Stop using China as an excuse to not take action on climate change. Video Sources.

Global Climate Agreements: Successes and Failures Lindsay Maizland. 1 25 2021. Council on Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/paris-global-climate-change-agreements The Climate Change Performance Index 2021 Jan Burck et al. 2021. New Climate Institute. The Climate Change Performance IndexResults 2016 Jan Burck et al. 2016. GermanWatch.

Assessing Trump’s Experiment With Protectionist Trade Policies

“Early on in his administration, Trump raised tariffs. The Cato Institute’s Scott Lincicome describes the president’s trade war as having “implemented five different tariff actions on almost $400 billion in annual U.S. imports (as of 2018) under three different laws with different rationales: ‘safeguards,’ ‘national security,’ and ‘unfair trade.'” We were promised ever-more jobs thanks to the tariffs. But as numerous academic studies have shown, the people who shouldered nearly all of the burden of these import taxes were not foreigners but, rather, Americans.

Protectionism reduces the overall wealth of the nation. Aside from a few favored and protected producers, Americans, in general, are made poorer. Consumers have to spend a higher share of their incomes to buy goods that they could otherwise get for less. As a result, ordinary Americans save less and have less to spend—even on nontariffed goods and services. The American producers of goods that use tariffed foreign inputs also see their production costs driven up, which drives their ability to compete down.

Unsurprisingly, the administration’s belligerent trade policies disturbed our trading partners. They retaliated with their own tariffs on American exports (to the detriment of their consumers). Adding insult to injury, the president’s erratic behavior, threats, and contradictory tweets about his trade policy likely spooked investors. The overall uncertainty and negative effects of the trade disputes surely dampened the beneficial effects of the president’s few good fiscal policies and regulatory reforms.

Take, for instance, the corporate income tax reduction as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This reform should attract to the United States much foreign direct investment, or FDI. Yet, FDI flows into the United States were 10 percent lower in 2019 than during the two previous years. Simeon Djankov and Eva Zhang of the Peterson Institute for International Economics recently looked into the fall of FDI flows into the United States. “It is likely that the positive effect of the corporate tax cut in attracting FDI to the US,” they concluded, “was outweighed by trade disputes and threats of withdrawal, as well as actual withdrawals, from international treaties and organisations, which may have scared investors away.”

As for trade treaties, the Trump experiment is one that I hope we won’t repeat. First, he impulsively withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral trade agreement designed to oblige China to behave better on trade while opening up a large free-market zone with other Asian nations.

Trump renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement with overall negative net impacts, thanks to an anti-growth minimum wage and increased domestic content requirements. And he moved to extend high tariffs on Korean trucks as part of the one-sided reform of the George W. Bush-era U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, to the detriment of U.S. consumers.

Finally, the president inflicted serious damage to the World Trade Organization—the great arbitrator of all international trade disputes—on the specious claim that the organization wasn’t sufficiently deferential to the United States. Here’s how Lincicome sums it up: The administration chose “to shut down the organization’s appellate body (basically the supreme court of trade dispute settlement) instead of negotiating new and necessary reforms in good faith (e.g., by teaming up with like-minded countries while offering actual concessions on longtime irritants like U.S. agricultural subsidies and ‘trade remedy’ rules).””

Americans and Their Foreign Entanglements

“Like many historians, Kupchan repeats the standard claim that George Washington’s famous warning against “foreign entanglements” represented the views of the Founders and was followed by American leaders until the mid–20th century. In fact, the Founding Fathers were aggressive, unapologetic imperialists who fantasized about the creation of a global America.

Long before he entered politics, John Adams developed a theory of historical change that predicted America would become the next Rome. He wrote to a friend in 1755 that “the great seat of Empire” had been transferred from Rome to Britain and would likely move “into America.” The new country would “obtain the mastery of the seas, and the united force of all Europe will not be able to subdue us.”

