For the Next U.S. President, Middle East Peace Remains Key

OCTOBER 24, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

The 45th President of the United States must remain invested in the Middle East peace process, panelists told Pacific Council members during the opening plenary session at Members Weekend 2016.

Moderated by Mr. Scott Kraft, deputy managing editor at the Los Angeles Times, the panel featured Dr. Martha Crenshaw, senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; Dr. Jerrold D. Green, president and CEO of the Pacific Council; and the Honorable Mel Levine, counsel at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.  Together, the panel discussed what the next U.S. president’s priorities should be in the Middle East in the face of momentous chaos and strife in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and elsewhere.

"The next U.S. president needs to know the whole, long history of problems in Middle East and needs to cultivate its relationships with allies very carefully," said Crenshaw. "We need stability in Syria. I would love to see a democratic Syria."

Green said the conflict in Syria is "a human tragedy that defies description. Many of us care about doing the right thing." Levine added that the stakes in Syria are "enormous" and wondered to what extent the next president will remain invested in the peace process.

The panelists also discussed the changing role that Turkey inhabits in the region. Green said Turkey has "moved from an ally to part of the problem in the Middle East." He added that there’s "a new bromance between Putin and leaders of Turkey, Israel, and others. We need to be thinking about Russia."

At this point, Crenshaw said, "Turkey’s chances of joining the European Union are pretty near zero."

"Syria is a human tragedy that defies description."

Dr. Jerrold D. Green

Green said one of the most effective instruments against ISIL is the Peshmerga and the Kurds, but Dr. Crenshaw pointed out that Turkey doesn’t like that the United States supports the Kurds in Iraq. Indeed, as the Iraqi army attempts to retake the city of Mosul from ISIL, the presence of Turkish troops in the north threatens to derail the offensive.

On the subject of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Levine advised Israeli leadership to not favor one U.S. political party over the other, as he said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently doing. Levine’s advice to the next U.S. president is to continue to pursue a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

On the Iran nuclear deal, Green said that according to all officials in the know, Iran is complying with the deal.

"In theory, the United States likes democracy in the Middle East," said Dr. Green. "In practice, we like stability."


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Members Weekend highlights the work and expertise of the Pacific Council community of members and partners. Take a closer look at this year's event, and read all Members Weekend analysis now in our Newsroom.

Ambassadors: U.S.-Mexico Alliance More Important Than Ever

OCTOBER 21, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

The strategic relationship between the United States and Mexico is more important than ever, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson and Mexico’s Ambassador to the United States Carlos Sada told Pacific Council members during Members Weekend 2016. The two ambassadors discussed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), security cooperation between the two countries, the impact of the U.S. presidential election, and more.

The discussion was moderated by the Honorable Michael C. Camuñez, chair of the Pacific Council’s Mexico Initiative and the President and CEO of Manatt Jones Global Strategies.

Camuñez began the discussion by highlighting the unique connection between Mexico and the United States. The two countries, he said, "share deep heritage, history, language, culture, and trade and commerce."

"That latter part of the relationship is often not well understood, much less articulated in the press and elsewhere," Camuñez added.

Ambassadors Sada and Jacobson agreed. "There is a perception that, even though we are neighbors, partners, and friends, we do not know each other so well," said Sada.

Jacobson said that over the last several years Mexico has transformed itself through a series of economic and political reforms. These improvements have moved the country’s economy "leaps and bounds ahead," she explained. Despite this, "the perception of Mexico in the United States [has not] necessarily kept up with the reality of Mexico," said Jacobson.

"There is a perception that, even though we are neighbors, partners, and friends, we do not know each other so well."

Ambassador Carlos Sada

When asked to comment on NAFTA – a heated topic of conversation in the U.S. presidential election – both ambassadors defended the trade agreement. In terms of popular perception, Jacobson said that part of the problem is that NAFTA was originally sold as an unrealistic panacea for a number of issues between the United States and Mexico.

"It was presented as if it could make all of the economic, political, social, demographic changes that we wanted to see both in the relationship [between the United States and Mexico], and in Mexico itself, as if a free trade agreement took care of all of that," she said. "In fact, it never could. What we have seen in the years since NAFTA is a [major] increase in trade, which is what free trade agreements are designed to do."

