THE question of who will be the next President of the United States is yet to be decided, with votes still be counted in a number of key states including Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Alaska.

Donald Trump is currently leading in each of these states except Nevada where Joe Biden has the lead after 25% of the votes have been counted.

The former vice-president Joe Biden flipped the battleground states of Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday, giving him 264 electoral college votes to Trump’s 214. The target is 270 to secure the White House.

Mr Biden has claimed he is on course to win the election and issued a plea for national unity, as opponent Donald Trump threatens to fight the outcome in court.

Mr Biden said, “After a long night of counting, it’s clear that we’re winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

“I’m not here to declare that we’ve won but I am here to report that, when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.”

Biden holds a lead in Nevada, which has six electoral college votes – just enough to get him over the line – but the results may not be known for several days. If he managed to flip the state of Georgia that would give him 16 electoral college votes.

Alaska has not yet been called for Trump, but the result is not in doubt: he is expected to win its three electoral college votes, taking him to 217.

In order to secure the other 53 votes he requires for victory, he would need to win all four remaining states and their 57 votes: Nevada (six votes), North Carolina (15), Georgia (16), and Pennsylvania (20).

Unleashing a legal offensive, the Trump campaign demanded a recount in Wisconsin and called for the count in Michigan to be halted on the grounds that its representatives did not have “meaningful access”.

The President tweeted, “Our lawyers have asked for ‘meaningful access’, but what good does that do? The damage has already been done to the integrity of our system, and to the Presidential Election itself. This is what should be discussed!”

Even before the counting is finished, Mr Biden has won more votes than any president in history – more than 72m – about 3.5m ahead of Trump.

In the Senate, the Democrats and Republicans currently have 48 seats each yet after 31 of 35 races have been called. In the House of Representatives, the Democrats currently have 208 seats and the Republicans have 190 seats after 398 of 435 races have been called.

Even with the official result still unknown, Sportsbet has decided to pay out early on Joe Biden to be elected President.

After CNN projected the state of Michigan would go to the Democrats and holding the ascendancy in Nevada and Arizona, the online bookmaker has deemed the lead unassailable.

In total, $23m and more than 100,000 bets were paid out to Sportsbet punters who backed Joe Biden to win the election.

With postal votes and potential legal proceedings to play out, it could be weeks before an announcement is officially made.

Trade implications

From a trade perspective, there likely won’t be a direct effect on Australia from either contender becoming President.

Andrew Hudson from Rigby Cooke Lawyers said, “Both presidential candidates have expressed support for the Australian relationship which should preserve our trade with the US including exemptions from the current high US tariffs on steel, aluminium and other manufactured goods”.

However, control of the House or Senate does not stop a US President from passing executive orders such as those President Trump has used to effect massive dumping tariffs and other trade initiatives. A Democrat controlled Senate does mean it could block initiatives proposed by a new Trump administration such as the approval of legislation.

“Should Biden succeed, the question is whether he will follow Trump’s aggressive trade policies or whether he will wind them back in some fashion, including whether he will continue Trump’s actions to block the operation of the WTO by continuing to block the appointments of any appellate positions,” Mr Hudson said.

“Even if Biden prevails, he has said he will keep ‘fire to the feet of China’ on perceived unfair trade practices in China.”

Mr Hudson said the main effect for Australia could be with its perception as an ally to the US and an opponent to China.

“This is now being seen more openly with a variety of Chinese actions against Australian exports of coal, barley, wine, lobsters and now timber from Queensland.

“I don’t think that a Biden victory would lead to a reduction in Chinese action – indeed, China may take the opportunity of possible early uncertainty in the US to escalate its trade actions against the US and Australia and others such as an ‘independent’ UK,” Mr Hudson said.