America is back and ready to lead – that was the message from President-elect Joe Biden as he prepares to take office in January.
His words were a sign that the “America first” policy of incumbent Donald Trump will be set aside for one that is more focused on working with the country’s allies.
In his first interview since being confirmed as the next president, he told NBC: “America is back – we’re at the head of the table again.
“I’ve spoken with over 20 world leaders and they are pleased and somewhat excited that America is going to reassert its role in the world and be a coalition builder.”
Mr Biden will take office on 20 January but he will find the world very different to how it was four years ago, when his term as Barack Obama’s vice president ended.
Mr Trump had questioned the relevance of NATO and been criticised for being soft on more authoritarian leaders such as Russian president Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
As the US pulled back from the world, its allies were left frustrated by its unreliability and its rival China stepped in with development projects in regions that had fallen off Mr Trump’s radar, such as Africa.
When asked about his early priorities, Mr Biden said he would send an immigration bill to the senate with a “pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people in America”.
He voiced his intention to “do away with some of the very damaging executive orders that have had significant impact on making the climate worse and making us less healthy”.
He also promised not to interfere with, or put pressure on the Department of Justice over any investigations into President Trump, saying: “I will not do what this president does and use the justice department as my vehicle to insist that something happen.
“There are a number of investigations that I have read about at a state level and there’s nothing at all I can or cannot do about that but I’m focused on getting the American public back to a place where they have some certainty, some surety, some knowledge that they can make it.”
Mr Biden also said that, although his team is experienced, it will be his own government, rather than a “third Obama term”.
He told NBC: “This is not a third Obama term because we face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama-Biden administration.
“President Trump has changed the landscape. It has become America first, it has been America alone.
“We find ourselves in a position where our alliances have been frayed.”
Mr Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris won the election on 3 November but their preparation for office was effectively delayed until this week due to Mr Trump’s refusal to concede defeat.
On Monday, however, Mr Trump finally said his team had been instructed to cooperate with the process of moving the next president into the White House.
When Mr Biden was asked on Tuesday what cooperation he had received from Mr Trump’s administration, he said: “The outreach has been sincere and has not been begrudging so far.”
He said he has not heard from Mr Trump, although their chiefs of staff have spoken with each other and their teams are working on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed almost 260,000 people in the country this year.
The two teams are looking at “how to not only distribute but get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated, so I think we’re going to not be so far behind the curve as we thought we might be in the past”.
Mr Biden said he had held video calls with 10 leading state governors to discuss “the need to cooperate and the need to get the vaccine into places where you can get vaccinated”.
“The hope is that we can distribute it before we’re sworn in and take office,” he added.