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8 GOP Asia advisers release open letter opposing Trump, say will vote for Clinton

This open letter regarding Donald Trump and U.S. policy toward Asia appeared at Foreign Policy and is reproduced here for reference.

Preserving U.S. Credibility in Asia: An Open Letter

As foreign and security policy appointees in previous Republican administrations, we will reluctantly (for some) but unavoidably be voting for the Democratic party’s presidential candidate this November. In doing so, we will join former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and other mentors who have already made the same decision.

Most criticism of current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump focuses on his erratic behavior, bizarre conspiracy theories, vulgar and inappropriate words, and appeal to baser instincts and atavistic nationalism. He dismisses whole groups of people, including adherents to a world religion.

Meanwhile, policy-focused dissent covers the field, from the Mexican border wall fantasies to his ill-informed (if not willfully ignorant) views about allies, Russia, torture, the origins of the Islamic State, and nuclear weapons.

We share these and other misgivings, but our common and primary reason for deciding to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton arises from fears that Trump’s combative, ignorant views can (and will, if he’s elected) inflict great damage on our country’s global position and on its economy.

America faces relentless economic and geostrategic competition from China and Russia, and new variants of global jihadi terrorism. It’s absolutely the wrong time to elect an unstable, ill-prepared amateur with no vision or foresight to meet the manifold challenges of the 21st century.

In Europe, we need a president who will strengthen trans-Atlantic relations and stand up to Russia. While Russian President Vladimir Putin only respects strength, we also need shrewd policies to thwart the insidious infiltration of propaganda and corruption.

In the Middle East, also, we need equally smart statecraft — to prevent sectarian conflict from engendering wider hostilities while doubling down to defeat the Islamic State and the wider jihadist threat in whatever forms it assumes.

Looking forward, however, we especially fear a Trump presidency’s impact on America’s future in Asia, where China’s influence in the region, now the global economy’s center of gravity, grows apace with the country’s power. Beijing’s worldview offers less liberty and more state and military control — attitudes which, coupled to an assertive chauvinism, directly challenges an open, rules-based order.

Looking at all his announced intentions, Trump cannot provide leadership to adapt global and regional economic institutions to the new Asian realities. Doing this means weaving the United States more tightly into Asia’s economic tapestry and security arrangements, not the opposite.

These trends explain why, back in 2007, President George W. Bush’s administration began reemphasizing Asia, setting out an American-led path for the region’s future.

The Obama administration persisted with, and expanded, this important policy pivot. Indeed, Clinton played a vital part in this U.S. rebalancing policy in Asia after 2009, a move which elicited sustained, genuine bipartisanship — an approach which prevailed during her tenure as secretary of state, despite occasional disagreement over tactical choices.

By contrast, the current Republican presidential candidate offers only bluster or preposterous panaceas for Asia — ideas which, if they ever find their way into policy, will wreck our country’s credibility, economy, and leadership in very short order.

Should Trump become president and put his nostrums into practice, Asia’s response will be prompt and epochal. In their varying ways, Asia’s big or small countries will be forced to tilt towards America’s challengers, especially China. Some of them may move quickly to seek security under a new proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In short, if the Trump brand — of which this candidate is so proud — becomes America’s brand, we can expect ruinous marginalization in Asia and unwanted compliance with rules which the Chinese and other challengers set.

Trump speaks of a greater America, a more competitive America, and a stronger America, but his election risks the exact opposite, especially in Asia. His scorn for free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) fires up the campaign crowds but risks a catastrophic loss of prestige and leadership. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on a recent visit to the United States, put it succinctly: “For America’s friends and partners, ratifying the TPP is a litmus test of credibility and seriousness of purpose.”

While it’s tempting to join the anti-free traders, we would hope that Clinton reconsiders her current position on the TPP. Failure to approve it would cede to China the role of defining regional trade rules, and would be a body blow to U.S. standing and the U.S. economy.

We accept legitimate anxieties about the TPP but believe that these would be best met by working with Congress and bilaterally with other treaty partners. Trade forms a small but vital part of preparing a 21st century workforce in a world transformed by technological change, from robotics and artificial intelligence to 3D printing and self-driving cars. We cannot command the incoming tide to recede. We’re stuck with the world in which we dwell.

