The State of Global Governance: A Conversation With Richard Haass and the Council of Councils
Richard N. Haass, Sunjoy Joshi, and Elizabeth Sidiropoulos discuss the mounting challenges to global governance and their implications for international cooperation, including rising climate concerns, economic volatility, and increasing great power tensions amid a global pandemic.
The Council of Councils (CoC) is an international initiative created by the Council on Foreign Relations to connect leading foreign policy institutes from around the world in a dialogue on issues of global governance and multilateral cooperation. The CoC is composed of twenty-eight major policy institutes from some of the world’s most influential countries. It is designed to facilitate candid, not-for-attribution dialogue and consensus-building among influential opinion leaders from both established and emerging nations, with the ultimate purpose of injecting the conclusions of its deliberations into high-level foreign policy circles within members' countries.
DOZIER: Well, welcome to today's Council on Foreign Relations meeting, "The State of Global Governance: A Conversation with Richard Haass and the Council of Councils.” I'm Kimberly Dozier, global affairs analyst for CNN and a contributor at Time magazine, and I'll be presiding over today's discussion. Joining us are Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The World: A Brief Introduction; also Sunjoy Joshi, chairman of India's Observer Research Foundation, joining us from Delhi; and Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, chief executive of the South African Institute of International Affairs. So I'd like to start off with an elevator pitch. What would you say if you had thirty seconds—a minute—with the Biden-Harris administration? What do they need to do in terms of foreign policy? Richard, can we start with you?
HAASS: Sure, it's easy for me to do because I just published a piece in Foreign Affairs this morning arguing just that. I emphasize, one, get COVID under control at home. That's a prerequisite for all else. Two, begin the process of repairing alliances and partnerships, essentially the consultative process. Three, rejoin some of the multilateral arrangements. We left without putting anything better in their place. Four, focus on your high-level appointments, and get an interagency process up and running so then you can do your more fundamental policy reviews.
DOZIER: So some of those things might take a little bit of time. Some of those things are going to be hampered by the fact that the incumbent president has not yet acknowledged their win.
HAASS: True, I mean, transition planning is complicated if essentially people won't hand over the keys, will not be cooperative. It's interesting, coming in the Trump administration didn't really accept many of any of the briefings that were being offered by the outgoing Obama administration. Now, if you will, they're behaving extraordinarily, I think, badly from the other end. There you have it, yes, this will slow it down. But I think the fact, for example, this COVID taskforce is being formed. They're not waiting. A lot of the people will be extraordinarily experienced. And I also think it'll be interesting to see whether there is some cooperation between careerists, maybe the intelligence community, people in the military, people in the Foreign Service. So even if certain political appointees will not participate in a transition, I would be surprised if there weren't at least some elements of a transition. But again, with or without the cooperation, my point, Kimberly, is simply it's a tough inbox, given COVID, the racial divisions, the political divisions, the economic problems here at home, and all the global great power and regional issues we can talk about in the world. It's one hell of an inbox.
DOZIER: Sunjoy, how about you from the perspective of India, South Asia? What do they need to do?
JOSHI: I think it is a new moment to reintegrate, to reform and to revitalize institutions, bring multilateralism back on track, and bring an end to the kind of unilateralism which you’ve repeatedly seen under President Trump. But the point is that you cannot be unilateral in response to Chinese unilateralism. There has to be an alternative. There has to be the underpinnings of a strong rules-based, values-based, based on democratic values—the kind of multilateral system which places these core values back on the global agenda and bring globalization back on track.
DOZIER: Is there one thing that they could do right away, that they could send a signal that they're embracing multilateralism?
JOSHI: There is not one thing, there are several things they can do. I think one of the first things they can do is, yes, many of the core concerns of the previous administration continue, primarily the dispute with China, but that is not no longer a trade dispute. It is more of values-based dispute, which is more on the kind of order that the Chinese system has been trying to propagate. Get the fundamentals of democracy and freedom back on track and create a reliance of democracies and the reliance of the free world which also goes hand in hand with trade. So that is the fundamental difference which needs to be made. Stop talking about deals. Stop talking about just this very, very transactional bilateral arrangement which has become the order of the day.
DOZIER: Thank you. And Elizabeth from the perspective of South Africa, the African continent, the Trump administration had seemed to turn inward. It shrunk the U.S. military presence. It shrunk some aid to the region. What do you want to see?