NAFTA, according to Jacobson, has been "an overwhelming success."

Ambassador Sada added that the perception of NAFTA in Mexico is very different now than when it was first enacted nearly 23 years ago, due in large part to the changing demographics of the country.

"What we have now, believe it or not, is a globalized Mexican society and business sector," he said. "If we want to continue competing in the world, we need to continue to be aggressive [in terms of trade]… We need to continue thinking as a region."

Jacobson also took an opportunity to explain how the relationship between the United States and Mexico is unique in the context of bilateral trade.

"What I think is not well understood is how our trade relationship with Mexico is different than, say, our trade relationship with China. Every dollar’s worth of import into the United States from Mexico has 40 cents of U.S. content in it," she said. "The equivalent amount of product that comes into the United States from China has 4 cents [of U.S. content]. We’re not just importing from Mexico or exporting things to them, we’re actually making products together."

"We are totally intertwined in our economies," Sada added.

On security cooperation:

One underappreciated aspect of the U.S.-Mexico partnership is the robust security alliance between the two countries, carried out under the auspices of the Merida Initiative.

"We tend to forget that we share a 2,000-mile border with Mexico," said Camuñez. "America needs to wake up to the fact that Mexico has our back. In an age of security, terrorism, the real risk of dirty bombs and other things that get smuggled to different places, we are so fortunate to have the border that we do with Mexico."

Jacobson agreed that the security relationship between the United States and Mexico is misunderstood. Mexican leaders themselves, according to Jacobson, have not been eager to talk about the partnership publicly. "The notion that the Mexican government is doing an enormous amount to help secure the United States is not something that has been politically popular in Mexico," she said.  

"America needs to wake up to the fact that Mexico has our back."

Michael Camuñez

But perhaps the most notable success to come from the Merida Initiative is a "habit of cooperation," added Jacobson. "Ten years ago, there was no such habit of cooperation between our security forces, law enforcement agencies, intelligence, and governments in general. Today, it’s extraordinary how they work together," she remarked.

"We are together in this," concluded Sada. "If we do not have a profound degree of cooperation and collaboration, both countries will be much less safe."

On the U.S. presidential election:

When asked by a Pacific Council member to comment on the current presidential election in the United States, Ambassadors Sada and Jacobson expressed some concern over the long-term impact of campaign rhetoric on the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

Sada said that over the course of nearly three decades, the image of the United States in Mexico has been improving. The rhetoric used by the Republican nominee is returning "a sense of resentment against the United States in Mexico."

"This is something that is very pernicious," said Sada. "We are very concerned about what happens after the election, no matter who wins. The damage has already been done."

According to Jacobson, the overwhelming reaction in Mexico to the recent visit of the Republican nominee and the election in general has been one of confusion and incredulity.

People in Mexico fear very deeply that "it won’t go back to normal after this," she explained.


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Want more on Mexico? Read about the Pacific Council’s Mexico Initiative.

Insights from Members Weekend 2016

OCTOBER 21, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

This year’s Members Weekend spanned two days of panel discussions, high-level keynote interviews, roundtables, and a debate on U.S. engagement around the world. Experts from the U.S. Department of State, the Council on Foreign Relations, the RAND Corporation, the Los Angeles Times, and many others participated in our signature annual conference.

During the first keynote interview, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker laid out the Obama administration’s argument for rules-based trade. The second keynote interview featured U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson and Mexico’s Ambassador to the United States Carlos Sada discussing the state of U.S.-Mexico relations.

The conference’s plenary and breakout sessions included discussions on the refugee crisis, the fight against ISIL on social media, the race for a Zika vaccine, trade and investment in Africa, California’s drought and the global water crisis, North Korea’s nuclear future, and the future of U.S. strategic interests in three regional theaters: Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

The following are just a few of the insights from Members Weekend 2016.


‘Staggering’ refugee crisis becomes protracted, long-term issue

Moderated by Ms. Ann M. Simmons, global development writer and editor at the Los Angeles Times, this panel featured Dr. Meghan Benton, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute; Ms. Shelly Culbertson, policy analyst at the RAND Corporation; and Mr. Sysvanh Kabkeo, bureau chief of the California Department of Social Services’ Refugee Programs Bureau.

