Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

15 February 2019

A U.S.-China Trade Deal Is Coming, but How Big Will It Be?

Kimberly Ann Elliott

Washington and Beijing are a little over two weeks away from their self-imposed March 1st deadline to reach a sweeping trade agreement that addresses China’s alleged unfair trade practices. If they fail, and the current truce in their trade war ends with no deal, the costs will be substantial for both sides. The United States imports more goods from China than any country in the world—roughly $500 billion in 2017—and a breakdown in the talks could lead to even higher tariffs on at least half of that. Right now, under the tariffs steadily imposed by President Donald Trump, the U.S. Customs Service is collecting additional duties of 10 percent on $200 billion in imports from China and 25 percent on another $50 billion. If no deal is reached by March, the 10 percent tariffs will also rise to 25 percent. 

China does not import enough goods from the U.S.—$130 billion total in 2017—to match Trump dollar for dollar. But Beijing retaliated with an equivalent 25 percent tariff on $50 billion in American exports in the first round of this fight, and tariffs of 5 percent to 10 percent on another $60 billion in the second round. The Chinese authorities also have many other ways to make life miserable for companies operating in China or trying to export there. Since the trade war began, some American firms have reported shipments being held up in Chinese ports and having to undergo far more extensive inspections than before. 

12 February 2019

How China and the U.S. Are Competing for Young Minds in Southeast Asia

Kristine Lee

Business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month warned that China has overtaken the United States in the development of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, such as fifth-generation wireless or 5G. “There’s almost an endless stream of people who are showing up and developing new companies,” Blackstone’s CEO Stephen Schwarzman told one panel of his frequent trips to China. “The venture business there in AI-oriented companies is really exploding with growth.” 

The attention on China’s rapidly evolving tech sector has overshadowed another area of competition between Beijing and Washington, which may be moving more slowly but is just as consequential: the battle for young minds. Nowhere is this competition to educate and attract younger generations more pronounced than in Southeast Asia, with its youthful demographics, fast-growing economies and array of geopolitical flashpoints.

U.S.-Saudi Arabia Relations

The U.S.-Saudi Arabia alliance is built on decades of security cooperation and strong business ties dominated by U.S. interests in Saudi oil. The relationship has survived severe challenges, including the 1973 oil embargo and 9/11 attacks, in which fifteen of the nineteen passenger jet hijackers were Saudi citizens. Successive U.S. administrations have held that Saudi Arabia is a critical strategic partner in the region.

Relations between the two countries have grown especially warm under U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Saudi de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman, who was elevated to crown prince in mid-2017. Both have ramped up efforts to counter Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival. However, recent actions under the crown prince’s leadership, particularly the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, are posing new strains on the alliance, as many members of the U.S. Congress have called for punishing Riyadh and reassessing the relationship.

E Pluribus Unum? The Fight Over Identity Politics

Stacey Y. Abrams

Recent political upheavals have reinvigorated a long-running debate about the role of identity in American politics—and especially American elections. Electoral politics have long been a lagging indicator of social change. For hundreds of years, the electorate was limited by laws that explicitly deprived women, African Americans, and other groups of the right to vote. (Efforts to deny voting rights and suppress voter turnout continue today, in less overt forms but with the same ill intent.) When marginalized groups finally gained access to the ballot, it took time for them to organize around opposition to the specific forms of discrimination and mistreatment that continued to plague them—and longer still for political parties and candidates to respond to such activism. In recent decades, however, rapid demographic and technological changes have accelerated this process, bolstering demands for inclusion and raising expectations in communities that had long been conditioned to accept a slow pace of change. In the past decade, the U.S. electorate has become younger and more ethnically diverse. Meanwhile, social media has changed the political landscape. Facebook captures examples of inequality and makes them available for endless replay. Twitter links the voiceless to newsmakers. Instagram immortalizes the faces and consequences of discrimination. Isolated cruelties are yoked into a powerful narrative of marginalization that spurs a common cause.

11 February 2019

Can Congress Constitutionally Restrict the President’s Troop Withdrawals?

By Ashley Deeks 

As others have discussed on Lawfare, Congress recently has begun to feel its oats when it comes to U.S. foreign policy. In the wake of general dissatisfaction with President Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria, the Senate rebuked him by declaring that the Islamic State’s presence and activities in both Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a national security threat. Though the measure warned against U.S. troop withdrawals, it did not mandate that the president cease withdrawing U.S. forces.