SIDIROPOULOS: Well, the most fundamental thing that has to happen right away is restoring the country's reputational capital, the U.S.'s reputational capital. Both the points that Sunjoy and Richard have made reflect that. That does mean at a multilateral level, reconnecting with multilateralism and specifically, I think, the WHO in the short term and the Paris climate accord. There is also a matter on the table at the moment in the WTO, both in terms of, particularly, on the director general. I'm not quite sure how that will play out in this transition period. But if it goes into the new year, I think that must be something on the U.S. agenda. And then very fundamentally, I think, also symbolically sending out strong messages, both to its allies, its close allies, as well as to others, such as key countries, say, on the African continent, in Asia, and in Latin America about its reengagements. Send out strong, I think, messages that this is now going to be a very different, it's going to be a very much more rational engagement that picks up on some of the issues in the past. It doesn't mean that, I think, before the Trump administration, everything was hunky dory, but it was a far more predictable and a far more engaged U.S. And the U.S. still has a lot of capital, for example, in Africa, both not just as a state, but also in terms of its non-state actors, discussions in many African countries and certainly in my country, reflect on the important role that the U.S. has played in South Africa during apartheid. And so these are things that I think a Biden administration really can build on and can take forward fairly quickly.
DOZIER: Now, as they tried to change the channel on the Trump administration to their policy, which they've already signaled is going to be more multilateral, we have the reality that while seventy-four million Americans voted Biden-Harris, some seventy million Americans voted for keeping Trump in office. So what signal is that going to send to U.S. allies? Are they going to start seeing the U.S. as a sort of a flip flop nation? I mean, when will they trust that whatever policy comes with President Biden is going to stick?
HAASS: Who do you want to answer that?
DOZIER: Who wants to tackle that?
HAASS: Well, since I'm an American, let me start and then we can get sort of two overseas views. I think it's important to say that I don't think of those 145 million plus Americans who voted, I don't think more than about twenty-eight voted on the basis of American foreign policy. And so I think it'd be really a stretch to read into it, things about foreign policy. I really don't believe that—it barely figured in the debates, it barely figured in the town hall, so I wouldn't read a lot into that. Now, I think there's this concern because Mr. Trump broke a lot of china, no pun intended, in his foreign policy. And I think in the back of a lot of people's minds, if it happened once, it could conceivably happen again—I'd be interested to see what Sunjoy and Elizabeth. So I think part of the challenge then for the Biden administration will be to not just do some things that are well received in the world, you've already heard several, you know, consult, whether vis-a-vis China, reenter the WHO, reenter Paris, consult on any number of other regional and global challenges, restore with what, I think, Elizabeth called our reputational capital, dealing with COVID. I think it'd have a real impact there. Participating also in the global vaccine effort would help on multiple fronts. I think doing some things with Republicans. I think, and we'll see what happens in Georgia in the first week of January, but I can think on things like China, on Russia—I could see an awful lot of bipartisan possibility. And I think also what I would hope is that going forward, particularly if there is some bipartisan possibility, I think it would be really, really welcomed if some of the initiatives of this administration were done not through executive order, but through executive agreement working with Congress or even treaty. But essentially the more we could lock some things in, that I think that would send a reassuring message to the world that whoever's the president, come '25 or, you know, the term after that or the term after that, that we can restore some of the predictability of American foreign policy, which in some ways was our characteristic from Truman through Obama.
DOZIER: And that's what I guess I was trying to get to the idea of, you know, when the U.S. asks other countries to join in some multilateral agreement that requires sacrifice on their part and sacrifice in the eyes of allies' populations, how do we help them trust that we're still going to be there if it's going to be, you know, a quote-unquote, "globalist multilateralist Biden-Harris administration," and then GOP next? And so I see what you're saying, if you get congressional and bipartisan buy in, then some of these things would have lasting power? So Elizabeth or Sunjoy, would that do it?
JOSHI: Kim, may I come in?
DOZIER: Go for it.
JOSHI: I think, Kim, that's a great question that you raise and it is one of the core questions which the U.S. will need to address, not just the U.S. but the world will need to address. It's very common to speak about Trumpism and the legacy that Trump leaves behind, and to kind of talk about it in the sense of saying that the forces that Trump unleashed. See, but what is very easy to sideline in this discussion is the far more meaningful debate we need to have. This debate is about the forces that unleashed a Trump upon the U.S. and which very much remain a part of the milieu that will, if left unchecked and uncorrected, probably release something far more menacing than Trump in the future. And these are questions which not just the U.S. needs to contend with, these are hard questions which many other countries in the world also need to contend with. There is a mood against globalization. There has been distrust in institutions of global governance, and the U.S. election outcome does not change that reality. And that reality very much remains. Institutions of global governance are perceived to be manned by international bureaucrats disconnected from the streets. And today, you know, thanks to social media, the street is far more strident, far more visible, far more vocal. And yes, democracies will have to confront these realities. It's not just a question of the U.S., it is a question of many other countries. And the key elements of globalization, whether it's climate, whether it's security, economy, trade, financial flows, they're all, you know, increasingly so integrated, so increasingly digital. That is why, you know, this whole notion of saying that there's a Cold War going on—Cold War is a very unfortunate phrase, it belongs to a very different world, a very different era. The world today is far more integrated, and like it or hate it, states today have far less power. They've ceded far greater power to other entities. So you need to start rethinking multilateralism in a new direction, there's a challenge. There's a challenge which the U.S. faces, there's a challenge which the world faces. We need to get together to tackle this.
