Tom Mahnken: Reinforce the Pivot With a Surveillance Network in the Pacific
The announcement of the "pivot" or rebalance of U.S. forces to the Pacific was one of the hallmarks of the Obama administration's first term in office. Capitalizing on developments that had been under way since early in George W. Bush's administration, it recognized the growing strategic weight of Asia. However, the effort appears both to observers in the United States and to allies and friends in the region to have lost steam in the administration's second term. One way to reinvigorate the rebalance, reassure our allies and friends, and generate collective responses to crisis and aggression would be to establish a coalition surveillance network in the Western Pacific.
The United States is stepping up its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets in the region, including the deployment of Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Guam. Moreover, a growing number of America's allies and friends in the region are interested in acquiring new ISR assets to help them increase their situational awareness of the region.
Although the United States has information-sharing agreements with allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, most are bilateral. By contrast, a coalition ISR architecture would be designed to be open to all: States would contribute assets and would in return receive the common operating picture the network generated.
A coalition ISR architecture in the Western Pacific would have several advantages. First, it would provide the United States and its regional allies and friends a common picture of activity in the Western Pacific. Such a shared understanding may be a necessary precondition to collective action. Second, such an approach could represent a significant deterrent to hostile action. It would be harder for an aggressor to act without being caught, and an attack on the network would amount to an attack on all its members.
A concrete outreach to America's allies and friends to establish a broad ISR network in the Western Pacific could be just what Barack Obama's administration needs to get its foreign-policy mojo back.
Mark R. Kennedy: Fast-Track Trade Promotion Authority
When discussing the working relationship between the White House and Congress, "fast track" is probably not a phrase that comes to mind. However, for Barack Obama's administration, getting "fast track" back in the lexicon, specifically with respect to international trade, is an essential task in order to reinvigorate his second term and benefit the global economy.
Fast-track negotiating, or trade promotion authority, allows the president to work on international commerce agreements subject to congressional approval without amendment or filibuster. This authority lapsed in 2007, and the United States' ability to engage in trade talks has suffered since.
The lack of fast-track authority has been a severe hindrance to progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Simply put, Asian and European nations aren't going to get serious about a deal if Congress is able to sidle up to the table at the eleventh hour and change the terms and conditions or allow a deal to wither on the vine in committee.
Obama highlighted trade in his most recent State of the Union address for good reason. Expanded trade holds the promise of resparking economic growth and creating high-paid jobs without additional government spending. He will need to do more in order to take trade from talking point to action item.
Chairmen in the relevant House and Senate committees are working on the details of a trade promotion authority bill, but there is more than a fair amount of skepticism over a fast-track renewal in both chambers.
To break through and get fast-track authority, the president must take his message directly to his former colleagues and explain why making it easier to approve trade deals can be a win-win for both political parties and, more importantly, for the American public. That sort of high-level face-to-face inside game has been lacking from a White House that prefers scripted speeches for the television cameras, but it will be necessary to achieve this goal.
Success would create jobs and also give the United States an opportunity to set the rules of the road for international trade, countering rising challenges from command economies like China. Obama should get trade promotion authority and the economic opportunities it can foster on a fast track to the top of his second-term agenda.
José R. Cárdenas: Think Trade in the Americas
There is still time for the administration to salvage a legacy in the Western Hemisphere, and it requires no heavy lift or big-ticket aid projects. It merely requires political will on the trade front. What has been obscured in the region over the past several years by the antics of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his acolytes is a group of countries that have eschewed the retrograde populist model and are eager to join the international trade regime. Specifically, they make up the Pacific Alliance, the most positive recent development in Latin America that no one has ever heard of. Made up of Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico, these modern, forward-leaning governments want to integrate their respective economies and open a gateway to trade with Asia. The administration has the opportunity to advance this integration momentum in a variety of ways, both substantive and symbolic. It can push for Colombia's inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership; it can initiate high-level discussions between the Pacific Alliance and NAFTA countries (Mexico is a member of both) on ways to promote integration; to demonstrate a commitment to hemispheric trade integration, it can negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as a bloc under NAFTA. (As Mark Kennedy points out in this forum, however, all this is just busy work without trade promotion authority.) The point is to communicate a high-level seriousness of purpose to help our neighbors expand their trade horizons. After all, a more prosperous neighborhood is a more secure neighborhood. Some in Washington unfortunately believe that no trade agenda in the Americas is worth pursuing without Brazil, Latin America's largest economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, it would be ideal if Brazil were at the table, but that is not going to happen until the Brazilian political establishment sees it is in the country's interest to do so. Meanwhile, there is much to be done. And, who knows, perhaps Brazil's political calculus will change when it sees the trade-integration train leaving the station without it. In any case, the administration has an excellent opportunity to take hemispheric relations to an entirely new level with a robust trade agenda. A failure to move forward will be a substantial loss for all concerned.