"The statistics are obviously staggering," said Simmons. "According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, around 65.3 million people were displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution in 2015. Of those, some 21 million are officially classified as being refugees. The conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine, and Myanmar caused the crisis to explode."

She added that just 10 countries host more than half of the world’s refugees. Benton pointed out that Germany alone received the equivalent of 1 percent of its population in refugees last year.

Culbertson said the numbers are so big they are changing the demographics of countries they are entering.

"This is a long-term situation," she said. "The crisis has become protracted. This is not a refugee crisis in which there’s violence, people cross a border for a couple of years, and then can expect shortly to go home to intact houses and communities. When a refugee crisis has become protracted, the average time to return home is 25 years."

Benton pointed out that refugees have a lot to offer.

"Syrians are very educated," she said. "But Europe has been historically really quite bad at supporting refugees and family unification migrants into work. If you look at the United States, it is a completely different story."

Kabkeo agreed, adding that California "has done a good job of integrating refugee children, and Los Angeles in particular has done a lot to become a welcoming place for refugees."

Kabkeo, a former refugee himself, said the main issue in Los Angeles is that much more affordable housing is needed.

Fighting ISIL on social media

Moderated by Ms. Kay Ko, community outreach specialist at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the panel featured Dr. Martha Crenshaw, senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; Dr. Elizabeth Bodine-Baron, engineer and director at the RAND Corporation’s Center for Applied Network Analysis; and Colonel (r.) Steve Miska, national security consultant.

Crenshaw argued that it is not at all surprising that ISIL and similar groups use varied forms of communication "because that’s what it’s about for them. Terrorism has been defined as a form of violent communication. It’s an act of violence that communicates a message. We think of ISIL and al-Qaeda as being archaic fundamentalists that want to go back to the 7th century in terms of governing. Yet they’re really good at technical things, and that seems like something of a disjuncture."

Bodine-Baron said the news is not all bad when it comes to ISIL and social media.

"In fact, there are far greater numbers of opponents to ISIL as opposed to supporters on social media," she said. "We [at the RAND Corporation] did a study looking at 10 months’ worth of data from July 2014 to May 2015, and we found a ratio of 4:1 in terms of anti- to pro-ISIL content, 6:1 in user accounts, 10:1 in active user accounts, and 30:1 in active user accounts after Twitter started its account suspension campaign."

"As ISIL’s ground hold is degraded, so is their digital presence."

Colonel (r.) Steve Miska

Bodine-Baron also warned that a one-size fits all anti-ISIL message will not work across all nationalities and communities.

"Anti-ISIL messages must be targeted to a specific audience, and they must come from someone who resonates with the audience," she said.

However, even if anti-ISIL messaging is successful on social media, Miska argued, that alone will not defeat the terrorist organization. 

"The best strategic communications are grounded in reality on the ground," said Miska. "As ISIL’s ground hold is degraded, so is their digital presence. Insurgents are very innovative and continue to adapt and adjust to conditions, and so the United States needs to do the same thing. It needs to create more resilient networks in order to combat ISIL."

Before Members Weekend, all three panelists contributed op-eds related to this panel. Read Crenshaw’s article on countering violent extremism online; Bodine-Baron’s article on fighting ISIL on social media; and Miska’s article on safeguarding soft networks in conflict zones.

The race for a Zika vaccine

Moderated by Mr. Arthur J. Ochoa, senior vice president of Community Relations and Development at Cedars-Sinai Health System, this panel featured Ms. Katherine E. Bliss, senior associate at the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, and Dr. Peter Katona, clinical professor of medicine in infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Public Health at UCLA.

The Zika virus continues to spread in Florida, Puerto Rico, South America, and as far away as Northern Ireland and Singapore. Declared a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization in February 2016, officials reaffirmed that status in September. Officials have gone as far as advising women to delay pregnancy if they travel to or live in a region affected by the mosquito-borne and sexually transmitted disease because of the devastating defects it appears to cause in newborns, such as microcephaly. 

"Many producers working on a Zika vaccine globally, but it could take more than 18 months for approval," said Bliss. "It can take 15 to 20 years for vaccines to reach countries that need them most."

