Biden on mission to bolster US alliances in Europe

He hopes to mend ties strained during Trump era and reframe relations with Russia

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden departed for Britain yesterday on his first trip abroad since taking office, an eight-day mission to rebuild trans-Atlantic ties strained during the Trump era and to reframe relations with Russia.

The trip represents a test of the Democratic President's ability to manage and repair relationships with major allies who grew disenchanted with then President Donald Trump's trade tariffs and withdrawal from international treaties.

"Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries?

"I believe the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have the chance to prove it," Mr Biden said in an opinion article in The Washington Post.

His summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Geneva is the capstone to the trip, an opportunity to raise US concerns directly with Mr Putin about ransomware attacks emanating from Russia and other issues.

In a separate development, the European Union and the US are set to agree at a summit to reduce export restrictions on Covid-19 vaccines and drugs, a draft joint text says, arguing that voluntary sharing of technology is the key to boosting output.

The document, seen by Reuters and still subject to changes, makes no mention of mandatory waivers on vaccine patents, which Mr Biden has endorsed as a temporary solution to the global shortage of Covid-19 shots.

At an EU-US summit in Brussels on Tuesday next week, the two parties are set to agree to establish a joint task force to boost vaccine and drugs production capacity that will aim at "maintaining open and secure supply chains, avoiding any unnecessary export restrictions".

The EU has urged Washington not to hamper the export of vaccines and materials needed for their production.

Mr Biden is using the decades-old US Defence Production Act to put the US government first in line to buy American-made vaccines and treatments and control the supplies they require. - REUTERS