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Biden’s trip to Australia deferred as debt ceiling deadline looms

President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response on January 22, 2021. AFP/File

US President Joe Biden has postponed his planned trip to Australia due to stalled domestic debt ceiling negotiations. Biden will leave the US tomorrow to travel to Japan for a meeting of the G7, which Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is also attending. 

Negotiations over the debt ceiling have reached a critical point, with Republicans asking for spending cuts in exchange for raising the limit, and the US Treasury set to run out of cash as soon as June 1.

Skipping the Australia visit after G7 moot in Japan, Biden will return directly to the US to engage in discussions with Republican politicians regarding the debt limit. 

The decision to prioritise negotiations comes as the US Treasury faces the possibility of running out of cash by June 1. The White House expressed its commitment to strengthening alliances and partnerships, including the Quad, and indicated that alternative ways of engaging with Australia, the Quad, Papua New Guinea, and leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum would be explored. 

Additionally, President Biden extended an invitation to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for an official state visit to the US at a later date. Albanese, who was planning to host the Quad summit, emphasized the economic benefits of the bilateral relationship with India and the closeness of Australia’s partnership with Japan. 

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is anticipated to be a significant gathering in Australia, and it will take place at Sydney’s Opera House on May 24. White House national security spokesperson John Kirby highlighted the importance of American credibility and leadership as he called on Congressional Republicans to raise the debt limit, invoking the understanding of world leaders in this matter. 

Albanese underscored the shared values between Australia, Japan, and the US, including commitments to democracy, human rights, free trade, and a rules-based order. The decision to postpone the trip marks a temporary delay in the US President’s visit, which would have been the first by a US president in nearly a decade and the fifth time an American leader addressed Australia’s parliament.

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