“We make our own history. The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, and the dreams of the people.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
2013 marks the 70th anniversary of Eleanor Roosevelt’s trip to New Zealand – and the first time a First Lady had visited the country. Her words about history and choices should be our guide as we think about the year ahead and where we’ve been.
Last year, the US | NZ Council achieved several “firsts,” beginning with a refreshed mission, added benefits, a full calendar of events, and a new look. We launched the first US-NZ Congressional Internship Program, advocated for our members’ trade interests in Washington and Wellington, and helped advance the importance of the bilateral relationship.
By the start of 2013, our message had become an accepted truth: “It’s not the size of the market that matters; it’s the size of the ideas.”
Today, new friends and supporters are helping us plan the 2013 Pacific Partnership Forum for May 19 – 21 – an event that happens in Washington only once every four years!
There will be much to celebrate this year as we make our own history – and showcase a new level of US-NZ cooperation in business and government.
So, what issues should we be watching in the coming months? Here are 6 areas to consider:
1) The Next USTR:
Speaking of choices, we’re eager to learn President Obama’s choice to direct U.S. trade policy for the next four years. Historically, the United States has been a global leader on trade when USTR’s leadership combines such strengths as top-notch political chops, a vision for trade’s role in global economic affairs, and genuine interest in the portfolio.
Leadership aside, it would be helpful for the Obama Administration to abandon its proposal to do away with USTR altogether and merge its functions into a new trade agency. Congress will, of course, never allow this to happen – but voluntarily putting an end to this idea could inspire greater confidence in a serious trade agenda. That would be a good thing, because there are plenty of trade policy issues to be addressed.
2) Trans-Pacific Partnership:
U.S. and NZ negotiators and their TPP counterparts made real progress during the Auckland Round last December. Still, if we hope to conclude an agreement by the end of 2013 or early 2014, it’s time to get serious about the most challenging issues. If we believe a successful TPP is essential (and we do), business and government leaders need to collaborate on innovative ways to bridge the widest gaps among the 11 countries. We can’t allow TPP to run out of steam.
3) The US-EU Initiative:
While in Auckland last year, I told my NZ counterparts that American politicians and policymakers sometimes are distracted by the next, bright, new thing. Now that President Obama pledged during his 2013 State of the Union speech to launch a US-EU negotiation, TPP is no longer the only game in town. This doesn’t mean that TPP becomes less important, but there will be competition for resources and attention. The size of the US-EU economy, Europe’s economic crises, and enthusiasm in the U.S. and European business communities all mean that TPP advocates need to keep our efforts resolute – and relevant.
4) Cyber Hacking and Trade Secrets:
The U.S. has struck a balance between toughness (the safeguard action on tires) and pragmatism (rejecting calls to escalate the debate on currency valuation) in US-China relations.
But now evidence of wide-spread cyber espionage by the Chinese military could bring a new chill. It took a Virginia-based private firm to show us the seriousness of the threat: a highly specialized community of Internet warriors stealing secrets from U.S. government agencies and multinational companies. (Check out the column in the Feb. 23, 2013 edition of The Economist here.)
This isn’t just a threat to national security; it’s a threat to the competitive and innovative edge of countries like the U.S. and NZ – and it needs urgent attention.
5) China and APEC:
And speaking of China …
As we approach 2014 – when China will chair the APEC Forum – it behooves all of us to be thinking about creative areas where China can take a constructive leadership role during its APEC year.
Why is this important? APEC can at times be a bit mind-numbing, but it has one very big thing going for it – it’s not the WTO. Things can and do get done there. Sometimes, those things can even be called “trade liberalization.”
Whatever one thinks of today’s WTO, the multilateral system is too important to be allowed to wither. Who is going to demonstrate leadership in Geneva? How will the big emerging economies be persuaded that they, too, have a stake in making liberalization happen on a multilateral basis? The movement on a plurliateral services agreement is encouraging, but we need to see more. The next Director-General – a post for which NZ Trade Minister Tim Groser is a candidate – could make the WTO more relevant.
It’s going to be an exciting next several months. Stay tuned – and we look forward to making history with you at the 2013 US-NZ Pacific Partnership Forum in May.