Our relations with nations across the Indo-Pacific region will go a long way toward determining the future prosperity and security of the United States. Like it or not, an internationalist foreign policy is a necessity, not an option. It’s not a divide between globalism and nationalism, as Trump would have us believe, but a strategic question: How does America navigate the current century’s competitive environment?

Trump would take us on a race to the bottom in a fragmenting world order; Clinton is best positioned seek both renewed prosperity and better security. For these reasons, we will work towards her election in November as our next president.

The Honorable Dr. Patrick M. Cronin
Former Assistant Administrator, Policy and Program Coordination, U.S. Agency for International Development

James Clad
Former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs

Robert Manning
Former senior counselor, Department of State and member, policy planning staff

Charles W. Dunne
Former U.S. Foreign Service officer and former foreign policy adviser to the director for strategic plans and policy at the Joint Staff

Dr. Michael J. Green
Former special assistant to the president and senior director for Asia, National Security Council

The Honorable Frank L. Lavin
Former under secretary of commerce for international trade and former U.S. ambassador to Singapore

Anja Manuel
Former special assistant to under-secretary for political affairs, U.S. Department of State

Peter Watson
Former chairman, U.S. International Trade Commission; former chairman, president, and CEO, U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation; and former director of Asian affairs, National Security Council

Trump adviser Peter Navarro’s Asia policy comments to BBC [transcript]

BBC spoke with Peter Navarro, whom they identify as a policy adviser to Donald Trump, about Asia policy.

The video, published July 24, and my transcription are below.

“If China continues to cheat in the trading arena, we have no other choice but to defend the American people from Chinese cheating. The purpose of a Trump regime is to basically have China play by the rules, which they promised to when they joined the World Trade Organization in 2001. And frankly China has been the biggest cheater in the WTO, as measured by all the complaints that we see filed against them and measured by all the other avenues—illegal export subsidies, intellectual property theft, currency manipulation.”

“Specifically on the international court ruling, the public statement is very simply that we hope that China will abide by international rules and respect the ruling, and we hope and expect that this matter will be resolved peacefully. And at this point, it’s really China’s move. The question is, is China gonna be an aggressive bully in the region and provoke some type of military confrontation, or is China going to be a good citizen member of the international global order and enjoy all the benefits of that in terms of trade and peace? And it’s really up to China.”

“The TPP is gone in a Trump world, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t have really good trade agreements with countries in Asia. I would say to my friends in Asia, don’t worry about Donald Trump abandoning you or leaving you behind. He understands the importance of Asia, markets, resources, alliance, need for peace and prosperity. But the rules have to change. China has to stop cheating and our allied partners have to pay a little bit more of their fair share. It’s very simple.”

Clinton adviser Laura Rosenberger comments to BBC on Asia policy [transcript]

Laura Rosenberger, foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton, spoke with the BBC alongside the Democratic National Convention last week. Below is my transcription of her remarks, based on the video published here:

On TPP: “Well, Secretary Clinton’s been very clear. You know, she believes that trade agreements need to work for the American people. That means it needs to help create good American jobs, it needs to raise wages for American workers, and it needs to advance America’s national security. And she believed when she looked at the final version of the TPP that was negotiated that it unfortunately didn’t meet those three tests. And so she concluded that she cannot support it.”

On “the pivot to Asia”: “The pivot to Asia was not a one-time move, and it was not a move away from anything. It was really about making sure we are invested and resourced in the right way in the region, and, as president, she would absolutely figure out ways to build on what’s been done over the past eight years. And it’s true that we continue to deepen our alliances, build new strategic partnerships, and make sure that we are doing what we need to do to manage China’s rise. It is absolutely a complex relationship. It’s one of the most consequential as well.”

On the South China Sea: “The way that the other countries in the region are responding will have an important impact on how China reacts, and this is where U.S. leadership is very critical. You know, the U.S. making sure that our partners and our allies have the confidence to know that we stand by them, as they stand by the ruling, sending the very clear signal to China that breaking the rules is simply not acceptable. It’s not acceptable when it comes top ignoring a ruling. It’s not acceptable to ignore the rules when it comes to the WTO on issues like trade. It’s not acceptable to ignore the rules when it comes to issues like human rights.”