She added that when it comes to preventing and responding to disease outbreaks, the interests of the public, the state, the private sector, and the nonprofit world coincide, but they do not entirely correspond.

"The public may be concerned about their own health, governments may be concerned about economic outlooks and political stability, companies may be concerned about economic impact but also see economic opportunities, and NGOs may align themselves with any of the above groups," she said.

Katona laid out a potential worst case scenario regarding the Zika virus in the United States.

"There are about four million births a year in the United States," he explained. "The lower half of the country is endemic to the mosquitos that carry Zika. If you assume that three percent of women are infected with Zika over the next three years, and one percent of the children born to these mothers will have this serious brain complication called microcephaly, at about $10 million per child, then we’re talking about a cost of $200 billion. That’s a worst case scenario."

Katona said medical professionals are concerned about the long-term consequences of Zika because they do not quite know what they are yet.

Trade and investment opportunities in Africa

This panel explored Africa’s recent economic transformation through the promotion of intracontinental and international trade and investment. Moderated by Mr. Michael J. DeRenzo, country manager for Southern Africa at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the panel featured Mr. Grant T. Harris, chief executive officer of Harris Africa Partners LLC, and Dr. Vera Songwe, regional director for West and Central Africa for the International Finance Corporation.

"We’ve seen explosive economic growth on the continent, but U.S. companies are still underrepresented when we consider Chinese, Brazilian, Turkish activity on the continent," said Harris. "We need more of these companies to realize that Africa, with its billion inhabitants, has a young, increasingly connected, and urbanized population."

Songwe agreed, saying, "Africa is the second largest growing economy, but it needs $8 billion more in investment. There are lots of great opportunities for foreign direct investment in Africa, including Nigeria, Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, and many others."

Harris also placed an emphasis on the importance of trade with African nations.

"It’s important to reorient U.S. policy to get beyond the aid relationship and start thinking about trade, about self-interested U.S. companies realizing the economic potential on the continent," he said.

California’s drought and the global water crisis

For the past five years California has experienced a record-breaking drought, precipitating the need for smart and effective water-related policies. But the water crisis is not unique to California alone: a recent paper showed that about 66 percent, or four billion, of the world’s population lives without sufficient access to fresh water for at least one month of the year. 

Mr. Steve Westly, founder and managing partner of the Westly Group, and Mr. Barton H. Thompson, Jr., Robert E. Paradise professor of natural resources law at Stanford Law School, delivered TED-style talks on California’s drought and the global water crisis. This session was moderated by Ms. Rachel Cardone, the global water scarcity project fellow for the Pacific Council.

"Drought is the most costly of any natural disaster," said Thompson, adding that "two million people depend on groundwater as their sole source of water."

Thompson said that in order to encourage innovations in tackling the enormous problem of water scarcity in California, we need to see more public-private partnerships.

"Drought is costing California thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue," said Westly. He added that the best solutions for water scarcity are conservation, capture, and recycling, not desalination, which he said is the least cost-effective solution in producing fresh water.

"Who will have the next $1 billion idea to revolutionize water?" Westly asked. "One thing is for sure: It will come from California."

Cardone is leading a comprehensive planning effort to scope the objectives and activities of the Pacific Council’s future policy work on global water scarcity. Read more about her work.

North Korea’s nuclear future

In early September, North Korea set off its fifth – and most powerful – nuclear bomb test, and South Korea says they are ready to test a sixth at any time. Experts are now saying that North Korea could have enough uranium for 20 nuclear bombs by the end of the year and a self-sufficient nuclear program that is capable of producing around six nuclear bombs a year.

Moderated by Mr. John Mecklin, editor-in-chief of the Bullet of the Atomic Scientists, this panel featured Ms. Jennifer M. Harris, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; Dr. Amy J. Nelson, Stanton nuclear security fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Mr. Hyuk Kim, resident fellow of the Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security (NPNS) and James A. Kelly Korean Studies Programs at the Pacific Forum CSIS.

"The question now is, ‘How do we deter the DPRK’s nuclear capabilities?’" said Kim. "It is estimated that the DPRK will soon have 10-20 nuclear weapons. They now claim they have the capability to deter the United States."

