February 22, 2016

What We’re Watching

Gardner Peckham




1Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Treaty – TTIP negotiations

“If we create a transatlantic free-trade area, this might be the last moment when we can become a regulatory superpower. We need to co-opt the rising powers and give them stakes in existing institutions, because otherwise, demography being destiny, they will eventually create their own.”

Then-Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, in an interview published in the May/June, 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs

This bit of wisdom continues to resonate not only for the future of the EU, but for the long-term national security interests of the United States, as well. The next eighteen months will tell us a lot about whether we will shape our future or allow the architecture of world trade – and more – to be determined by others.

2  State-Sponsored Commercial Espionage – A Growing Problem

60 Minutes, January 17, 2016 – “The Great Brain Robbery” – An important report on China’s official policy of stealing the intellectual property of American companies and the lasting damage it continues to inflict.


3  Broken Washington

Some would suggest that the problem of increasing Washington dysfunction is increasing “partisanship”. In truth, it has more to do with other factors including a rise in polarization due to social media, the impact of gerrymandering and new congressional districts that too often reflect nearly uniform opinion constituencies, and the personal animus between the parties and personalities on Capitol Hill due to “gotcha” journalism and the fact that there is no such thing as a private conversation anymore. Politicians are ON all the time, and they stay on message. This – and the inability of the Senate majority to win 60 votes – results in gridlock, and it’s not helped by the historic diminishment of authorizing committees and the more recent loss of influence by the appropriations committees, due in some measure to the end of earmarks.

Congress is simply out of the habit of responsible governing. For example, when I first came to DC, the Export Administration Act was rewritten in 1979. Dante Fascell (D-FL) rewrote the Foreign Service Act in 1980. He led Congress to pass the last enacted Foreign Aid authorization bill in 1985. In those days, it was considered duty, but today, most authorizing committee chairman can only dream of passing bills to modernize these ancient laws. Instead, the Executive increasingly resorts to regulatory solutions, with no input from Congress. Often, this stretches the bounds of propriety and legality.  Much of what EPA does has not been authorized in years, and yet the agency continues to grind out reams of regulatory initiatives that weigh down the economy in red tape. The same can be said of our export controls system. Rather than evading Congress, the next President needs to work with Congress to help restore America’s faith in our democratic system and recast the appropriate roles for legislation and regulation.