DOZIER: So to try to capture what you're saying, you're saying that globalism and multilateralism have left several parts of the world behind—that has fed populism and nativism and it was a sort of a "circle your wagons" state of mind? And climate change and COVID are both decreasing people's assets and resources that should only exacerbate those trends?
DOZIER: Elizabeth, from your perspective, since you look a lot at issues of sustainability and climate change, how is this going to hit?
SIDIROPOULOS: Well, I think just to make a couple of points picking up where Sunjoy left off. I think we also, in sort of looking at the U.S. and expecting the U.S. to reengage on a whole host of platforms, including on development and sustainability in a much more systematic fashion, also have to recognize that the landscape has changed not in the last four years, but in the last, I think, it's been accelerated since the global financial crisis. And the issues of inequality in developed economies, of rising unemployment, of losers, many losers of globalization actually have to be factored in to the way in which we engage and the way in which we expect things from both the U.S. and from other developed economies.
So, for example, in the context of Africa, and one of the things that will be on the agenda going forward, is the future of AGOA [African Growth and Opportunity Act]. AGOA is a unilateral set of concessions by the U.S. Congress to African countries. That there have been issues around that, and in the South African context around chicken, no less, but the issue we have to ask as Africans is if we want to take that relationship around trade and economic development, because that's at its core, further with the U.S., we're also going to have to be giving something. That we also have to make the case to the U.S. that there is mutual benefit, to use the Chinese term. Because that then plays into some of those underlying tensions and fissures that we see in industrialized societies and indeed in the developing world, and we cannot ignore them and we cannot ignore them and believe that leaders in those countries are going to respond in a way that is altruistic or whatever.
And lastly, I think also, it's incumbent on all leaders to actually also think about the importance of global governance and how we deal with transnational challenges and actually begin to think about what is the compelling narrative to make to our own people about the importance of international cooperation, whether that is the big UN system or it is a much more sort of niche areas of cooperation on particular transnational challenges.
DOZIER: So I'd like to shift—the Trump administration stated its key national security challenges were China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and countering violent extremism. Climate change was nowhere in that list. How do you think this is going to change under the Biden-Harris administration? How should it change? Richard, I guess we'll keep the order—can we start with you?
HAASS: Well, I think all of those will be on the agenda. The difference obviously global health and climate change will also be high on the Biden agenda. But look, dealing with China, dealing with Russia—priorities. I think the difference will be in both cases this administration is likely to deal with both of them much more with allies as opposed to unilaterally. I also think in both areas there's probably considerable consensus between what is likely to be in a Biden administration, many of the Republicans in Congress, are no love lost for Putin's Russia among Republicans in the Congress, I think, to be a support for continuing to look for ways to help Ukraine, penalizing Mr. Putin over his tendency to try to kill his political opponents, look for ways to strengthen NATO. Similarly, I think there'll be a lot of support for strengthening the American connection with Taiwan, to push back against China, be more critical of China on human rights, obviously be restrictive on technology towards China. So I think in many of these areas, I think these issues will be prominent for good reason. I think a little bit more complicated in North Korea—where do we go since the personal diplomacy accomplished essentially nothing? And what is one put in its place? Does one return to some kind of more traditional arms control approach with North Korea? Not that that worked great in the past, what do you do there? It might mean bringing in China as a participant more. How might that work?
And then I think with Iran, that might be the most controversial area of all because then the question is do you reenter the 2015 JCPOA? If so, on what terms? Do you insist on a new agreement? If so, when? What would be the duration of a new agreement? So if I had a bet out of the four things you mentioned, those four discrete challenges, my guess is the one where there's probably going to be the most heat is going to be what to do about Iran. That's in some ways extraordinarily pressing given that every day that goes by they're beginning to gradually get out of the old strictures. And one of the first decisions this administration is going to have to make is that one of the multilateral arrangements it's prepared to reenter or will it insist first on there being modified terms? I think that'll be an interesting place to watch,
DOZIER: Especially since Iranian officials have said they have no interest in renegotiating the JCPOA.