Kim added that it is now time to "make clear that the DPRK has to choose between survival and nuclear weapons."

"The DPRK issue must be a top priority in the next U.S. president’s agenda."

Mr. Hyuk Kim

Nelson said an agreement like the Iran nuclear deal will not work in this situation because the two sides are unwilling to agree on certain preconditions. However, she added that "we’re not going to get anywhere unless we open channels to dialogue. As long as we keep these diplomatic channels closed and whisper about agreements from the margins, we’re really not going to be able to get anywhere."

Harris said part of the answer has to be China.

"In the case of North Korea, moving to the kinds of sanctions that really brought Iran to the negotiating table would mean primarily putting the squeeze on China," she said. "It would be the Chinese financial system that would bear the brunt of the sorts of sanctions that would potentially be compelling."

Kim emphasized that "the DPRK issue must be a top priority in the next U.S. president’s agenda."

U.S. foreign policy challenges in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East

In Asia, tensions continue to mount in the South China Sea following an international court’s ruling against China’s territorial claims and the U.S. Navy’s insistence on continuing to sail there. Meanwhile, North Korea called U.S. sanctions on Kim Jong-un a "declaration of war."

In Europe, the political and economic repercussions of Brexit continue to roil the United Kingdom and European Union. Meanwhile, record numbers of migrants continue to seek safe haven on European shores, and relentless terrorist attacks across the continent have left everyone on edge.

And after more than five years of conflict in Syria, there is still no end in sight as Assad, rebel groups, Iran, ISIL, Russia, the United States, and other major players jockey for position and power in the chaotic Middle East region.

Moderated by Mr. Mitchell Landsberg, deputy foreign and national editor of the Los Angeles Times, this panel featured Dr. Tanvi Madan, director of the Brookings Institution’s India Project; Mr. Derek Chollet, counselor and senior advisor for security and defense policy at the German Marshall Fund; and Dr. Jerrold D. Green, president and CEO of the Pacific Council.

Russia’s involvement in Syria actually weakens its position in the region.

Chollet predicted a "more distracted and divided" Europe in the future. At the same time, "There are a lot of questions in Europe about what kind of society the United States is becoming," he said. "Europe, Asia, and the Middle East want more of the United States, but the next president must find a balance [because] rising global nationalism will provide a challenge."

Chollet argued that Russia’s involvement in Syria actually weakens its position in the region.

"I think the story in the next 15 years is more about Russian instability and decline, which is more dangerous," he said.

Green said that the United States "needs better instruments and better partners in the Middle East."

Madan discussed the sweeping changes in the Asian theater being brought about by rapid improvements in telecommunications technology. She also raised the concerns in India about "the extent to which Hindu nationalism is a dominating trend. Indian nationalism is not going anywhere, the question is whether it will grow or not," she said, adding that the biggest concern for India is the China-Pakistan economic corridor.


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Members Weekend highlights the work and expertise of the Pacific Council community of members and partners. Take a closer look at this year's event, and read all Members Weekend analysis now in our Newsroom.

Pritzker: Rules-Based Trade Benefits U.S., Global Economy

OCTOBER 19, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

Rules-based trade – such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – makes U.S. workers more competitive in the global economy, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker told Pacific Council members during Members Weekend 2016. The discussion covered several topics including anxieties about globalization, the refugee crisis, competition with China, the lasting effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and more.

The interview was moderated by Ms. Ann M. Simmons, global development writer and editor at the Los Angeles Times.

Secretary Pritzker said the United States is entering its eighth year of expansion and listed several positive steps the U.S. economy has taken: real GDP has grown about 2.1 percent on average since 2009; 156,000 jobs were created in September 2016; hourly earnings are up about 2.8 percent in 2016; and real median household income is up over five percent between 2014-15.

However, she said overall growth remains relatively slow – 1.4 percent in the United States last quarter – because of economic slowdown around the world, including in China and the United Kingdom. The International Monetary Fund is predicting 3.4 percent global growth in 2017.

Secretary Pritzker said the United States needs to be more proactive as a country in terms of helping not only the U.S. economy but also the global economy.

