By Manik Mehta
NEW YORK, Feb 25 (NNN-BERNAMA) — Richard Haass, the U.S. foreign policy maven who heads the prestigious New York based foreign policy think tank Council on Foreign Relations, has described the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a “strategic and economic error”.
He called the TPP a “laboratory” which provided a lot of ideas that were factored into the revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) whose new avatar is known as the MCA.
Pulling out from the TPP was the first foreign policy act of the then newly inaugurated President Donald Trump in January 2017.
Haass, who was speaking two days ago at the International Peace Institute (IPI) in New York and quizzed by Warren Hoge, the IPI’s external relations advisor, said that President Trump had vowed during the election to pull out from the TPP which was devised by the previous Obama administration as a vehicle to support its pivot to the Asia Pacific, a region considered to be of key strategic and economic importance.
Haass’ latest book A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order seeks to highlight the major changes taking place in world affairs as the old order seems to be receding.
Haass also said President Trump believes passionately that “America has got a raw deal out of trade and that trade is, essentially, a ‘rip off’ and, secondly, broadly speaking, America’s global alliances cost more than it benefits us”.
But Haass also said that Trump has done some positive things on foreign policy front, pointing out he had turned the spotlight on what China is doing in the economic field, and reminded that it is time for a “reset” in U.S.-China relations. But Haass also said that he was critical about American foreign policy’s reliability and predictability.
He pinpointed two developments taking place: first, countries are beginning to take matters more into their own hands as is happening in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, etc. , and, secondly, countries defer less to the United States, especially where American influence has declined.
“What we are beginning to see around the world is a very different dynamic … (with) much less emphasis on shared responsibility, on human rights, democracy, much less emphasis on values and institutions.” Relations are beginning to fray because America is not predictable, reliable, as it over-emphasizes burden-sharing rather than obligations.
“What we are beginning to see is a very different dynamic with much less emphasis on shared responsibilities, much less emphasis on human rights, democracy and values … much less emphasis on institutions.”
Haass revealed that he had his “15 minutes of fame” when Trump mentioned in one of the debates, his name as consultant during the campaign in the Presidential race. “Trump liked my (earlier) book Foreign Policy Begins at Home, but I reminded him that foreign policy does not end at home,” Haass remarked.
In his view, Trump Is not an ‘isolationist but, in large, a unilateralist”. The President is “very anti-institution … whether the institution is WTO or treaties like the JCPOA (also known as the Iran nuclear deal), migration or the Paris agreement (climate change).”
While Haass talked about the “assault” on America’s basic foreign policy, he also notes that he does not see the world come up with a new order without the United States. “I don’t like to use the phrase ‘indispensable power’ (for the U.S.) because I want others to say that about us, I never liked us to say that about us.”
Haass also doubted whether China had the capability to become a world leader, replacing the USA. “To be a world leader, you got to have ambitions, certain capabilities, certain followers. I don’t see China aspiring for that role … (because) China is still using its foreign policy, more than anything else, as a function of its domestic policy … you can be a world leader by coercion or by (using your) weight, but that’s impossible these days.
“The United States turned out to be a very effective world leader because it was done with consent. The United States, for its most part, did not impose its leadership on others but designed it and others were pretty happy to participate. People were not forced to enter into alliances … or institutions … they did so voluntarily.”