HAASS: Basically, thirty seconds and I’ll give it to Sunjoy, I want to say one thing in response to what he said, which is that we're talking about continuity. One of the real areas of continuity, I would argue, even without formal agreements to some extent, is U.S.–India ties. This has been a relationship that has essentially evolved in a fairly positive direction now for over twenty years, Democratic and Republican administrations alike. And for all of the departures even under the previous administration, U.S.–Indian ties have actually been on some ways as protected from the vagaries of American politics and political transitions as any other relationship we have.
DOZIER: So my question for Sunjoy would then be, do U.S.–India ties become a potential starting point for a new alliance of Pacific nations together with South Asian nations against China such that China sort of gets back in its box and becomes someone who can be useful again in terms of things like controlling North Korea?
JOSHI: To underline what Richard said just now, and that is where I very completely agree with him, there is definitely a longer trajectory to India–U.S. ties. These has outlived many administrations. So that piece of continuity, I think, is an easy way to guess and presage and say these are going to continue. But more fundamentally, yes, these are going to go from strength to strength. There are problems, India has been having problems across its border. And not just India. There are lots of other countries in the region in Southeast Asia who have this problem with Chinese unilateralism. And a U.S. which talks of the larger underpinnings of a values-based system, of a rules-based system, is definitely more of greater value, adds greater weight to multilateral bargaining, which is the way forward and which is also the way forward to incidentally bring China back into the global fold. It is important—we have nothing against China. The Chinese people are a great people. We need them back in the world, but we need them back in the world as members who play by the rules of the game. And those rules need to be defined. China has to take up the rules, whether it is on trade, whether it is on IPR [intellectual property rights], whether it is on border disputes, whether it is UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] and the laws of the sea, there are a hundred issues which keep on cropping up. So what is important here is that, you see, once you take away the core underpinnings of this whole system of why you are with a country or against a country, the U.S.–China rivalry becomes as it had become in the previous administration, just like a Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant match on WrestleMania. It's a contest for eyeballs, mostly a country will cease to think of taking sides in such a contest. But when it comes down to a values-based system, which defines to where a country stands in favor of authoritarianism, in favor of other kinds of values of open systems, democracies, people's rights, then yes, it becomes a core contest. And there we are all with the Chinese people. We are all with China. We want China to be part of the global system, to be an open society.
DOZIER: But the question is does China want to be part of the global system? How do you convince it that it can't go it alone?
JOSHI: I think China over time, if the concert of nations, the concert of democracies comes together, will realize and is going to realize that there is no point in resisting. That, yes, its interests, its economic interests lie in becoming one with the rest of the world. The point is countries have been cutting deals with China on the side. Now commerce has been treated as something entirely separate from the larger other values-based system. And that is how you solve this entire global value chains and come up and take position. People ignored certain aspects. Now, if those things are not going to be ignored, it is not in China's interest to resist.
DOZIER: Thank you. I'd like members to start thinking about questions as I pivot to Elizabeth and say, of those national security risks articulated by the last administration, would you add climate change? Would you put it near the top?
SIDIROPOULOS: Certainly, I would put it near the top. And in the African context, climate change also acts as a driver to exacerbate many of the underlying tensions and grievances and issues in parts of the continent, which have also received the attention of certainly the defense establishment in the U.S. This is becoming a bigger problem. And so, specifically, if we just touch on counterterrorism, apart from the developments in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, which have been there for some time and which really also are very close to, I think, potentially very important partners of the U.S. if you're thinking of Nigeria, if you're thinking of Kenya, Ethiopia, and lastly thinking of South Africa. Because what has happened over the last couple of years is that, apart from the violent extremism that has characterized the northern part of the continent, we're seeing it also filtering down the east coast of Africa, specifically Mozambique. So these are very real security concerns that African states are beginning to grapple with, and which I think the U.S. is probably going to be increasingly concerned about if this is spreading south. But more immediately, of course, there is the issue of climate change for many developing countries. The issue here is adaptation. There isn't the potential of mitigation. It's really about adaptation and how countries like the U.S. and others can help in dealing with that. And then fundamentally, the global health pandemic, where I think the U.S. must take some credit in terms of its previous support for African institutions, and here specifically speaking about the Center for Disease Control, which has played a really very important coordinating role on the continent in terms of helping to limit the extent of the of the pandemic at the present time.
DOZIER: Of course one of the hardest parts about fighting the pandemic in the United States is it's so politicized that many people won't be wearing masks and many people have said they won't take a vaccine. So that's gotta dent the U.S. reputation?