"That’s why we’ve been so aggressive with not only TPP and rules-based trade, but trying to attract foreign direct investment," she said. “The United States has really led the TPP negotiation and insisted that we have high labor and environmental standards. Rules-based trade is what we’re trying to accomplish."

Secretary Pritzker touted both the economic and national security benefits to TPP, including access to new markets, free flow of information on the internet, the reduction and elimination of 18,000 tariffs, clearing bureaucratic red tape, and making it more competitive for American labor by raising labor standards in other countries.

"Rules-based trade is what we’re trying to accomplish."

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

"The greater the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region the more impetus the United States has to be patrolling the seas or to be protecting territorial integrity. And by knitting our economies and our peoples together there’s less likely to be extremism against the United States."

Secretary Pritzker said she doesn’t think the anxiety in the United States is caused by free trade, which supports 11.6 million jobs, but rather by globalization, automation, and digitization. To alleviate those anxieties, she believes the Obama administration needs to further explain the economic and national security benefits of TPP.

"The Obama administration is absolutely committed to passing TPP in the lame duck period," she said.

If TPP is not passed, she warned, China will step in to make agreements with those countries in the Asia-Pacific. China already has a trade deal competing with TPP called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which Secretary Pritzker said doesn’t have the same high standards as TPP.

"Imagine you’re a leader in one of those countries, and you’ve convinced your populace that TPP is a good idea and gone ahead and proceeded," she said. "Now the United States can’t follow through for political purposes or whatever. We’ve heard several of the leaders in the Asia-Pacific region say quite explicitly, ‘Look, if you’re not in the game, we’re going to have to look to others that we can rely on who are in the Asia-Pacific region.’"

"Cybersecurity is the only domain where we ask private companies to defend themselves against foreign countries."

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Secretary Pritzker spoke about the complex relationship between the United States and China, citing areas of both tension – such as the South China Sea, intellectual property protection, cybersecurity, state-owned enterprise reform, and excess steel production – and cooperation – such as the Paris agreement on climate change.

"Given that China is the number two largest economy in the world, we have to have sustained commercial engagement," she replied when Simmons asked her how the United States can strengthen its relationship with China. "We can’t ignore China; it’s not in anyone’s best interest both from a commercial standpoint and obviously from a geopolitical standpoint."

Secretary Pritzker also discussed the U.S. Department of Commerce’s efforts internationally through "commercial diplomacy," which she defined as "harnessing the United States’ unmatched commercial presence and power around the world to work together with foreign governments to change policy." The approach has been used in Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Asia with positive results.

On cybersecurity:

Secretary Pritzker said the U.S. regulatory and legislative structure is not set up to address the dynamic challenges of cyber security.

"This is a very serious challenge, and not something the government or the private sector can handle by themselves,” she said. "Cybersecurity is the only domain where we ask private companies to defend themselves against foreign countries. That’s a problem. Government should have a solemn obligation to protect our people against systemic threats to our economic and national security. That’s a fundamental premise of government."

She added that the United States needs to consider new approaches and methods to combat cyber security threats to American businesses in particular.

On the refugee crisis:

In September, Secretary Pritzker hosted the "President’s Call to Action Refugee Roundtable," a gathering of business leaders discussing how the private sector can help address the refugee crisis. Following President Obama’s call to action in June, 51 companies made commitments to aid refugees in the United States and around the world, including creating temporary housing to host refugee families, starting a microloan program to help refugees start businesses, donating mental health support and healthcare products to doctors treating refugees, and providing resources that will support education and opportunities for refugee youth resettled in the United States.

"Companies such as Airbnb, Chobani, and Western Union didn’t just put up money, they also leveraged their corporate assets," said Secretary Pritzker. "There was a wide variety of companies that participated and made pledges to support the refugee population. One thing that’s been really heartening in this administration is the amount of partnership from corporate America that we’ve seen in issues like the refugee crisis and so many different areas."

Secretary Pritzker admired what she called German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s boldness in taking in one million refugees.

"Politically, that’s very hard to do, but it’s probably more consistent morally with who we think we are than the number of refugees we’re actually taking," she said.


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Before Members Weekend, Secretary Pritzker contributed an op-ed on why the time is now to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Read it here.