On the House side, though, Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski and Republican Rep. Van Taylor introduced a bill that would, if enacted, impose such obligations. The “Responsible Withdrawal From Syria Act” would prohibit the use of fiscal 2019 funds to draw down U.S. forces from Syria below 1,500 troops, unless the secretary of defense, secretary of state, and director of national intelligence submit a report to Congress addressing a range of policy and threat-related issues. Malinowski also introduced a bill that would prevent the president from reducing the number of U.S. troops in South Korea below 22,000.

10 February 2019

America’s Public Debt: Crisis Or The Cost Of Civilization?

By Jordan J. Ballor, PhD*

The annual update from the Congressional Budget Office released on Jan. 28 has once again highlighted the debate over America’s debt crisis. Despite dismissive claims that Washington should end its debt and deficit “obsession,” and the fact that America’s indebtedness was omitted from last night’s State of the Union address, a much more prudent approach would treat this as a real crisis, important not only for public policy and political culture but also for our personal and spiritual lives. 

The size and scope of the crisis is significant. The national debt is the accumulation of the federal government’s unpaid liabilities. These include deficits, which are negative balances between spending and revenue for a particular period, and are financed by instruments issued by the Treasury Department. The deficit for the month of October 2018 exceeded $100 billion, which more than doubled the deficit from the previous October. The deficit for the 2018 fiscal year totaled $779 billion. The highest deficit in the last 50 years was in 2009, when the government spent $1.4 trillion more than it brought in. The last time the federal government ran a surplus was 2001.

8 February 2019

Trade war games reveal dire outcomes for US, China


A key insight of game theorist Martin Shubik was that when a "tomorrow" exists, it profoundly reshapes competition. Individual moves in a game with "tomorrows" are radically different from one-shot games. 

Standing up to China is one thing, but working out an accommodation so that a series of individually sensible moves don't explode into an escalation spiral that punishes both nations is more important. Let's look at the trade war though this framework.

The U.S. slapped sanctions on two big Chinese companies, Huawei and ZTE, charging them with trading with an enemy (Iran) in violation of U.S. law and with intellectual property theft from western companies. 

A New Americanism Why a Nation Needs a National Story

By Jill Lepore

In 1986, the Pulitzer Prize–winning, bowtie-wearing Stanford historian Carl Degler delivered something other than the usual pipe-smoking, scotch-on-the-rocks, after-dinner disquisition that had plagued the evening program of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association for nearly all of its centurylong history. Instead, Degler, a gentle and quietly heroic man, accused his colleagues of nothing short of dereliction of duty: appalled by nationalism, they had abandoned the study of the nation. 

“We can write history that implicitly denies or ignores the nation-state, but it would be a history that flew in the face of what people who live in a nation-state require and demand,” Degler said that night in Chicago. He issued a warning: “If we historians fail to provide a nationally defined history, others less critical and less informed will take over the job for us.”

America Has a Commitment Problem


Do Americans agree about anything anymore? Well, yes. Apart from a handful of unrepentant neoconservatives and reflexive warmongers (including, alas, the present national security advisor), I think there’s a growing consensus that the United States is overextended. We’re still fighting at least two wars (while conducting a whole bunch of more-or-less clandestine operations against various extremists in various places), and we are formally committed by treaty to defending more countries than at any time in U.S. history. There is little or no consensus on how to deal with this situation, but even those who think U.S. global leadership is the only thing preserving the world from barbarism might concede the need for a bit of readjustment these days.

Great Power and Global Responsibility in 1918 and 2018

Nicholas Burns

FLETCHER FORUM: What have been the most significant developments in diplomacy since the end of World War I and, in particular, since the beginning of your career as a diplomat? What do you think might change in the field of diplomacy in the future?