SIDIROPOULOS: Yes, absolutely. I don't think that the U.S. has won any brownie points in the last year for the way in which it’s have handled the COVID crisis. And in fact, I think many developing countries have done infinitely better. And the critique has been, you know, this is a country with significant resources that shouldn't have been in that situation. But I think there is a lot of, sort of foundational reputation that the U.S. can recover if it moves quickly over the next few months.
DOZIER: Thank you. Well, at this time, I would like to invite members to join our conversation with their questions and a reminder that this meeting is on the record.
STAFF: [Gives queuing instructions.] We'll take the first question from Razi Hashmi.
Q: Hi there, thank you so much for this presentation and update. My name is Razi Hashmi. I am a CFR term member. And I apologize, I have some kids in the background. So my question is for Sunjoy. So given Modi and Trump's relationship, where do you see a Biden relationship with India given the outstanding issues of religious freedom for minorities, Kashmir, and the shrinking of civil society? And then a second question is given the historic nature of Vice President-elect Harris's background of being half Indian, what does it mean to you and other Indians? Thank you so much.
JOSHI: Thank you, Razi Hashmi, for that question. I think there is, as far as the question of human rights is concerned, as far as the question of freedoms is concerned, India is a democracy. And these debates are very much alive and kicking in this country more than the United States of America. So it is not very easy for anyone to trample over them. India has very strong institutions, and India's institutions, whether it is judiciary, whether it's a larger system, does stand up. There are voices in India which will stand up. I would not have the same fears and sometimes a lot of issues get blown out of proportion, tend to get sometimes misreported or exaggerated in the media. Things are not as bad as they're made out to be in certain sections. India remains vibrant, India remains a vibrant democracy. There are voices which will speak up whenever these actions are taken. So I don't think the world has anything to be afraid of or scared of India for that reason. And for that particular reason, you see, this is a relationship between two countries. It's a relationship between two people. It is not just a relationship between two administrations. And that is precisely what has carried this relationship across several administrations, several governments, both in India and in the United States of America. So there's a longer trajectory, there's a larger history to it, and that history does not change with, you know, India tomorrow may choose somebody else, the U.S. may choose somebody else. But the fundamental point is that the India–U.S. relationship is going to remain on very, very strong tack.
And as far as a camaraderie is concerned, yes, there has always been a kind of relationship between the Indian diaspora, people of Indian origin. They have a special place in India's heart. They feel happy. That's also a measure of how close the people-to-people connection is. We many times feel the American election is so much a part of the Indian mindset that everyone is talking about what is going to happen to the U.S. You should be seeing the Twitter feed in India, the kind of comments which come out of on every instance in the U.S. What happens in the U.S. is of keen interest in India, we follow it, and the U.S., at the people-to-people level, at the government-to-government level, remains a strong ally and we will always be closely bound together.
DOZIER: Sunjoy, just to ask a quick follow-up, the Biden administration is going to want a peace deal of some sort in Afghanistan. To get that they're going to need Pakistan's cooperation with their relationship with the Taliban. Pakistan wants a change in Jammu and Kashmir. What kind of pressure do you think is going to get put on the Modi administration to decrease the lockdown there? Increase rights? There was just a violent clash there again today.
JOSHI: Within the government itself, there has been a steady easing of pressure on Kashmir and I think the government realizes and it is the will of the people of India, also the people of Kashmir also, that Kashmir is very much a part of India. Kashmir should have access to the same freedoms, the same kind of architecture, open architecture, that the rest of India has. And there's a determination that we should get there. Now, how to do it when there is a neighbor who is constantly creating issues, creating problems there. It is an area where, yes, there are other interests which get involved. So both in Kashmir and in Afghanistan, yes, there will be times where there could be differences between the Biden administration and under Modi administration. It happened even with the Trump administration. It has happened in, you know, with earlier administrations as well. That does not mean that the core interests between the U.S. and India get compromised. There are interests which India has in Afghanistan, there are interests which India has vis-a-vis Pakistan in Kashmir. And because of those, yes, there are going to be certain disputes and contests. There are going to be differences, and I think both the countries will have to live with them.
DOZIER: Thank you. Can we take the next question?
STAFF: We'll take the next question from Maryum Saifee.
Q: Thank you, Maryum Saifee—Foreign Service officer with the State Department. My question is on restoring reputational capital, which was brought up. You know, we've had the highest voter turnout in over a hundred years amidst a pandemic. So a lot to celebrate. But we're also continuing to see ongoing protests on racial injustice as part of this broader reckoning. So what are tangible ways the Biden administration can harmonize our domestic record on human rights with global rhetoric and ultimately restore credibility as both a liberal and an inclusive democracy? Thank you. And this is to Richard.
