The Mexican Council on Foreign Relations (COMEXI) presents the webinar "What next? The US and the world in 2021". This webinar took place on December 4th, 2020 and belongs to the "Quarantine Webinars" series.
This webinar featured Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) as the keynote speaker in a conversation with Dr. Luis Rubio, Chairman of COMEXI, and Dr. Sergio Alcocer, Chairman elect of COMEXI for 2021 - 2022.
If you’re interested in purchasing Richard Haass’ book “The World: A Brief Introduction”, you can do it here: https://bit.ly/RHbook_COMEXI
Mr. Haass’ participation is firstly about his new book “The World: A Brief Introduction”. He talks about how this book is quite different from everything he has written before and that the reason he wrote it is because many Americans do not understand the importance of the world to the United States (US), as well as the importance of America’s foreign policy to the globe.
He emphasizes how in recent years, international involvement has been seen by many Americans as a negative aspect, giving more attention to domestic issues. In fact, Mr. Haass talks about how world issues are barely covered, and even though there is a lot of information on the internet, there are high risks that it turns out to be inaccurate. He talks about how the book emerged with the motivation to educate and inform the Americans, and to increase the visibility of the importance of global issues in the US agenda.
Ambassador Haass describes the domestic situation in the US, especially due to the past elections that, in his words, were extraordinary due to the participation of almost 155 million Americans. He also emphasizes how many people did not vote on the basis of foreign policy, but more for domestic motivations. On the other hand, about the COVID-19 pandemic, he states that it is an issue that began in China but spread to the US, showing the importance of the world’s connectivity and why it matters. Also, how the country has been consumed by the pandemic and how imminent action is needed to control it.
He speaks about the Presidential transition from Donald Trump to Joe Biden that will take place in early 2021, and the possible scenarios. He says how for the first 6 to 9 months of the Biden administration there will be mainly a COVID-19 agenda. By summer or fall 2021, he notes, the country will be entering into something that looks a lot like normal, due to the vaccination against COVID. Also, the economy will improve, giving more room to deal with other issues in the agenda, such as race, political divisions, healthcare, infrastructure, education, and so on. In terms of US foreign policy, Mr. Haass explains how there are signs of a return to traditional multilateralism and a rejection of isolationism. In addition, there is willingness to work again with allies in Europe and Asia, as well as reentering international agreements such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris Climate Agreement. Mr. Haass points out how Biden will encourage a lot of regulatory changes and executive action that reverse some of what Trump did.
He talks about the US relation with the western hemisphere, especially with Mexico. He foresees a return to familiar policies and in general, more concerns about Human Rights, climate change, openness to immigrants and the potential help of the US in dealing with COVID, once the situation improves domestically. Mr. Haass concludes his first participation mentioning the overall priorities for the Biden administration’s foreign policy, which are: the improvement of allies’ relations, the reembracing of multilateralism, the establishment of a comprehensive new approach towards China, and the increasing action towards climate change.
Dr. Alcocer thanks Mr. Haass for his participation and comments about his book, pointing out how interesting it is, the lessons the people must learn and relearn, and the importance that students in the US and Mexico understand the world. Mr. Haass then talks about how he didn’t write the book only for Americans, but to everyone, since it’s about the world. He suggests how isolationism and unilateralism make no sense, and how we live in a global world, where what goes on in it affects all of us regardless of where we live.
Dr. Alcocer asks Ambassador Haass what he thinks will happen with the US-Mexico relation during the Biden administration, taking into account its importance and the common values and issues both nations share. Mr. Haass answers that in general, it hasn't been discussed, and Mexico, in his opinion, can be identified as a weak State in many ways such as the fact that the government lacks certain capacities in terms of the homicide rate, the legal system, corruption, and civil society, all being serious policy issues for Mexico. He concludes that there isn’t an answer for Dr. Alcocer’s question because there have been so few indications of policy or direction towards Mexico. Nevertheless, he says that the first issues that will come out will be towards immigration policies.
Dr. Luis Rubio asks Mr. Haass if he sees any chance of the US rejoining the Transpacific Partnership (TPP). He answers he sees a small chance, due to the fact that resistance towards trade agreements is profound in the democratic party, and also, they have very different priorities given the role of unions, the progressives, and so on. He concludes his answer by saying it is hard to imagine a democratic administration spending a lot of its political capital by reentering the US to the TPP.
Deepening in the US perspective on Russia and China Mr. Haass explains how Russia is a more declared adversary, and that it could be a threat but in a sense a narrow one. On the other hand, he says that China is fundamentally different. Its military and economy is rising, it has a significant major population than Russia, and is a global economy, meaning it is the principal trading partner of many countries. In general terms, he says that China is a serious competitor to the US unlike Russia.
Mr. Haass highlights that it’s inevitable the US and China compete, and that the US has to be smart in this process. In sum, this relationship is one of the two great challenges of America’s foreign policy, the other being how the US will deal with issues such as climate change, proliferation, health, and how to improve the machinery of international relations to deal with the global challenges. According to the multilateralist position of the Biden administration, Mr. Haass says that the involvement of the US in Asia will continue, and that efforts will be made to get more diplomatically involved in the Middle East.
The keynote speaker also emphasizes that climate will be the biggest international priority for multilateralism in the incoming government, throughout investment in green technologies, regulatory measures, the returning into the Paris Agreement, the WHO and so on. He doesn’t see the United Nations (UN) as the center of future multilateralism, but a number of entities for different issues. In other words, not necessarily states but also active actors such as social media companies, ONGs, among others.
Finally, Dr. Luis Rubio asks about Mr. Haass’ opinion towards the Biden administration and the role of the US in the world. He answers that Biden’s team is a group of experienced and professional people that believe in the US active role in the world, in multilateralism and alliances. In sum, he foresees a return to America’s foreign policy before Trump. Nevertheless, he emphasizes that even if Trump gets out of the White House, Trumpism is out there, and it represents a significant part of the American population, the revival of American isolationism and nationalism sentiments. Towards what role the US will be able to take in the world, he highlights how it’s not only important to look at the domestic issues. In fact, throughout the book and the webinar he wants Americans to understand why a significant role of the US in the world is not a distraction but a necessity.
Dr. Alcocer ends the webinar thanking Ambassador Richard Haass for his participation and the interesting conversation they held. He points out how it is important to establish ways for exchanging ideas, and to work in the different topics that affect the US and Mexico, not only on a regional but also on a worldwide scale.