The American Security Project hosted an important discussion on American economic policy as briefed by the Assistant Secretary of Economic and Business Affairs, Charles H. Rivkin. The event was sponsored by Mastercard.
Introductory remarks were provided by ASP President Nelson Cunningham who underlined the theme of the event by asserting that American security is no longer dependent on military might alone, but through advantageous trade policy and economic development . This concept is a founding principle of the American Security Project as it seeks a bipartisan, broad based and innovative approach to ensuring American security. Assistant Secretary Rivkin also initiated his remarks by advocating his belief in the mission of the American Security Project and its efforts to couple national security with economic security.
“Market forces displace as much weight as military might” stated Rivkin (quoting U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman). This comprehensive perception of economic diplomacy is the central operating principle of Secretary of State John Kerry, who has endeavored to instill it as a cornerstone principle of the State Department. Rivkin sums up the Department’s economic agenda with the motto “economic policy is foreign policy”. The Assistant Secretary went into more detail emphasizing the importance of this often neglected force of international diplomacy.
While the topic of economics is inherently unappealing to most people (as Rivkin describes in an opening anecdote), the implementation of economic action can serve as the greatest catalyst for the advancement of civil society as well as one of the strongest weapons against oppressive governance and aggression. Rivkin discussed the financial consequences suffered by Russia for Putin’s hostile conduct in Ukraine, as well as the precise utilization of more limited sanctions against countries like Yemen and the Central African Republic. He also affirms that economic prosperity leads citizens to ask for education and to advocate peace. Proper implementation of trade policy provides the incentive for regional stability and allows America to expand its circle of allies.
“In all that we do, we are deeply aware of the symbiotic link between the prosperity that we work to advance and the security that it brings” stated Rivkin.
A portion of the Assistant Secretary’s remarks were in regards to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, both of which are trade deals that Rivkin supports. He asserts that the economic opportunities presented under the framework of these deals would mean increased trade between these regions. The deals have been met with challenges in Congress, but Rivkin remains optimistic.
While taking questions from the audience, Assistant Secretary Rivkin was asked about his opinions in relation to the recent tragedies in France. Rivkin, a former Ambassador to France, responded “It is very difficult to be here and not to be there.” He referred to France as a strong partner in intelligence and counterterrorism. “We stand and will always stand with France, for freedom of the press and freedom of expression” proclaimed Rivkin.
Rivkin was also asked about potential trade advancements with China and India. There are three things that any company wants when investing in another country, according to Assistant Secretary Rivkin. These are transparency, predictability and rule of law. These are the prerequisites to any bilateral investment treaties with either India or China. A question was raised as to whether increased trade relations with India were an attempt to divert trade from China or perhaps reduce American reliance on Chinese goods. Rivkin adamantly defended trade as an all-encompassing approach to global fellowship that is not about excluding anyone, even Russia and China.
“We stand and will always stand with France, for freedom of the press and freedom of expression”
Regardless of this optimism, there are still many hurdles to overcome and no one knows that better than Assistant Secretary Rivkin. He lists cyber defense as an essential provision for business and intellectual property rights as the “essence of innovation”. He seeks to restart bilateral investment treaty discussions with India and expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of traveling to Pakistan to further trade missions there.
Rivkin is proactive in his work and dedicated to his beliefs. He reiterated that the goal of his actions are to grow jobs and ensure safety and security. With economic policy now treated with the same level of importance as military power, Assistant Secretary Rivkin will be on the frontlines of the battle for global security.