HAASS: I drew the short straw. Look, I think there'll be all sorts of things. One will be, I think, people will be very interested in the composition of the senior level of this administration, the cabinet. Questions of diversity will enter into there. I think there'll be all sorts of policy things—dealing with race, dealing with police reform. So I think there'll be all sorts of specific questions. Also, help to cities. One of the real crises this administration is going to inherit is the fiscal condition of many of our cities and states where you have large numbers of minorities and so forth. The question is what are they going to do with that? So I think there's going to be all sorts of signs, both in terms of people, in terms of policy where the administration will essentially be judged. I was watching on one of the TV shows that—I was on Morning Joe—and Al Sharpton was on and was basically saying, look, obviously, African Americans have very strong interests in the policy of this administration, in the composition of it. And they're going to be advocating for what they want to see. So I think, domestically, we'll see things and I think it's a big issue also about whether we can move beyond settling these issues with violence in the public place, and we can begin to resolve them as they were meant to be resolved politically and economically and socially.
And I think the image we present to the world and going back to, I love Elizabeth's phrase—reputational capital. I think we drew down a lot in recent years, but there's no reason that we can't start banking it again. So I think people will basically around the world, you'll have billions of people essentially closely watching what happens. And I would just say, whenever the United States in the past has successfully worked through its domestic challenges, I think that raises our standards and our goal is never to be that you can't be rather a perfect society. What you can be is an imperfect society that works through those challenges. And whenever we do that, I think we show we have the capacity and the willingness to adjust. And I think self-correction is one of the great structural advantages of democracies. And what we have to do is essentially make that possibility. We've got to make it real.
DOZIER: So Richard, you're saying that this issue of populism that Europe's grappling with, that the U.S. is grappling with, if we can show as a nation that we've learned from it and find a way to make that seventy million people who didn't vote for Biden-Harris feel included, or at least part of them, it's an example for the whole world?
HAASS: Sure. And I think it's also a particularly relevant example, because if one looks at some of the movements, say, in Europe, I think there's some overlaps between the seventy million in the United States who voted for Donald Trump and some of the millions in Europe who are voting for more conservative populist parties and movements there. And I think all of us have the immediate challenges of getting out of the COVID-induced economic crisis we're in. But there's all sorts of other things, Kimberly, the disappearance of traditional work and the new technologies. Can we meet the training challenge and educational challenge in the society? Can we improve the quality of public education? Can we build infrastructure in this country? Can we make sure affordable health care is available to all? I think, essentially, we will either do a lot of these things in this society or this will be simply seen as a respite and we will have new waves of populism. And I think the same thing is true of Europe. I think the pressure is on both European countries as well as the EU to deliver or we will see populist parties on the left, and particularly from the right, gain further traction. And so I don't think we have an unlimited amount of time to begin to make progress,
DOZIER: Like you said, a huge inbox. And the question remains as to whether the Republicans will want to work with the incoming administration to make some of these huge changes possible and hand them that kind of success. Let's take another question.
STAFF: We'll take the next question from Constance Freeman.
Q: Yes, my question is for Elizabeth. If you reflect about the possibilities in the next year ahead with a Biden administration, what actions could they take within the first year that would do the most to change the relationship with Africa that has been established in the last term under Trump?
SIDIROPOULOS: I think in many ways, you know, there was the sort of the functionary engagement in various countries between the U.S. and sort of South Africa, Kenya, etcetera, continued, I think, notwithstanding the way in which Africa wasn't really a priority for the Trump administration. I think that's good because one then builds on that and can take it forward. I think there are a couple of things and some of them and a lot of it is about the politics of it. And so the sort of the very brief point I made right at the beginning, to begin virtually from the word go, actually reach out to Africa, to key African leaders to highlight that this is now a new administration. And this is an administration that recognizes both the opportunities, the huge opportunities, that Africa can offer. It's got a demographic dividend, a number of countries that hopefully, if the recovery from COVID happens, will create opportunities also for some of the reshoring or diversifying of value chains of key essential products. Africa can provide that. The fact that, in effect, African countries do face a number of security challenges and in that regard, the U.S. will be an honest partner in those and actually help. Although this has continued, but much more engaged with a plan, a U.S. with a plan on how you engage and deal with North Africa. How you engage with the African Union on many of these issues around peace and security that continue to be problematic. And then lastly, of course, a better sense of where we are going from a trade perspective around AGOA. And it's expiring 2025 and whether we are going to begin this process of discussion. And lastly, of course, and I think Richard has already mentioned the issue of vaccines, and I think there is already some collaboration among non-state actors in this regard, but I think a critical role that the U.S. can play in terms of ensuring some of the points that African leaders have made around access, affordability, and not being at the end of the queue when the vaccine actually does emerge.