Like Adams, Benjamin Franklin dreamed of an infinitely expansive America empire. In 1751, he provided a rationale, derived from John Locke’s theory that property belongs to those who mix their labor with nature, for conquering and occupying all the land held by indigenous people in North America. Industrious Anglo-Saxons, who Franklin expressly preferred as the inhabitants of the new republic, were to replace the Indians with a new empire: “Hence the Prince that acquires new Territory, if he finds it vacant, or removes the Natives to give his own People Room; the Legislator that makes effectual Laws for promoting of Trade, increasing Employment, improving Land by more or better Tillage; providing more Food by Fisheries; securing Property, &c. and the Man that invents new Trades, Arts or Manufactures, or new Improvements in Husbandry, may be properly called Fathers of their Nation.”

As president, George Washington, whose heroes included Caesar and Alexander the Great, allowed Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to push for a buildup of the Navy and the creation of a Marine Corps, as well as for continued expansion westward across North America. Jefferson called for sending troops and warships to attack pirate ships operating from the northern African Barbary states that had captured and plundered American commercial vessels. Jefferson’s rival, Alexander Hamilton, agreed that the United States was “the embryo of a great empire,” even predicting that the U.S. would one day hold overseas colonies.

Within days of Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, four U.S. warships set sail for Tripoli. Throughout his first term, American ships patrolled the Mediterranean, blockading the ports of several north African states and sinking or capturing Barbary pirate corsairs and Tripolitan ships. By the summer of 1804, virtually the entire U.S. Navy was deployed to the region—23 war vessels in all—including a squadron of gunships that remained anchored in the harbor of Tripoli, bombarding the city with impunity. The next year, Jefferson sent ashore a fighting force of Marines and mercenaries who besieged the pasha’s palace and replaced him with his brother, who had sworn to cooperate with the U.S.

In 1801, Jefferson told James Monroe of his vision for a totalizing and universal Americanism, calling it “impossible not to look forward to distant times, when our rapid multiplication will expand itself beyond those limits, & cover the whole Northern, if not the Southern continent with a people speaking the same language, governed in similar forms, & by similar laws.” The United States established an extensive network of formal representatives in the Mediterranean, with American consuls and Navy personnel stationed in more than a dozen cities. Jefferson also negotiated the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, which brought a swath of 828,000 square miles of land, with all the diverse peoples living on it, into the United States. In an instant, the country’s territory had doubled.

EU trade chief warns Biden over ‘Buy American’ push

“U.S. President Joe Biden has already started tightening U.S. rules that force federal authorities to buy from American suppliers. This could run foul of Washington’s commitments at the World Trade Organization (WTO), under which it wins access to other countries’ public procurement markets in exchange for keeping its own market open.

While signaling the EU was worried about Washington’s steps, Dombrovskis stopped just short of saying Biden was breaking WTO rules.

“As regards Buy American, this is something which will require some more in-depth assessment, what are the exact implications, what are the implications for EU companies, what does it mean for U.S. commitments in the WTO framework,” Dombrovskis said.”

Biden will reverse Trump’s decision to label Yemen’s Houthis as terrorists

“The Biden administration plans to remove Yemen’s Houthi rebels from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list as soon as Friday, reversing a last-minute move by the Trump administration and reinforcing President Joe Biden’s new approach to the conflict in Yemen.

In mid-January, just days before Biden would be sworn into office, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced President Trump’s intent to designate the Iran-backed Houthi movement in Yemen as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

The Houthis, formally known as Ansar Allah, are an armed rebel group of Zaydi Shia (a minority sect within Shia Islam) who have been fighting a civil war against Yemen’s Saudi-backed government since 2014. That civil war morphed into an international one in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and several of its allies in the Gulf decided to intervene militarily in the civil war, waging war against the Houthis. Meanwhile, Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional foe, has backed the Houthis.

Critics said the move was an attempt by Pompeo to both hurt Iran by punishing one of its proxies and box in the incoming Biden administration as he headed out the door, but Pompeo seems to truly believe the decision was the right one.”

“President Joe Biden said the US would seek an elusive diplomatic settlement to the conflict, which would require the Houthis to strike a deal with Saudi Arabia, regional players, and possibly the US.