NICHOLAS BURNS: World War I was an epochal conflict and a fundamental turning point in modern history. Four empires fell in 1917 and 1918, which changed the whole map of Europe, and in the case of the Ottoman Empire, of the Middle East. Four new states were created in the Middle East, as well as new states in Eastern Europe. Those states were fragile. World War I was the first global killing machine with massive, tragic human losses: something like 1.7 million Germans, 1.3 million French, 900,000 Brits, and 116,000 Americans died between 1914 and 1918. The combined military and civilian death toll was more than 18 million people. And then the influenza epidemic of 1919 took more lives. It was transformational in terms of the loss of human life, the destruction of empires, the rise of new states, and the fragility of those states. And then followed the vindictiveness of Versailles, the failure of Wilson, and the fact that the United States—the strongest global economic power—did not join the newly created League of Nations to avoid another world war. It was a series of tragedies, especially the fact that the United States did not put itself in a position to counter Hitler and Mussolini and the rise of fascist states in the 1930s. During this period, the America First movement shamefully tried to escape U.S. responsibilities. The Second World War left 60 million people dead.

7 February 2019

Will Trump’s call for unity in the State of the Union last?

William A. Galston

The State of the Union address is an annual ritual with familiar rhythms. President Trump, who revels in the pomp and circumstance of this annual celebration of our democracy, did not deviate from this template. He surprised no one when he declared that the state of our union is strong. His speech was complete with a recitation of his administration’s accomplishments, calls to put country above party and compromise for the common good, and inspiring stories from courageous Americans. The key question is whether an historically divisive president can credibly champion the cause of national unity, and whether a president who has rejected compromise to maintain the unswerving loyalty of his base will be able to find common ground with an opposition he has kept at arms’ length.

This year’s edition was different in some important ways. For the first time since the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986, the speech was postponed. For the first time ever, a political controversy sparked the postponement. Partisan polarization is at its highest level in decades, and as my Brookings colleague Elaine Kamarck has shown, the Trump presidency is at a very low ebb. And if, as the president declared, legislative progress is incompatible with “ridiculous investigations,” he is facing a year of stalemate.

5 February 2019

The U.S. Is Fighting a 21st Century Trade Battle Armed With a 1930s Mindset

The United States may score some successes in persuading its trade partners to reduce their tariffs, but its current strategy fails to address the fact that tariffs are not the biggest limiters of U.S. exports. 

Ultimately, nontariff barriers such as health and safety regulations and intellectual property rights present greater obstacles to trade in the contemporary world than tariffs do. 

With the United States focused on tariffs, its exporters could soon face greater difficulties as competitors in Canada, the European Union, Asia and elsewhere gain access to more markets thanks to comprehensive free trade deals that eliminate more important nontariff barriers. 

America Has a Commitment Problem


Do Americans agree about anything anymore? Well, yes. Apart from a handful of unrepentant neoconservatives and reflexive warmongers (including, alas, the present national security advisor), I think there’s a growing consensus that the United States is overextended. We’re still fighting at least two wars (while conducting a whole bunch of more-or-less clandestine operations against various extremists in various places), and we are formally committed by treaty to defending more countries than at any time in U.S. history. There is little or no consensus on how to deal with this situation, but even those who think U.S. global leadership is the only thing preserving the world from barbarism might concede the need for a bit of readjustment these days.

Which raises an interesting question: How did this happen? How do states get overextended? If the world is highly competitive and it’s important to set priorities and focus on the big challenges, then why would any country take on commitments that were of secondary importance or beyond its means? And if it did, why would it hang onto them after it was clear that the costs far outweighed the benefits?

2 February 2019

Could Trump, of All People, Bring Down Maduro and the Chavista Regime?

Judah Grunstein

If Donald Trump ends up being the catalyst that leads to the fall of the Chavista regime in Venezuela, it would be further proof that history has a sense of humor, if a dark one. 

Over the past week, the Trump administration has ratcheted up the pressure on Nicolas Maduro’s government, recognizing the opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate president, imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company and its assets, and turning over control of the country’s U.S. bank accounts to Guaido. Through it all, the administration has refused to rule out a military intervention, repeating its refrain that “all options are on the table.” ...

31 January 2019

America’s Short-Lived Oil Resurgence – Analysis

By Deepak Gopinath*

Potential fracking slowdown, due to short well life cycles, could curb US oil power abroad and eventually jumpstart alternative energies.

Celebration of America’s reemergence as an oil superpower riding on shale oil production may be cut short.

Last year may well have been the high-water mark of US preeminence. Burgeoning shale oil production helped transform the United States into a net exporter of oil and fuels in November and pushed crude output to a record of almost 12 million barrels per day – more than Saudi Arabia or Russia – positioning it firmly on the path of energy independence. America’s newfound status as major oil producer and exporter translated into geopolitical influence, giving President Donald Trump a handy club to wield when pressuring OPEC and Russia to lower oil prices or more broadly pursuing US strategic interests.