DOZIER: Just a quick follow, does Africa writ large have the capital and the trained workforce to do the kind of reshoring you're talking about? And won't that run into the issue of Chinese investment across the continent, which is going to be in many ways fighting against that?
SIDIROPOULOS: So that's the big question. And certainly one shouldn't be talking about Africa as if it's a monolithic entity, I think we have to recognize that there are a number of countries that have such a possibility. There is a movement, both at the continental level but also at the regional level, a recognition, and particularly brought home by COVID-19, that in fact, you know, we've been talking a lot about building up manufacturing, industrialization capacity, building regional value chains, now actually is the opportunity to do just that because of what we have seen as a result of COVID. I think you have a degree of political will from a number of key states to drive that process. Of course, they're all fiscally constrained and that is a problem. But, you know, if you're looking at regional hubs, like, you know, whether it's South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and certainly North Africa, there is that potential, and there needs to be a plan that goes with it. And I think that's probably the biggest challenge for African leaders in terms of how they then engage with the Biden administration on many of these economic and developmental issues because they're all fundamentally developmental.
DOZIER: Got it. Well the Biden-Harris administration will be faced with all the rebuilding that needs to be done here in the United States versus the need in Africa and around the world. Can we take the next question?
STAFF: We'll take the next question from Joan Spero.
Q: Thank you all for the very interesting discussion. Mr. Trump is not going to go away. And I want to go back to something that Richard said about populism and the appeal of populism around the globe. To what extent can Mr. Trump be a deal breaker, can he continue to be a disrupter? And if there is a Republican Congress, how difficult will it be for Mr. Biden to execute some of his foreign policies? I'm thinking particularly in trade, where the Democratic Party itself is quite divided. Thank you.
HAASS: Why don't I start? Look, Joan, given your background, you know the answer to your own question on trade. It's going to be tough. You know, Mr. Trump, for all the criticisms people have made deserves credit, I would argue, for getting the USMCA with bipartisan support through Congress. It's not clear to me where the next set of trade agreements come from, and what they would have to include in order to get bipartisan support. For example, would the United States be prepared to enter what was the Trans-Pacific Partnership? And so on what terms—labor, climate related, you name it? I think there's powerful arguments in principle to do so but whether you could get bipartisan support around that. I think the trade agenda, because a lot of that does require formal congressional support, that one does depend. I'll just say, most or at least a lot of foreign policy does not. A lot of foreign policy gives tremendous latitude to the executive branch, particularly when it comes to diplomacy and so forth. So I think there Mr. Biden will have tremendous latitude in some ways regardless of what happens on the Hill.
In terms of Mr. Trump's continuing influence, I think you'll have a lot. He got seventy million votes. He, you know, depending on what he does, I doubt he will go quietly into the night. I expect that through social media and maybe more traditional forms of media, he will be a voice. The number of people who vote in Republican primaries or Democratic primaries for that matter is quite small. So it tends to favor those who are politically motivated or active. So my guess is he will continue to have a lot of influence. And as you move towards '24, it's not inconceivable is that his blessing, if he himself doesn't run, his blessing could be very important for anyone who wants to be the candidate, the Republican candidate in '24. So I'm sort of working under the assumption that he will continue to be a significant factor in Republican politics for the foreseeable future.
DOZIER: Sunjoy, did you have anything to add?
JOSHI: Well, I think Richard has said it all. I agree with Richard, that yes, as far as Trump is concerned, he is going to possibly use this to play to his core constituency to play to his gallery and probably prepare for 2024 for himself or somebody else like him. Because yes, there is a lot, as I said, it is not what the forces which Trump unleashed, it's more important what are the forces which unleash Trump. Those still remain. And until those core questions are addressed, you are in for a long haul.
DOZIER: Thank you. Elizabeth, did you have anything to add or should I go to the next question? Okay, next question.
STAFF: We'll take the next question from Daniel Martin.
Q: Yes, Dan Martin from Accion International. This question is basically for [Richard] Haass, or whoever else who would like to chip in. The Chinese government and the Chinese people seem to be convinced and take it as an article of faith that the goal of the United States is to "keep China down," quote-unquote. In my view, there is a certain amount of truth to that, but I would love your thoughts as to whether or not it is true, what can we do to disabuse them of that notion?
