Press Center

 The Economic Component of Foreign Policy by John B. Taylor


It's a real pleasure to see so many good friends here tonight. I miss the Hoover Institution. I miss Stanford. I miss California. But the truth is I really love the job I have now-doing international economic policy, being part of President Bush's team, working with Secretary O'Neill and our colleagues at Treasury-especially during this very important period in U.S. history.

I'd like to tell you about some of the things we are working on in the area of international economic policy. Of course, I want to talk about the specifics, but I want to place these specifics in the context of a few principles or guidelines, our overall policy framework if you like. I've found it helpful-because so many things go on each day-to have an overall framework for policy to help keep our eyes on the long-term ball, to check the specifics against the framework, to make sure things are working right. Principles are also useful for communicating what we are doing.

First, what are the goals for our international economic policy? There are two that I repeat often to my staff and to others. They are pretty simple: economic growth and economic stability. We want to keep economic growth high because that is how we improve living standards in the United States and in other countries. Economic stability simply means fewer crises, shorter recessions, longer expansions, again not only in the United States but in other countries as well. These are the two overriding goals that guide our policy.

Now, if I were talking only about the United States it would be easy enough to describe how we carry out these goals. Policy options are developed. Decisions are made. And a roll-out plan is put forth and carried out.

An example is the President's tax cut last year: an idea - developed during the Presidential campaign - was refined, agreed upon, and transformed into a concrete legislative proposal. Of course, there remained the job of building political support. That took place under the rules provided for in our Constitution and the relative certainties of our domestic political system. Another example is legislation for Trade Promotion Authority, which will be necessary for the President to pursue his free trade agenda. So far that legislation has passed the House. It is important for the Senate to pass it too.

When you take these two goals - greater economic growth and greater economic stability - beyond the United States, the challenge becomes more complex. The countries that you are dealing with each have their own interests, governments, political systems, histories, and populations. They are sovereign states that exercise autonomy over their own policies.

That brings me to the second key principle of our overall framework, a principle which I think is particularly important in this Administration. That is to emphasize the ownership that individual countries have over their economic policies. President Bush has emphasized that when dealing with other countries and their policies the idea is to give friendly advice, not to be domineering. If good policy is to be successful over the long term, it is necessary for countries to have ownership over their economic policy. This is especially true in this era of globalization, where the interests of national governments are affected by international financial institutions, multinational firms, and even international non-government organizations.

The third principle that I want to emphasize is that our economic policy goal should be viewed as an integral part of our foreign policy. There are three parts of foreign policy: the economic part, the political part, and the security, or the military, part. From the start of the Administration, President Bush has emphasized the interrelation of these three parts of foreign policy. In the first National Security Presidential Directive that he issued, NSPD No. 1, he placed, for the very first time, the Secretary of the Treasury on the Principals Committee of the National Security Council as a permanent member.

Not only has this decision raised the importance of economic issues in the foreign policy arena, it has also created synergies between the military/political issues and economic issues and has allowed us to take advantage of them in a way that would otherwise not have been possible. These synergies occur not only at the cabinet level-the NSC Principals Committee-but at all levels throughout the government. I sometimes joke with my wife that if I write a book about my first year in government-especially the weeks after September 11-it might be titled, "My Life in the Situation Room." Much of what I do in Treasury is work with State and Defense on issues of foreign policy. These agencies are brought together through the National Security Council under Condi Rice's excellent leadership.

So that's the framework: setting goals, working with other countries, and integrating economics into the political and security parts of foreign policy.

Now, let me try to go through some of the specific things are doing that illustrate the framework. Consider first the issue of combating the financing of terrorism. President Bush first declared war on terrorism in that remarkable speech before a joint session of Congress on September 20, with Tony Blair in the audience. He also declared that any country that was not with us in this war was against us. Soon thereafter, on September 23, he took what he called the "first shot in the war on terrorism" when he began listing individuals and organization that were financing terrorists. He asked the Treasury to take charge of the blocking of the assets of the terrorists and break up the financial networks that were supporting Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The effort to combat terrorist financing illustrates the integral partnership between the economic side and the military and political side of foreign policy. It certainly has made a big difference in my job. Suddenly I not only had to be concerned with the stability of the financial markets but with expediting the blocking of assets of people financing terrorism.

