The Mexican Council on Foreign Relations (COMEXI) presents the webinar “Conversation with Jane Harman”. This webinar took place on January 27th, 2021 and belongs to the series "Quarantine webinars". This webinar features Jane Harman (Director, President and CEO of the Wilson Center), Duncan Wood (Vice President for Strategy & New Initiatives and Senior Advisor to the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute) and Andrew Rudman (Director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute). The webinar was moderated by Sergio M. Alcocer (President of COMEXI).
El Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (COMEXI) presenta el webinar “Conversation with Jane Harman”. Este webinar tuvo lugar el 27 de enero de 2021 y pertenece a la serie "Quarantine Webinars". En este webinar particparon Jane Harman (Directora, Presidenta y CEO del Wilson Center), Duncan Wood (Vicepresidente de Estrategia y Nuevas Iniciativas y Senior Advisor del Mexico Institute del Wilson Center) y Andrew Rudman (director del Mexico Institute del Wilson Center). El webinar fue moderado por Sergio M. Alcocer (Presidente de COMEXI).
Starting the webinar “Conversation with Jane Harman”, Dr. Sergio Alcocer, President of COMEXI, introduces Jane Harman as Director, President, and CEO of the Wilson Center, and gives a brief introduction of the Woodrow Wilson Center. To start the conversation, Jane Harman begins by talking about her personal ties to Mexico. Among those ties is the mexican influence in her home state of California. She mentions that after leaving her position in Congress as a California Representative, she was delighted to learn that the Wilson Center has the number one Mexico Institute. Furthermore, she recognizes the former directors of this particular Institute and the ties between the Wilson Center and COMEXI.
Ms. Harman comments on the recent events regarding the US elections, believing that their moral authority around the world has been damaged and is in need of doing repair work. As a second comment, she brings attention to the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic with a special emphasis in the positions of Mexico and the United States. As a final comment to her first intervention, she points out the migration issues and remembers the necessity of an immigration reform in her country.
Dr. Alcocer asks about incoming challenges on the foreign policy front for the new Biden administration. Ms. Harman states that Covid-19 will continue to be the main challenge for the whole world. She also believes it gives a great opportunity in terms of foreign policy as a way to reenter international organizations, rebuild alliances and show the world there is interest in engaging again. In addition, it has accelerated a technological revolution.
About other challenges such as the ones with Russia and China, she believes former president Trump did the right thing by getting tougher, but was wrong in not having a strategy. On Russia, she mentions how Putin is now being confronted on aspects that should be confronted, such as human rights issues. On the other hand, there is also interest in renewing the START treaty. As a whole, the Biden administration foreign policy seems to have more of a strategy.
Regarding North America, she refers to the USMCA as the main foreign policy success of the Trump administration as the modernization of NAFTA was essential. She understands recent measures by President Biden as a way to increase manufacturing, but also thinks in helping Mexico and Canada increase their own.
Accordingly, the Wilson Center has a compromise in creating the requirements for that to happen. There are current activities towards the achievement of this goal to improve conditions for the three countries. Besides, if things don't seem to be evolving in a fair way, the Wilson Center should be counted on to highlight the issues and talk about a better way forward.
Dr. Duncan Wood, Vice President for Strategy and New Initiatives at the Wilson Center and former director of the Wilson Center Mexico Institute, starts his first intervention by noticing ongoing talks to give exemptions to Mexico and Canada on Biden’s “Buy American” initiative. Moreover, he reflects on how economic nationalism impacts issues such as the international relations of a country or the rights of the consumer. Jane Harman answers by saying how much American people are in need of jobs in the face of the pandemic and how some national manufacturing is set to increase in the United States. Dr. Alcocer also states the importance of the “Buy American” initiative for the construction sector.
About the role of Think Tanks, Ms. Harman believes it is bigger than ever. First, recent events bring out the opportunity to develop a common set of facts. Think Tanks such as the Wilson Center offer a safe political space for the development of knowledge and ideas based on facts. Second, these kinds of institutions also understand the importance of partnerships. And third, they can be a buffer to the emergence of partisanship.
Pondering on her experience leading the Wilson Center, Ms. Harman highlights the changes made to the organization’s structure. She also points out the encouragement of cross-cutting initiatives. On the other hand, getting academics to get to work together is still a challenge. In addition, Dr. Wood thanks Jane Harman for her leadership as she took the Wilson Center from being an academic institution with good ideas nobody knew about to one of the leading Think Tanks in the world with dynamic external relations. He also mentions the importance of Covid-19 in understanding areas of improvement and preparation. Andrew Rudman, Director of the Wilson Center Mexico Institute, adds to the idea of growth and improvement the Wilson Center has gone through. Former president of COMEXI, Dr. Luis Rubio joins the conversation by thanking Jane Harman for her kind words towards him and saying how he looks forward to future work between the Wilson Center and COMEXI.
The Q&A section begins as Dr. Alcocer reads the first question regarding a North American summit. Jane Harman believes that a summit between the leaders of the countries of the USMCA is an important idea. Andrew Rudman also believes it is a much needed thing and mentions the Summit of the Americas as a possible point of reference in time. On the second question regarding bipartisanship, Ms. Harman indicates how it is disappearing in the United States Congress and how she believes it is required for facing challenges such as the pandemic.
The third question refers to drug trafficking and violence issues. On the recent Cienfuegos incident, Andrew Rudman comments on its concerning implications towards future cooperation between Mexico and the United States. Dr. Wood makes further remarks on the issue of trust between the countries. He also alludes to the existence of a goodwill to cooperate in the United States and ponders if the same exists in Mexico. Dr. Alcocer participates with his views on the incident, seeing it as a situation that happened aided by Mexico’s ruling party interest in the upcoming June election. Regardless, he also thinks good progress is being made as there is a reestablishment of more orderly conversations between the two countries.
In relation to the last comment, Jane Harman adds that Biden is restoring a process of foreign policy and that assisting in the restoration of the process is another role for Think Tanks. Continuing the conversation, Dr. Alcocer says he thinks tactics are to be very important for the U.S. administration, referring to when to push Mexico to talk on tough issues or on less confrontational ones.
The final question is about whether Biden will introduce environmental considerations on trade issues with other countries. Ms. Harman says she believes Biden will make climate change and the environment a focal point on all key issues, since it is essential to solve the challenges it poses. Dr. Wood views the introduction of environmental considerations on trade issues as possibly highly disruptive but also as a great tool for the Biden administration to achieve its environmental plans by making use of the ability to enter the American market, as this last has generated reactions in the past. Furthermore, Dr. Alcocer acknowledges the role of scientists in advising the decision-making process of presidents. The role of science is expanded by comments on the Covid-19 vaccines.
To end the webinar, Dr. Alcocer thanks the participants and offers some words of gratitude towards Jane Harman. She concludes by commenting on the relation between the Wilson Center and COMEXI, and their search for dialogue based on truth and facts, and what's to come in the future.