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For Biden, Debt Limit Crisis Complicates Trip to Asia

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HIROSHIMA, Japan — President Biden left for Japan on Wednesday for a meeting of leaders of seven major industrial democracies who meet annually to maintain global economic stability.

Ultimately, however, the main potential threat to global economic stability this year is the United States.

When Biden arrives in Hiroshima on Thursday to attend the annual Group of Seven (G7) summit, the United States will face a default that will shock not only its own economy, but those of others at the table. There are two weeks left until it is possible. It’s Mr. Biden’s responsibility to reassure the other country that he will find a way around it, but they understand that it’s not something only Mr. Biden can control.

A standoff with Republicans over the federal debt ceiling has already turned the president’s international diplomacy upside down, forcing him to cancel two trips to Papua New Guinea and Australia after Japan at the last minute. . Mr. Biden faces the challenge of rushing home to avert catastrophe the United States itself, rather than the unrivaled commander-in-chief of the most powerful superpower to roam the world stage. will be a successful leader.

His optimism that both sides could reach an agreement at Tuesday’s White House meeting encouraged him to see at least signs of progress before he left Washington. In preparation for the G7 meeting, officials from other participating countries have not attacked US officials. Those worried about a potential default probably do so because they trust Mr. Biden and know that the moment of truth is still weeks away. Away, assume Washington will get its act together in time.

But this simply highlights how much volatility has become the new normal in Washington. Generations have looked to the United States as the most important stabilizing force in world affairs, but in recent years allies increasingly expect a certain level of dysfunction instead. Longer government shutdowns, banking crises, debt ceiling disputes and even political violence were once unthinkable, but foreign leaders are being urged to factor in America’s unpredictability.

“I think the biggest threat is us,” said Jane Herman, a former Democratic congressman from California and later director of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. “Our leadership in the world is being eroded by our internal dysfunction. If that comes at the cost of onerous budget caps that include defense spending, we will be held back when Ukraine needs us most and China is building beachheads everywhere. It will be.”

The White House has warned that defaulting on debt will only encourage America’s adversaries because it accuses Republicans of playing with fire.

“Countries like Russia and China only want us to default and they may point the finger at them and say, ‘America is not a stable and reliable partner,'” John said. Mr F Kirby said. Spokesperson for the National Security Council.

But he tried to downplay the impact of the dispute on the G7 meeting, saying he doubted the dispute would “dominate the discussion” and insisted other leaders “don’t have to worry about that part”. bottom. The president’s counterparts will understand the need to shorten the president’s visit, he said.

“They know our ability to service our debt is an important part of America’s credibility and leadership around the world,” Kirby said. “So they understand that the president has to focus on making sure he doesn’t default, and on having these conversations with congressional leaders.”

But even if they understand, they see the consequences. Mr. Biden’s decision to return home early raises questions about U.S. involvement in the Asia-Pacific region and leaves a vacuum that China could exploit, analysts said. The president’s visits to places like Papua New Guinea, which have never been visited by US leaders, spoke out on diplomatic priorities, and so did their failure to carry them out.

This is not the first time a US president has canceled a trip abroad to deal with domestic issues. President George H.W. Bush canceled a two-week trip to Asia in 1991 to signal his focus on the domestic economic downturn, but President Bill Clinton canceled his visit during the 1995 government shutdown. canceled his visit to Japan.President Barack Obama postponed trips to Indonesia and Australia In 2010, he skipped the Asia-Pacific Summit during his own government shutdown in 2013 to focus on health law.

But the constant culture of crisis in Washington has led President Donald J. Trump, who has threatened to dismantle the Bedrock Alliance and join hands with long-standing foes abroad, while destroying democratic norms and economic practices at home. Since its introduction, it has become even more intense.

The debt ceiling confrontation between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has highlighted to the president’s colleagues that US politics is not returning to its past steady state, no matter how much Biden tries to restore normalcy. — especially as Mr. Trump seeks to collect the debt — and will take office next year.

World leaders last week refused to support Ukraine in the war against Russian aggression in an interview Trump gave in town hall format on CNN, casually backing the idea of ​​default and saying that it hurts so much. Note that he actually said “it’s possible,” rather than giving Maybe nothing. ”

Most policymakers and analysts don’t think so.

At the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Japan last week, Treasury Secretary Janet L. “It raises questions about our ability to protect national security.” I’m interested. ”

A half-century veteran of high-ranking Washington officials, Mr Biden has regularly spoken out about the uncertainty about America’s position in the world that he found upon taking office after four turbulent years under Mr Trump. rice field. “America is back,” he said to foreign officials, but they only asked, “How long will it last?”

In contrast to his predecessor, Mr. Biden has a much more traditional foreign policy familiar to world leaders, and foreign officials see him as a more traditional U.S. president. But they also understand that he governs a country whose democracy has been tested and proved fragile. And they are witnessing Washington’s finicky politics that values ​​confrontation over compromise, even at the risk of once-unimaginable events like default.

“The U.S. debt ceiling is certainly going to be a topic and a concern at the G7 summit,” said Matthew P. Goodman, senior vice president of economics at the Institute for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. said Matthew P. Goodman, senior vice president of economics. meeting last week. “I am sure other leaders will ask how serious this risk is. I think I will.”

By this point, our US partners have become strangely accustomed to the culture that dominates Washington. They have watched the debate over the debt ceiling with little obvious fear.

“I don’t think many European governments are too concerned, perhaps because these crises, while frequent, do not end in disaster,” said Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform in London. “Shortening travel is a bad sign, but Biden is very friendly in most capitals and ready to give him some reprieve.”

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