Success in the war on the financing of terrorism requires global cooperation. The blocking of terrorist assets in the United States is clearly not enough. All countries have to participate in order to shut down the networks through which these funds flow. So my financial diplomacy work now includes contacting finance ministries and central banks and asking them to help block terrorist assets. Our records show that we contacted nearly 100 finance officials since September 11.

A particularly important action was the blocking on November 7 of the Al-Barakaat financial network. Al-Barakaat is a financial conglomerate headquartered in Dubai. It operates in 40 countries including the United States. The founder of the organization, Shaykh Ahmed Nur Jimale, has close links with Usama bin Laden and has used Al-Barakaat to facilitate the financing and operations of Al Qaida and other terrorist organizations. One of the businesses that Al-Barakaat was involved in was transferring funds of immigrant workers in the United States and other countries to their home countries. These hawala dealers can transfer the funds from one country to another without use of a formal international payments system. A taxi driver in Seattle, for example, can transfer $1000 directly to his family in Somalia at a very low cost by going through one of these hawala dealers. There is nothing inherently wrong with hawala dealers per se; in fact, we are bringing them into the formal economy by requiring that they register and provide reports of suspicious activity. However, this particular hawala network was taking its profits and channeling them into terrorist hands.

Combating the financing of terrorism is a very significant part of the overall war on terrorism. Over $104 million in assets has been blocked worldwide since September 11 - more than $34 million in the United States and $70 million in other countries.

Incidentally, the fact that I can give you these numbers is a good example of the President's insistence on measurable outputs, not only in foreign policy but in everything that the government does.

Every week we do a report tabulating the dollar amount of terrorist assets frozen, the number of accounts frozen, and the number of countries that are cooperating in our efforts to block the assets. And we have evidence that these actions are making it more difficult for terrorists to use the financial networks.

Another activity that illustrates the economic component of our foreign policy is our work in Afghanistan. Remarkably, as I look back on it, we started work in Treasury on Afghanistan economic reconstruction issues at the same time that we started the military campaign against the Taliban. We knew to begin that early preparation because of those many meetings with State and Defense where we could see that some kind of economic reconstruction effort would be needed when the hostilities drew to a close. It became clear that if we were going to have a long-term impact in combating terrorism it was going to require getting Afghanistan back on a solid footing again after the war.

To begin this effort, the United States hosted a conference in November to focus international attention on reconstruction issues and to start the process of building an international structure to support Afghanistan's long-term development. In January, I visited Japan for a fund-raising conference for the reconstruction of the Afghan economy. We raised pledges for over $1.8 billion in the first year and $4.5 billion over the next few years. Of course, the reconstruction effort is a formidable task. Afghanistan is a very poor country. The economy is devastated after years of war and repression by the Taliban. School enrollment, for example, is terribly low: only 3 percent of young girls were in school under Taliban rule. Several different issues of the Afghan currency are in circulation, so the threats of high inflation are there. Economic recovery also requires a secure security environment and credible political institutions.

One way we have been able to get some funds to the Afghan Interim Authority is related to our efforts to block assets. It turns out that over $300 million of Taliban assets were frozen, including nearly $200 million in gold at the New York Fed. We went through the financial and legal certification to release those funds. So, in this case, the frozen assets were unfrozen and put to good use. On the technical assistance side, the Treasury has a financial expert on the ground working with the Finance Minister of the Afghan Interim Authority to help get the basic economic institutions up and running.

Another example of how the three components of foreign policy interact is the case of Russia. Our relationship with Russia in this Administration was a great focus even before September 11 and has only increased in importance since then. Most of the things you read about in the press about U.S.-Russia relations are in the political and security spheres, such as the missile defense issue or the war on terrorism. But alongside the political and security discussions have been the economic ones. Indeed, the economic component is an integral part of what President Bush has called a "new strategic framework" with Russia, in which the security, political, and economic elements of the relationship reinforce one another.

