The United States will need to set distinct priorities to ensure its foreign policy efforts can harness its capabilities to shape the global recovery.
Members of the World Economic Forum’s U.S. Global Future Council outlined their foreign policy recommendations for tackling the current global crises in for this special compilation article and an episode of the podcast The Great Reset.
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The world is grappling with a massive health, economic and social crisis and each country will need to tap into its special capabilities to help the world rebuild towards the Great Reset. To that end, we asked the top political minds in our U.S. Global Future Council – professors, analysts, former ambassadors and more – to consider how a bipartisan U.S. foreign policy over the next decade could help shape the Great Reset. Their recommendations – spanning climate issues and foreign cooperation to human capital and more – demonstrate the effort that will be required by any country looking to harness its resources to help tackle the complicated problems ahead.

Their ideas, collected in this article as well as a special episode of the Great Reset podcast, demonstrate the breadth of options still available to leaders to build new solutions for the global recovery. Here are their thoughts.

  1. Help build a new, open world

Rebecca Friedman-Lissner, Assistant Professor in the Strategic and Operational Research Department, Naval War College

COVID has revealed an international system on the brink of collapse: international cooperation is elusive, international institutions are inadequate, and great powers are at loggerheads. But, as Mira Rapp-Hooper and I argue in our book An Open World: How America Can Win the Contest for Twenty-First-Century Order, much of this damage predated this pandemic and will be with us for decades to come. To transform this moment of destruction into a moment of creation, the United States must lead a broad coalition committed to realizing an open world.

The future of American leadership will not resemble the past. To lead, the United States must place itself firmly on the side of openness: defending the accessibility of the global commons, promoting the ability of sovereign states to make independent political choices, advancing high-standards trade, and fostering international cooperation via modernized international institutions. This approach will also attract the partners required for its success. The United States simply cannot keep the world open on its own – it needs to marshal the strength of its allies; capitalize on issue-specific alignments with international partners, some of whom may not be democracies; and pioneer innovative public-private partnerships that transcend national boundaries. The world is at a critical juncture and the opportunity to define the terms of the coming “great reset” will not come again.

  1. Embrace shared global leadership
    Ivo Daalder, President, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Conventional wisdom, at home and abroad, has it that Americans are tired of underwriting American global leadership and ready to retreat from the world. But, as so often, that conventional wisdom is wrong.

The latest survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows that majorities of Americans continue to prefer active US engagement and shared leadership in world affairs. In fact, nearly two thirds of Americans (62%) say that the COVID-19 outbreak has increased the importance of US coordination and collaboration with other countries to solve global issues. And a huge majority (84%) agrees that international cooperation is the only way to solve large global challenges like pandemics and climate change.

Seven in ten Americans (68%) say that the United States will benefit most by taking an active part in world affairs—one of the highest readings in nearly 50 years. Moreover, a majority of Americans think the United States should be even more involved in addressing global issues (52%), with another 25% saying it should be as involved as it is now.

At the same time, few Americans want the United States to lead alone. A strong majority (68%) prefer a shared leadership role for the United States. Just 24% prefer the United States take a dominant leadership role, and very few say the United States should have no global leadership role at all (6%).

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of life for Americans. But it hasn’t turned them away from the world. To the contrary, most believe that their security and prosperity are best served by remaining active in the world and working with others, especially our allies, to overcome global problems.

  1. Maximize a unique advantage to tackle climate change
    Ryan Costello, Managing Director, Americans for Carbon Dividends

Climate change – and how other countries respond to it – will increasingly shape trade and competition among the world’s major economies. By embracing a coherent U.S. climate strategy, America can ensure its manufacturers and workers come out on top as the world transitions to clean energy.

Today’s trade rules effectively subsidize carbon-intensive manufacturing overseas and prevent U.S. manufacturers from reaping the full economic benefit of their cleaner operations. This situation undermines both American workers and global climate progress.

A first-of-its-kind study underscores America’s striking carbon efficiency advantage over most of its key trading partners. For example, goods manufactured in the U.S. produce 80% fewer carbon emissions than the world average. The U.S. carbon advantage is three times that of China and nearly four times that of India.

By leveraging this advantage with a well-designed climate policy, American can enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers, encourage the return of important supply chains back to the U.S. and encourage greater climate ambition globally. A nationwide carbon fee paired with a border carbon adjustment can deliver these benefits.

  1. Adjust trade to invest in US workers – and their economic power
    Glenn Hubbard, Dean Emeritus and Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School

Everything your college economics professor told you about trade is true: Comparative advantage is a big concept. There are significant average gains from trade coming from cheaper and more varied goods and from higher productivity for domestic firms from greater competition. Something else the professor told you is also true but often not said loudly enough or even considered by policymakers: Because gains are large, the gainers can compensate the losers, and trade is a win-win. The idea is not that an individual “gainer” from trade writes a check to someone who “loses.” Rather, society must spend the resources to both prepare and reconnect individuals to work and opportunity in an economy experiencing structural changes from globalization, and even more important, technological change. Failing to do so leads to calls for walls, be they physical or metaphorical. Such policy calls are easy to say and reassure those left behind that we can things the way they were. That is, of course, a lie. The alternative is building bridges to the opportunities that actually exist – investing in community colleges to prepare younger workers and retain older workers, offer much larger supports to work through the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a rethinking of labor-market policies to focus on structural as well as cyclical shifts. Economists as well as policymakers need to step up to define and promote bridges. Otherwise, while some economists close to the White House channel the failed arguments of Thomas Mun, those arguments are appealing to many. No less than Adam Smith stood up to Mun – the classical economists’ ideal of ‘mass flourishing’ is made easier by an open economy in which individuals are better prepared for shifts beyond their control.

  1. Support policies that advance free markets and free societies
    Danielle Pletka, Senior Vice-President, Foreign and Defence Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

Since before the founding, the America has stood for the principles of freedom. And while there has been an evolution in the expression of those values, the fundamental notion that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not privileges reserved to Americans alone has always animated U.S. foreign policy. If we believe in free people and free markets, understanding that these freedoms have delivered unparalleled global prosperity, we must also be willing to put our diplomatic, economic and military might behind those ideas. While it is not the job of the United States to deliver the world of evil, in protecting the national security of all Americans, our leaders have a responsibility to advance these same values, understanding that a freer world is a safer world. The “how” is always the question; there will always be compromises made to serve immediate national security interests. But an expression of values at the core of U.S. national security policy – and our belief in the primacy of freedom – should be a priority in every interaction. If the United States doesn’t advance these values, we can be certain there will be no other nation that fills the vacuum.

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