On North Korea: “Well Secretary Clinton believes the threat from North Korea is very serious. She absolutely thinks that we need to convince North Korea that its only option is to give up its nuclear weapons. And to do so requires imposing some real pressure, because all signs right now are that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons, and that’s a real problem for the United States and our allies, and we need to make that choice very clear to them.”

U.S. diplomat wrestles with whether China’s commitments on ivory have made a difference

Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield and USAID Associate Administrator Eric Postel answered questions in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on wildlife trafficking. The witnesses’ comments on working with China on ivory issues highlight the uncertainty about whether agreements like the joint commitment on ivory announced in September produce results.

Brownfield portrays Chinese efforts as a work in progress, and says a draft law on wildlife trafficking in China doesn’t go as far as he would have hoped.

[BROWNFIELD:] Second, China, and thank you for waiting until well into this hearing before we move into the issue which I would call the 800-pound gorilla who’s actually not in the room, but that is very much at play here.

Working with the Chinese on this issue, something that I have been doing now for nearly four years, is a slow process. We work with them through their law enforcement organizations and institutions. My own summary would be in four years we have moved from something that they are not willing to talk about at all to something that they are willing to acknowledge is an issue, and that they have taken some ownership of.

FORTENBERRY: What about this? I’m sorry, the time’s running out. What about this agreement? What level of agreement was reached? Would you explain that?

BROWNFIELD: In September of last year during President Xi’s visit, President Obama and President Xi agreed that they would take steps to eliminate the commercial trafficking in ivory. Important because China today is overwhelmingly the largest market for ivory in the world. And as Mr. Postel has pointed out, we are not blameless in this regard as well.

Two months later at something called the U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement, which I co-chair, we got the Chinese — this is their Ministry of Public Security and their customs service, to agree that we would form a working group to develop details on how we would work to make this happen.

Now, with many countries in the world you would say this sounds laughably little to have accomplished. With China it is I would say a step in the right direction.

Also in the course of last year for the first time they did a public ivory crush, where they in public, before the media with hundreds of people watching, did destroy beyond possibility of reuse, a substantial amount of ivory.

Does that stop the problem? No. Is it symbolic and therefore has at least some potential impact on their own officials and their own criminal elements? Yes.

I would describe the Chinese issue as a work in progress. It is moving in the right direction. It is by no means moving as fast as we wish it would. And we still have a lot of work to do before we’re both going to be in a position to say we’re satisfied with where are with…

A questioner returns to the issue of what concretely has been done…

POSTEL: I’ll start. And thank you for the question.

We have seen work going on there, both on the official side as well as by civil society. And I think both are equally important.

One thing that can’t be attributed strictly to the crush, but there seems to be some evidence that progress is being made because the price of ivory and the illegal market in China has fallen 50 percent in the last 18 months. And some of that is just getting consumers to understand that you know they don’t — a lot of Chinese don’t even know where the ivory comes from.

That’s why there’s so many on the civilian side, so many efforts, whether it’s Chinese actresses tweeting a picture of a butchered elephant so people understand. I don’t know if you’ll be able to see it, but this is a picture of Yao Ming in the Bangkok airport in Mandarin, sponsored by us as part of a whole campaign, where the point is to tell the tourists you know that this is not a good thing to be done.

So the government is pledging some things. And of course there’s ivory, but also the government pledged in other areas. They banned sharkskin soup from all their official government banquets. And there’s a whole range of species with whom on which we have to work with them.

So there are concrete steps. But as the ambassador said, it is — it’s a grind. It’s slow.

But fortunately sometimes they’re wanting to follow what we’re doing. So they were very pleased to brag about their crush having seen — having matched our crush. And so sometimes our actions are another goad for them.

BROWNFIELD: Congresswoman, you asked specifically what have they done since the September announcement by the two presidents. I would offer three things.

First, the crush that we’ve talked about. They — in their defense, they did it publicly and it is something that they have never done before.

Second, two months later they did agree to establishing with us a bilateral working group among law enforcement officials to work this issue and provide — put more flesh on the commitment that they made at the presidential level.

