Europe stands ready. To reconnect with an old and trusted partner, to breathe new life into our cherished alliance. I look forward to working together with @JoeBiden," the head of the EU executive said in a tweet.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said today was a good day for democracy.

"In the United States of America, it has faced tremendous challenges and endured. Despite the attempts to tear at America's institutional fabric, election workers and governors, the judiciary and Congress, have proven strong.

"I am greatly relieved that, today, Joe Biden is being sworn in as president and will be moving into the White House. I know many people in Germany share this feeling."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez delivers an end-of-year address at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid on December 29, 2020.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez Photo: AFP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament he looked forward to working with Bidenand working on our shared priorities "from tackling climate change, building back better from the pandemic and strengthening our transatlantic security."

For Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Biden's election represented "the victory of democracy over the ultra-right and its three methods, the massive deception, the national division and the abuse, even violent, of democratic institutions".

"Five years ago, we thought Trump was a bad joke, but five years later we realised he jeopardised nothing less than the world's most powerful democracy."

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their historic inauguration.

"President Biden, you and I have had a warm personal friendship going back many decades. I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the US-Israel alliance, to continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world, and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran."

Netanyahu's office released a separate statement on Trump: "President Trump, thank you for all the great things you have done for Israel, especially your historic recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and bringing four peace agreements between Israel and the Arab world."

A spokesperson for Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said there were no regrets at Trump's departure. "He has been the biggest source and sponsor of injustice, violence and extremism in the world and the direct partner of the Israeli occupation in the aggression against our people," spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said

"US President Joe Biden must reverse the course of misguided and unjust policies against our people and lay the foundations for security and stability in the region."

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the two countries would continue their partnership as they fought the global Covid-19 pandemic and supported a sustainable economic recovery while contributing to democracy, peace, and security at home and around the world.

- RNZ / Reuters / BBC

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