Ash Carter: U.S. to “Sharpen Military Edge” in Asia-Pacific

OCTOBER 4, 2016
By: Justin Chapman, Pacific Council

The United States will continue to "sharpen [its] military edge" in the Asia-Pacific in the face of regional threats, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter told U.S. Navy sailors, Pacific Council members, and others in a speech last week onboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. 

"This region, with half of humanity, half of the world’s economy, is the single most consequential region for America’s future," said Carter, adding that the United States has committed to homeporting 60 percent of its naval and overseas air assets in the Asia-Pacific by 2020. "Indeed, the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, which President Obama announced five years ago, is a critical national commitment. It includes diplomatic, economic, and military components all to ensure – at a time of dramatic political, economic, and security change in the region – that the Asia-Pacific remains a place where every nation can rise and prosper."

Carter emphasized the importance of U.S. alliances with countries such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines, to maintain peace and stability in the region. Despite recent hostile comments made by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Carter called the relationship between the United States and the Philippines "ironclad."

The day before Carter’s speech, Duterte said the upcoming military games between the United States and the Philippines would be the last ever conducted. In September, Duterte also demanded that U.S. troops leave the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. In recent weeks Duterte has refereed to President Obama and other U.S. officials by offensive names.

"We're managing historic change in the Asia-Pacific, where China is rising, which is fine, but sometimes behaving aggressively, which is not."

- U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter

Carter also discussed the threats posed by China and North Korea. 

"We’re managing historic change in the Asia-Pacific, where China is rising, which is fine, but sometimes behaving aggressively, which is not," he said. "Indeed, we’re also strengthening our deterrent and defense forces in the face of North Korea’s continued nuclear and missile provocations."

New satellite imagery of a North Korean shipyard shows what experts say could be construction of a nuclear submarine with the capability to launch long-range ballistic missiles. In September, North Korea successfully carried out its fifth and biggest nuclear test.

"North Korea, with its nuclear saber-rattling, continues to threaten our allies and heighten tensions in the region," said Carter. "Our alliance with the Republic of Korea continues to evolve, to assure deterrence on the Korean peninsula, including through the joint decision earlier this year to deploy the THAAD ballistic missile defense system to the Republic of Korea to help defend against North Korean threats there."

Carter said that the U.S. Department of Defense is taking steps to modernize its relationship with China by strengthening communications between the two militaries.

"We’ve recently concluded two confidence-building measures, one on maritime rules of behavior and another on crisis communications," he said. "We also regularly participate together in multilateral exercises, such as RIMPAC, that demonstrate the value of working together to address security issues. And our two militaries also hold regular dialogues and high-level consultations that seek to minimize misunderstanding."

Carter added that the United States still has serious concerns with China’s recent actions in the South China Sea and in cyberspace. Several nations claim territory in the South China Sea, where China has been building artificial islands and military outposts and conducting naval patrols. In July, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled against China’s territorial claims. Chinese officials said the decision was invalid.

"The Asia-Pacific remains a place where every nation can rise and prosper."

- U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter

"Beijing sometimes appears to want to pick and choose which principles it wants to benefit from and which it prefers to try to undercut," said Carter. "For example, the universal right to freedom of navigation that allows China’s ships and aircraft to transit safely and peacefully is the same right that Beijing criticizes other countries for exercising in the region. But principles are not like that. They apply to everyone, and to every nation, equally."

Carter also used the opportunity to tout the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

"The rebalance [to the Asia-Pacific] is an investment in the region’s future – it will help the Asia-Pacific unlock its tremendous promise and to build a brighter future," he said. "And that’s good for the United States. For example, the United States wants to reinforce the open and inclusive economic approach that we all know can continue to benefit the region. That’s why one of the most important non-military initiatives of the rebalance is the TPP, which will bind the United States more closely together with 11 other economies, guarantee a high-quality, high-standard trade system, and support more U.S. exports and higher-paying American jobs. For those reasons, and its strategic value, TPP is an opportunity the region and the United States cannot afford to miss."

Following his speech, Secretary Carter flew to Hawaii to host a meeting on the USS Missouri with defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.


Justin Chapman is the Communications Associate at the Pacific Council on International Policy.

See more photos from Secretary Carter's address, and read his full remarks here