The Biden administration then moved quickly to revoke the FTO label: It’d be bad politics for the US to negotiate with a terrorist group.

But there’s another reason to do so, too: It could help Yemen’s most vulnerable. The war has killed about 233,000 people, mostly from indirect causes such as lack of food, water, and health services, while another roughly 24 million Yemenis require assistance to stay alive and fend off diseases like cholera.

Trump’s labeling of the Houthi rebels as terrorists made providing that assistance harder. Simply put, for aid groups to deliver assistance, they would have to negotiate with Houthi members who control a lot of Yemen’s territory. But US law essentially says no aid organization can do deals with terrorists, even if it’s to provide life-saving support to those in need

There’s a workaround if the US provides waivers to certain aid teams, but the Trump administration rushed its decision before working on and implementing an effective plan.”

““This decision has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct, including attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens,” a State Department official told me on the condition of anonymity.

“Our action is due entirely to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the prior administration, which the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have since made clear would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the official said, adding that the US remains committed to protecting Saudi Arabia from further Houthi attacks.

Activist and humanitarian groups praised the administration’s decision.”

Morocco and Israel plan to normalize ties. Trump changed US policy to make it happen.

“President Donald Trump..announced a US-brokered deal between Morocco and Israel to normalize relations — the fourth such agreement between Israel and an Arab state since August.

To get the pact done, Trump overturned decades of US policy by recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, a large piece of sparsely populated territory in northwest Africa. Morocco claimed it in 1957, moved to annex all of it in 1979, and has been fighting for control of it against the territory’s Indigenous Sahrawi people ever since.

A 16-year insurgency ended in 1991 with a United Nations-brokered ceasefire, and the UN pledged to help organize an independence referendum in Western Sahara down the line. That referendum has still not happened, and the chance it ever will is even less likely now that the US has become the first Western nation to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the territory.”

“Israel gets another Arab nation to openly engage with it, slowly ending its regional isolation (though Morocco and Israel have engaged in secret talks for decades). And Morocco, after many years of asking for it, has its long-desired territorial claim recognized by the United States.”

“The administration also announced it will be sending economic aid to both Morocco and Western Sahara as part of the agreement, and flights will go back and forth from Morocco to Israel.”

“While the Morocco-Western Sahara conflict is an issue of its own, Thursday’s deal really should be viewed as part of the administration’s larger diplomatic effort to get Arab nations to establish formal, public ties with Israel.

Indeed, the announcement follows Trump administration-brokered deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates in August, Bahrain in September, and Sudan in October. Before those pacts, the last peace agreement Israel struck with an Arab country was with Jordan in 1994 (it had signed one with Egypt in 1979).

Even if Biden wanted to reverse those decisions — and for now there’s no evidence that he does — Trump’s announcements would make it harder for him to do so. Which means Trump will likely solidify his legacy as the president who broke the logjam on Israeli recognition, but it remains to be seen if it leads to any real, tangible gains in the Middle East.”

Putin and Biden confirm extension of New START treaty

“Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed Tuesday to extend the New START nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which is due to expire next month, according to Kremlin and White House summaries of a phone call between the leaders.

“They discussed both countries’ willingness to extend New START for five years, agreeing to have their teams work urgently to complete the extension by February 5,” the White House said.”

“Formally called the “New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” the agreement limits Washington and Moscow’s deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550 each. It was signed in 2010, entered force on February 5, 2011 and was set to expire on its 10th anniversary.

New START is the last remaining nonproliferation agreement between the former Cold War superpower rivals, after another key nuclear accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, expired in August 2019.”

President Biden’s international restoration project has begun

“Biden, in the first hours of his presidency, rejoined the Paris climate accord and recommitted to the World Health Organization, fulfilling promises he made during the campaign.

He is also taking the first steps toward achieving his larger foreign policy agenda of restoring American leadership abroad.

But these day one orders are the easy part. Now Biden begins the difficult task of rebuilding trust among allies, and trying to prove America can be a reliable partner.”