And third, they have not yet promulgated, but released for circulation and consideration, a new wildlife trafficking law. It has been reviewed by many people of the entire conservation community.

I will not speak for everyone. But I would describe the law as I have read it and understood it so far is it moves in the right direction in some ways, in the wrong direction in some ways. And it unquestionably does not go as far as we wish it would go.

LOWEY: Just one last comment because I’ve seen many working groups being established. Anything specific coming out of it? Or are they going to take a year to study it again?

BROWNFIELD: It’s joint, congresswoman. So my guess is we’ll be able to push it to a certain extent. The question will be how far are they willing to go?

What I will commit to you is we will push them as far as we can push them. And we will see how far they are willing to go to comply with their own president’s commitments on this issue.

Sanders and Clinton on Asia at the New Hampshire debate

Here are some excerpts from the February 4, 2016, Democratic primary debate in New Hampshire, in which Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton comment on China and Asia.

Sen. Bernie Sanders on outsourcing to China

Can I work with corporations? Are there good corporations doing incredible cutting edge research and development? Absolutely they are. And we should be proud of them.

But on the other hand, there are many corporations who have turned their backs on the American worker, who have said, if I can make another nickel in profit by going to China and shutting down in the United States of America, that’s what I will do.

I will do my best to transform our trade policy and take on these corporations who want to invest in low income countries around the world rather than in the United States of America.

and on North Korea…

Clearly North Korea is a very strange situation because it is such an isolated country run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one, who seems to be somewhat paranoid. And, who had nuclear weapons.

And, our goal there, in my view, is to work and lean strongly on China to put as much pressure. China is one of the few major countries in the world that has significant support for North Korea, and I think we got to do everything we can to put pressure on China. I worry very much about an isolated, paranoid country with atomic bombs.

I think, clearly, we got to work closely with China to resolve the serious problems we have, and I worry about Putin and his military adventurism in the Crimea and the Ukraine.

and on trade…

TODD: If you do that as president, how are you not essentially letting China, who will do all of these deals around the world, how are you going to prevent China from essentially setting the rules of trade for the world?

SANDERS: Chuck, I believe in trade, but I do not believe in unfettered free trade. I believe in fair trade which works for the middle class and working families of this country and not just large multinational corporations.

I was not only in opposition to NAFTA — and this is an area where the secretary and I have disagreements. I was not only in opposition to NAFTA, I was on the picket line in opposition to NAFTA because I understood — I don’t think this is really rocket science.

We heard all of the people tell us how many great jobs would be created. I didn’t believe that for a second because I understood what the function of NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, and the TPP is, it’s to say to American workers, hey, you are now competing against people in Vietnam who make 56 cents an hour minimum wage.

I don’t want American workers to compete against people making 56 cents an hour. I don’t want companies shutting down in America, throwing people out on the street, moving to China, and bringing their products back into this country.

SANDERS: So, do I believe in trade? Of course, I believe in trade. But the current trade agreements over the last 30 years were written by corporate America, for corporate America, resulted in the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs, 60,000 factories in America lost since 2001, millions of decent-paying jobs; and also a downward spiral, a race to the bottom where employers say, “Hey, you don’t want to take a cut in pay? We’re going to China.”

Workers today are working longer hours for lower wages. Trade is one of the reasons for that.

Secretary Hillary Clinton on trade agreements

I did hope that the TPP, negotiated by this administration, would put to rest a lot of the concerns that many people have expressed about trade agreements. And I said that I was holding out that hope that it would be the kind of trade agreement that I was looking for.

I waited until it had actually been negotiated because I did want to give the benefit of the doubt to the administration. Once I saw what the outcome was, I opposed it.

Now I have a very clear view about this. We have to trade with the rest of the world. We are 5 percent of the world’s population. We have to trade with the other 95 percent. And trade has to be reciprocal. That’s the way the global economy works.

But we have failed to provide the basic safety net support that American workers need in order to be able to compete and win in the global economy. So it’s not just what’s in the trade agreement that I’m interested in.

I did help to renegotiate the trade agreement that we inherited from President Bush with Korea. We go the UAW on board because of changes we made. So there are changes that I believe would make a real difference if they could be achieved, but I do not currently support it as it is written.