November 17, 2016

Council Experts Share Top Priorities for President Trump

Donald Trump is now the 45th president of the United States. We asked our experts what global issue should be a top priority for the new administration. Hear their thoughts in this video.



Foreign Policy and Global Engagement:

Richard C. Longworth, Distinguished Fellow, Global Cities: "The main foreign policy challenge that we have coming up now is that the whole context of our foreign policy has changed. What I mean by that is that for seventy-five years the United States, with its power and wealth and leadership, has overseen, guaranteed, underwritten an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity in most of the Western world and, since the end of the Cold War, pretty much throughout the whole world. That is now gone. I would suggest that he go out of his way simply to say that he does believe in America's openness to the world, America's place in the world, and in the role of our multinational institutions to underwrite this."

Phil Levy, Senior Fellow, Global Economy: "I think President-elect Trump needs to reassure our allies and to bolster our alliances. I think there's two things he can do: He can clarify his stances on some key issues, and he can make clear who his advisors are going to be. Trump did not surround himself with people who were well-known to the international community. It is very important that, as he go forward, he get some people on board who have the requisite experience and connections, and I think other countries will find that very reassuring if he does."

Ambassador Fay Hartog Levin, Distinguished Fellow: "I think the top issue, global issue, for President-elect Trump should be to continue on advancing the status of women internationally. There has been a great legacy left by more than one previous administration in terms of advancing the status of women both economically and with education, and I think President-elect Trump should appoint an Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues to continue that tradition and pick someone who is internationally recognized and respected as an authority in this area. And I would encourage him to to take the steps necessary to show his commitment to these issues because, among other things in the last election, people have questioned his commitment to improving the status of women both domestically and internationally, and I think this would go a long way."

Asia and South Asia:

Craig Kafura, Research Associate, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy: "I think one of the first priorities that the president-elect will have to deal with is reassuring all of our allies in Asia. The campaign obviously raised a lot of concerns abroad and at home but especially in the capitals of our allies. In particular, I would point to the US-Japan alliance. Tokyo is very concerned about what a Trump administration could mean. A lot of the rhetoric during the campaign was very hostile to the US-Japan alliance, and I think one of the first priorities of the president-elect is going to be to reassure the Japanese that the US-Japan alliance will remain strong. There are some indications that that's the path they're going to go down."

Karl Friedhoff, Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy: "Apart from a global issue, I think it's going to be very important for President-elect Trump to really focus on getting policy in Asia correct. And that's not necessarily policy towards one country but taking a really comprehensive view. Part of that is going to be starting from the relationship with China, and then everything will flow from there. So he said already that he's going to take a relatively hard line in China looking at labeling them as a currency manipulator, and, if he's going to do that, of course China's going to respond. What he doesn't want to do is then take a hard line on China and then also take hard lines on our allies, such as South Korea and Japan. Doing that will throw Asia into chaos and will also have ramifications for the South China Sea."

Margaret McKean, State Department Fellow: "I think a key issue will be the war in Afghanistan, which really didn't get very much play during the campaign season. It has gone from being America's good war to being America's forgotten war, even though we still have 8,500 troops there, and eleven American soldiers have died in 2016. I would hope that President Trump would, President-elect Trump would seriously look to seek common ground with our allies, and even with Russia and Iran, towards achieving a useful peace agenda with the Taliban and ensuring that Pakistan delivers the Taliban to the negotiating table."

Global Food and Agriculture:

Louise Iverson, Assistant Director, Global Food and Agriculture Program: "The world is facing a really major challenge right now: We need to find a way to feed a population that's going to reach nine billion people by the year 2050. So that would be my top priority for President Trump, is to enable and unlock the innovation and entrepreneurship of American farmers, entrepreneurs, researchers across the whole spectrum to find the solution that will enable us to feed the world."

Alesha Black, Director, Global Food and Agriculture Program: "A big part of his campaign looked at job creation and looked at the rural economy and asked the question about how it could be revitalized, and so I would encourage President-elect Trump to consider the role of agriculture in the revitalization of rural communities and particularly to do some deep listening about how farmers feel about trade. Trade accounts for about 133 billion dollars of American agricultural exports, with key partners like Mexico, Japan, Brazil representing those markets, and, as he formulates his trade policy and thinks about what it means to strike a deal for the American public, I would hope that he would consider to think about the role of developing markets for American farmers and for the world economy to continue growing. And the US has often led on food security around the world because farmers here at home are some of the best at feeding the world, and I would like to see that tradition continue and for him to consider his foreign policy and trade policy within that context."

Cities and Immigration:

Juliana Kerr, Director, Global Cities, Immigration: "A hope that I have for this administration is that they empower global city leaders to really move forward on efforts to come up with innovative solutions and, at a minimum, to not block their efforts. They should not be facing national barriers when they have solutions at the more local level."

Sara McElmurry, Assistant Director, Immigration: "The Midwest has been a leader in the country and with local initiatives designed to integrate immigrants, and those initiatives need to be brought to scale. I'd really like to see the next administration champion this at a federal level and adopt some of these local policies, these local best practices, and foster them across the country in a National Office of Immigrant Affairs or Immigrant Integration."

Climate Change:

Mike Tiboris, Fellow, Global Water: "At the top of the presidential agenda should be climate change, and aggressively meeting the goals set out at COP21, at the Paris Agreement, and, in particular, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. This is not the sort of problem that's easy for us to solve as human beings because the causes of it are diffuse, the effects of it are diffuse, they are drawn out over a long period of time, and so it requires a lot of collective action at the global level. But it's nevertheless a very real existential threat to life as we understand it on this planet. So I would recommend that we continue to lead on this issue as a nation, because if we don't get out ahead of this stuff and show that, as one of the largest carbon producers on the planet, we are leading on it, nobody else will follow, and the problem will basically be unsolvable."

Dina Smeltz, Senior Fellow, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy: "The polls show that Americans have steadily become more and more concerned about this issue, even though there's a wide difference between the way Republicans and Democrats prioritize it, a growing percentage of each has expressed concern and think that some action needs to be taken. And I would hate to see that all of the gains that we've made so far, and being a leader in joining the climate agreement, I would really hate to roll that back. I think a way forward would be possibly not to focus on the cause, the root cause of climate change -- because there's a big disagreement on whether it's man-made or not, especially again a partisan difference on that -- but majorities do think technology is part of the issue, and they support attaining energy independence, and I think putting possible solutions forth, which would also create some green jobs, might be a way to bridge the differences."

Karen Weigert, Senior Fellow, Global Cities: "Another thing for the president-elect to look at is simply the economic opportunities from climate change. The industries around renewables and around efficiency are global and they're growing. We should be leading; we have led significantly historically; there's a huge opportunity going forward. So, as he looks for that long-term job creation, the infrastructure play will be critical, and investments in technologies will keep America at the forefront of the issues that will grow over time."


The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. We convene leading global voices and conduct independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is an independent, nonpartisan organization. All statements of fact and expressions of opinion in blog posts are the sole responsibility of the individual author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Council.


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