HAASS: I'll start and I'd be curious what Sunjoy and Elizabeth have to say. I don't think it's the goal of the United States. For a long time, if anything, we did our best to integrate China and give it access to the global economy. I also don't think that even if it were a goal, it's something we could realize. It's really up to China. China's going to decide pretty much its future. China's got enormous strengths, and it's also got enormous challenges, including demographic challenges, concentrated political power. It's got environmental challenges, public health challenges, national challenges. So I think China's got its hands full in addition to all of its manifest strengths. But as a rule of foreign policy, I don't think the principal purpose of American foreign policy should be to affect the domestic trajectories of other countries for the most part. Yes, we can affect their policy on human rights or we can try to strengthen civil society, but essentially, they should determine their own futures. I thought, for example, the current administration erred when it started focusing on the Chinese Communist Party, almost making regime change a goal of American foreign policy. It will be up to the Chinese people to decide ultimately and their leadership what their political constellation looks like. And, I think, we on the previous administration I thought we made a mistake when we lobbied countries against joining a China-led infrastructure bank in Asia. My view is we should not be against China's rise per se or its activity. It all depends upon the quality and nature of what it does. So when China does things that give us heartburn, we should push back. We should compete. When China does things that are legitimate and they're playing by the rules, their economy grows, and they're not doing it because of intellectual property theft, but they're doing it because of their own talents, then that's simply a fact of life. So in my view, the principal purpose of foreign policy should be to influence the foreign policy of others and I think that applies to China. So our involvement with it should be conditional depending upon how they use their growing power. That should influence how it is we react to them and relate to them.
DOZIER: Sunjoy, your thoughts?
JOSHI: Certain parts of this transition were very much in the making, but we are seeing before us. You know the relationship between the U.S. and China turning around, coming first being very close, the two countries trying to integrate China into the global system, and then this drawing apart. There has been a logical corollary to all of this. But looking forward, I don't think events are going to pan out as simply as that—as one country trying to suppress another. China is big. China is a large economy today. The pandemic has also insured that China today remains the only country which has a positive economic growth rate. And should things continue the way they are, yes, China is going to find economic partners, China is going to find economic allies. So you know, putting down a country is not easy, whether it's the United States, whether it's for anybody else. It does not happen so simply. So I would look at it as a larger question of what kind of community of nations do we ultimately build between us? Or what kind of China participates in this committee of nations as one who plays by the rules of the game, as one who does not play by the rules of the game? Who continues to, you know, have its own rules on IPR on who to let in? What it does to capital flows? How it controls capital flows? What it does to data flows? How it uses data? Now they these are serious questions which the world needs to consider with respect to China. China, for its own good, also needs to look at these questions. So I think this debate is much larger, and we need to help with China. China is not isolated from the debate. It should be a part of the debate and we should bring it into the fold.
Q: So how can we convince them that we're not trying to keep them down?
JOSHI: I think we should talk to them. I think this whole concept of Cold War is not a very good idea. There has to be constant pressure, yes, on certain things. If they're going to feel isolated on certain issues of trade, there are reasons why they should feel isolated. And the way for that is for them to change their rules, change their behavior, change their laws, and yes, allow an open playing field for all companies to operate in. They cannot live in a world where they have a positive balance of trade with every other country. And you cannot have this kind of system forever, so somewhere, something has to give.
DOZIER: Thank you. And Elizabeth, you have the last minute to give your answer.
SIDIROPOULOS: Yes, clearly, I think if we look at the last four years of the Trump administration, certainly where from where I'm sitting, it does come across as if, you know, the U.S. wants to keep China down. But I would agree with the comments made by my colleagues just now. The big challenge here around getting China to play by the rules is that other countries are not playing by the rules that exist, and where we need to create new rules, it's extremely difficult in the current geopolitical context. So we don't necessarily all have the same values and departure points and assumptions about politics and economics. And we see that playing out, for example, in the WTO, in discussions around digital regulation and privacy, and so on and so forth. And that's the biggest challenge. Now there to just reiterate the point that that Sunjoy made, you know, China has to be part of that discussion. It has to be at the table. And we certainly don't want to create parallel universes. But here it's incumbent upon the other major players, because here a country like South Africa or other African countries are really minor players in this discussion, is to create that sense that this is about a consultation, it is about creating inclusive rules. But then we also have to realize that some of the rules that already exist are in need of reform. And in this current rather polarized global environment, how do we move forward to reform some of these rules which I think, you know, do create problems for many others who wouldn't necessarily at the heart of constricting them in which they find us as prejudicing them in certain areas.
DOZIER: Ending on one of the tough questions waiting in the Biden-Harris inbox, it sounds like what you're all saying is, it's time to remind China, people within this country—let's stress what unites us, as opposed to stressing what divides us. On that note, I want to thank everyone for joining today's virtual meeting. And thank you to Richard Haass, Sunjoy Joshi and Elizabeth Sidiropoulos. Please note that the video and transcript of today's meeting will be posted later on CFR's website. Thank you.