30 January 2019

Left Behind: How Privatization Disenfranchises the Poor and Endangers Democracies

In Democracies Are Fighting for Their Lives , Joergen Oerstroem Moeller described how democracies are under pressure. The following article is an analysis of how he came to that conclusion.

The Privatization of Online Money

1. Public services are dividing the nation instead of uniting it.

Public services used to serve a double purpose. The first one was to deliver electricity, water, transport, postal services, etc. These services could in principle be offered by the private sector, but that option was rejected in favor of uniform quality of services nationwide. Public services aimed to establish that all citizens were equal, connoting that national solidarity overruled a business model. Keeping the nation together legitimized that citizens in big cities paid more than the cost price and by doing so subsidized the periphery. On average, they were richer than their fellow compatriots, so it amounted to progressive taxation.

Donald Trump: Breaking With The Past (The Beltway Ain’t Happy)


President Trump is breaking with the past. He’s arguing that Washington must cut its losses, withdraw its forces, climb out of the Middle Eastern and Afghan money pits, and acknowledge that Seoul (with U.S. backing) won the war on the Korean Peninsula. Washington hates him for doing these things, but most Americans and future generations of Americans will love him for it.

The first quality of a great leader is the courage to break with the past when the facts change. For President Trump, facing facts means change. But real change—ending the Korean War, disengaging forces from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan—is anathema to just about everyone inside the Washington Beltway.

It’s tempting to view the recent attacks from within his own party on Trump’s decision to leave Syria or the public wounds inflicted on the president by an ungrateful national security advisor as unique in American history, but that’s not the case. In 1969, when President Richard Nixon first confided his intention to seek a rapprochement with China—three years before Nixon’s historic trip to Beijing—members of his own Administration were not enthusiastic.

29 January 2019

Questioning The Reasons For U.S. Involvement in the Middle East

The security environment in the Middle East may be the most complex on earth, with an intricate, volatile and sometimes shifting mixture of destabilizing forces and hostilities. There are deadly power struggles within and between nations. And behind it all is the Middle East’s massive oil production, on which the global economy depends. 

The United States first ventured into the Middle East early in the Cold War and has remained heavily involved, particularly since the 1970s. Over the decades, America’s policies and partnerships in the region have evolved, but the basic reasons for U.S. involvement in the Middle East remained consistent: preventing a hostile power from using the region’s petroleum reserves as a weapon. To achieve that objective, the U.S. used direct applications of military power when necessary but relied heavily on local allies, from Egypt to the Gulf states, bolstering them with security assistance and weapons sales.

Trump’s Foreign Policy Is No Longer Unpredictable

By Thomas Wright

It has become a commonplace to describe the foreign policy of U.S. President Donald Trump as unpredictable. But doing so mischaracterizes the man and the policy. In fact, although Trump’s actions may often be shocking, they are rarely surprising. His most controversial positions—questioning NATO, seeking to pull out of Syria, starting trade wars—are all consistent with the worldview he has publicly espoused since the 1980s.

The unpredictability of this administration originated not in Trump’s views but in the struggle between the president and his political advisers on the one hand and the national security establishment on the other. Until recently, these two camps vied for supremacy, and it was difficult to know which would win on any given issue.

26 January 2019

A U.S.–China Counterterrorism Partnership?

By Elliot I. Silverberg

Twelve months ago in the Pentagon’s first new National Defense Strategy since 2008, President Trump quietly replaced terrorism with interstate competition as his top national security concern, thus relegating the threat of terrorism to pre-9/11 levels.

Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of state rivals like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. However, even in the midst of the justified media frenzy surrounding allegations of Russian U.S. election meddling and other foreign influence operations, Washington’s growing complacency regarding terrorist activity should be troubling. Global terrorism peaked in 2014 but may spike again as Trump begins to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. While most terrorist attacks occur in the Middle East, these attacks are perpetrated by ISIS and Al Qaeda, which target the U.S. homeland, as well as by other regional terrorist groups like the Taliban and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which undermine U.S. allies and partners in Europe and Asia. Accordingly, terrorism should continue to rank high in America’s order of national security priorities.