U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor: What Allies and Partners Need to Know - February 19
Welcome to the U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor where every week we track the “who,” “what,” and “so what” for the new U.S. administration and Congress. This week we look at the Biden administration’s approach to trade policy thus far. Sign up here to receive the newsletter every Friday in your inbox.
Following quick action to reverse his predecessor’s immigration and climate policy record, President Biden also dropped the U.S. objection against Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination to be the next leader of the World Trade Organization. The Nigerian economist and former finance minister, who holds dual U.S. citizenship and degrees from Harvard and MIT, had been opposed by the Trump administration. But beyond this nod toward multilateral cooperation, it has been a bit quiet on the trade front. Katherine Tai, Biden’s highly regarded nominee to be the U.S. trade representative, is still waiting for her confirmation hearing in the Senate. A number of other appointments, many with strong congressional connections, have been interpreted as a signal for a more “worker focused” trade approach by the Biden administration.
For now, the focus of Biden’s economic team is on fighting the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences at home. However, some measures—like a 100-day review of critical supply chains—already hint at what will likely continue to be the main focus of U.S. trade policy: how to deal with China. While the Biden administration continues to build out its China team, it is still in the early stages of developing a comprehensive strategy that includes trade policy.
Who to Watch
Brett McGurk is coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at the White House National Security Council. He joins the Biden administration after working as a lecturer at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. McGurk is a well-known figure in the region, having served in various national security positions across the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations. His most recent stint in government was as the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Before that, McGurk served as senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan and deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran. A lawyer by training, McGurk received his JD from Columbia University, and spent part of his early career clerking for a series of judges, including Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Watch this video to learn more about how McGurk thinks about national security issues and the Middle East.
- McGurk’s tenure as special presidential envoy resulted in significant tensions between him and Turkey’s political leaders. This Intelligence Squared debate gives insight into his thinking on whether “Turkey is an asset to NATO.”
- Watch this video to learn more about McGurk’s work with the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Kurt Campbell is the coordinator for the Indo-Pacific at the White House National Security Council. Prior to that, Campbell served as chairman and CEO of The Asia Group and chairman of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank that he co-founded. A long-time Asia expert, Campbell served in the Obama administration as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. During that time, he was credited with helping to shape and implement the administration’s “pivot” to Asia. Campbell also served in other government positions, including as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia, director on the NSC Staff, and deputy special counselor to the president for NAFTA. Campbell received his doctorate from Oxford University.
- To better understand the broad contours of Campbell’s approach to Asia, read this piece that he recently penned for Foreign Affairs.
- After working in the Obama administration, Campbell published this book about the pivot to Asia and future directions for America’s approach to the region.
- While leading The Asia Group, Campbell co-hosted a podcast series that interviewed a range of individuals—from policymakers to business leaders—on the challenges and opportunities afforded by the Indo-Pacific region.
What to Read
Biden's economic point man draws praise — and pushback, Megan Cassella, Tyler Pager, and Marianne Levine, Politico.
“Few doubt [head of the National Economic Council Brian] Deese’s intelligence, and his close relationship with Biden is a potent source of his authority on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. But while supporters have praised his efforts to win support for a $1.9 trillion relief package, Deese also has drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike, some of whom have bristled at how much power he’s been given and how he’s wielding it.”
The Unconventional Diplomatic Career of Victoria Nuland, Nicholas Kralev, Diplomatic Diary.
“After more than three decades in the Foreign Service, Nuland said that today’s global challenges require American diplomats to be ‘agents of change’ and to effectively get specific things done in multicultural environments, working not only with governments, but also with NGOs, the private sector and even individual citizens in foreign countries.”
Biden Works to Leverage Senate Ties to Power His Agenda, Luke Broadwater, The New York Times.
“Still, the president is personally working Capitol Hill in a way that his recent predecessors could not, leveraging decades-old relationships and experience in Congress that they did not have. The approach reflects the challenges Mr. Biden faces in maneuvering his priorities through an evenly split Senate… . Already, he has transformed the West Wing into a veritable revolving door for senators.”
Opinion | Joe Biden is just where he wanted to be, Paul Waldman, The Washington Post.
“Now Biden comes to the country in the role in which he is most comfortable: empathetic for their struggles, sharing their grief and eager to bring as much government resources as possible to bear. It’s a moment for the kind of old-fashioned, bighearted, big-walleted Democrat Biden always wanted to be.”
Opinion: The U.S. can’t meet its responsibilities alone. That’s why we believe in NATO, Lloyd J. Austin III, The Washington Post.
“Simply put, we cannot meet our responsibilities alone, nor should we try. This is the message I will deliver Wednesday to my counterparts at the NATO defense ministers’ meeting. We must consult together, decide together and act together.”
Russia Will Never See the United States the Same Way Again, Anna Arutunyan, Foreign Affairs.
“The Trump presidency and its final act, in particular, revealed the fragility of American democracy. In the eyes of Russia—and of many others—the stature of the United States was diminished. As a result, Washington’s default approach to Moscow is no longer tenable. […] Lecturing Putin about human rights will only anger the Russian president and could end up hurting the democratic reformers Washington aims to support.”
Biden’s Trade Plans Will Boost China’s Power in Asia, James Crabtree, Foreign Policy.
“The U.S. president wants simultaneously to support workers at home and to reassert U.S. economic leadership abroad—especially in Asia. At the very least, these two aims are in tension, and in many ways they are mutually exclusive.”
Stay or Go? Biden, Long a Critic of Afghan Deployments, Faces a Deadline, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, and David E. Sanger, The New York Times.
“The Pentagon, uncertain what the new commander in chief will do, is preparing variations on a plan to stay, a plan to leave and a plan to withdraw very, very slowly — a reflection of the debate now swirling in the White House.”
Biden’s Middle East woes are already piling up, Ishaan Tharoor, The Washington Post.
“At home, the Biden administration has its hands full already…But troubles are mounting elsewhere, especially in the Middle East, where President Biden seeks something of a reset in U.S. policy. […] but events in recent days suggest that whatever grace period the White House hoped to have has already ended.”
America’s India Problem Is All About Russia, Salvatore Babones, Foreign Policy.
“The United States has an India problem, and it’s all about Russia. In 2018, India agreed to buy five Russian S-400 missile systems […]. [The prospect for U.S. sanctions] has seriously strained bilateral relations, threatened the United States’ own defense sales in India, and called into question President Joe Biden’s commitment to working with allies to confront China.”
Present at the Re-creation? U.S. Foreign Policy Must Be Remade, Not Restored, Jessica T. Mathews, Foreign Affairs.
“In short, what Biden regularly calls ‘the power of our example’ is nothing like what it used to be. When it comes to the pillars of a law-abiding democracy, the United States is now more an example of what to avoid than of what to embrace.”
Biden Administration Reviews Nord Stream 2 Gas Pipeline, Brett Forrest, Wall Street Journal.
“The administration on Tuesday faces a deadline to report a list of companies it deems in violation of the U.S. laws aimed at halting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Those companies would be potential targets for U.S. sanctions. The Biden administration could also waive the application of sanctions under a national-interest clause, placating Germany, a critical European ally, handing Russia a geopolitical victory, and crossing a bipartisan coalition in Congress.”
What’s Happening @GMF
- Flexible Security Arrangements and the Future of NATO Partnerships by Sophie Arts and Steven Keil (Article)
- Agenda 2021: A Blueprint for U.S.-Europe-India Cooperation (Collection)
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.