The U.S.-Russia economic relationship in the 1990s was defined in large part by Russia's financial need and consequent dependence on aid from the West. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) alone lent Russia over $20 billion.

Today, Russia no longer depends on financing from the international financial institutions. The era of big elephant packages is a thing of the past. Russia has grown more than 20% over the past three years (average of 6% per year; at least 5% each year) and is posting budget surpluses of 2.5% of GDP. In sharp contrast to the default of 1998, which was also followed by periodic threats of nonpayment, Russian officials now take pains to say they will pay debts in full and on time. Russia is even prepaying both the IMF and its private creditors, to the tune of several billion dollars last year alone. This is a key signal that Russia wants to be perceived as a serious player in the world economy.

Our economic engagement with Russia has reflected this new reality. Soon after I was confirmed last June, I went to Russia with colleagues in the State and Commerce Departments to look for ways that we could interact on the economic as well as the political and security issues. Following this preliminary trip, Secretary O'Neill went to Russia with Commerce Secretary Evans - a trip that included a meeting with President Putin. Following Secretary O'Neill's visit, we agreed on an economic checklist that effectively set out a series of specific, time-bound steps focused on helping Russia create a business climate to attract private investment. This checklist has defined our dialogue, and forms the basis of the economic agenda for the Moscow Summit in May. In the new bilateral framework, progress towards these is defined in concrete, measurable terms, not by the pageantry of high-level meetings.

Two aspects of this checklist bear special mention. First, the focus on small business. Despite impressive growth, Russia has yet to create an environment where new businesses emerge on a large scale, where they may drive growth. Without new business, Russia's recent growth rates will be hard to sustain. The Russian Government recognizes this, and President Putin has acknowledged small business growth as a priority.

The United States is helping, among other ways, by contributing to the expansion of the Russia Small Business Fund at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This fund has been extremely successful in providing badly needed credit to small business in 100 cities throughout Russia, and by training Russian bankers to lend to entrepreneurs. Having met some of these entrepreneurs last summer, I have no doubt that they represent the potential of the Russian economy. Since its inception in 1994, the fund has made over 73,000 loans.

This effort is related to another Russian priority we support - building a sound, competitive private financial sector, where banks lend to companies and make capital much more widely available beyond the energy sector. To this end, we have created a bilateral banking dialogue, led by private sector representatives from both our countries, which is providing practical recommendations to inform Russia's bank reform program. Private banks and businesses, large and small, many of which had not had a seat at the policy table before, are playing an active part in the process.

The list goes on. The Russia case is instructive: the economics has been constructive more broadly in the relationship because it emphasizes that there is great potential for mutual gain. Economics by its very nature is a "win-win" proposition. Both parties gain. Our economic dialogue can help advance habits of cooperation that spill over into other areas. In other words, the "win-win" attitude can carry over into military and political issues as well. In addition to shaping attitudes in this way, the concrete economic benefits - for both countries - that come from the economic relationship give each of our governments a greater stake in the success of U.S.-Russia relations more broadly, thus providing a material incentive for greater cooperation in other areas.

I believe there is great potential for a similar dynamic in our relations with other countries.

Take China, for example. Last September, just before September 11, I had a meeting in Beijing with the leader of China's fiscal expenditure reforms. He succinctly reviewed the 40-year history of U.S. fiscal reforms at the turn of the last century. Then he said to me - referring to his efforts to accelerate the implementation of a treasury system very much like ours - "We don't have forty years to get this done. We can build on what you have learned."

Secretary O'Neill is committed to focusing our economic relationship with China on getting things done. As with Russia, he proposed that instead of just meeting to talk, that the U.S. and China commit to a series of actions to strengthen economic relations and speed China's reforms. We are currently preparing activities on market access, financial regulation, and money laundering.

More generally, we need to be looking for more ways to integrate economic issues into our foreign policy. As these examples indicate, there are great benefits from doing so. Think of the challenge this way: Henry Kissinger's fascinating recent book, Does America Need a Foreign Policy?, had one chapter devoted to economics, with the other chapters devote almost entirely to political and security issues. Our challenge is to integrate economics into all the chapters of our foreign policy.

Bookmark and Share