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  • Author: David S. Mitchell, Jeremy Smith
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Aspen Institute
  • Abstract: On November 18, 2015, the Obama Administration's Department of Labor (DOL) published two important legal opinions that propose to give states new options for expanding retirement coverage for private-sector workers. These opinions open the door for states to move forward along one of two distinct paths: a payroll deduction plan that avoids ERISA, or a more traditional model that would fall under ERISA. This issue brief summarizes these rules and highlights the tradeoffs state policymakers will face when deciding which of these new avenues to pursue. The brief will be updated once the proposals are finalized.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Welfare, Labor Issues, Governance, Social Movement
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Marek Wasinski
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In a communication of 12 April, the European Commission assessed the potential political and economic consequences of suspending visa exemption for U.S. citizens. Lacking pressure from individual EU Member States, the Commission discouraged such a move and gave the EU Council and European Parliament three months to take an official position. It seems almost certain that the measure of applying pressure on a non-EU country will not be used to help Poland and four other Member States obtain visa-free travel to the United States or other countries with a similar restriction. However, if current trends continue, Poland should join the U.S. Visa Waiver Programme in five years.
  • Topic: Economics, Politics, European Union, Citizenship
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Cordella Buchanan Ponczek
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Polish Institute of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Traditionally, there is a partisan split on foreign policy in the United States: Republican candidates and voters worry more about terrorism, defense and national security than Democratic candidates and voters, thereby putting more stock in foreign policy issues, which manifests itself in the aggressiveness—of lack thereof—of each party’s foreign policy platform. But the candidates in the 2016 U.S. presidential election can be categorised by more than just party: a line can also be drawn between conventional candidates—Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Republicans—and unconventional candidates—Donald Trump, a Republican, and Bernie Sanders, a Democrat. Should a conventional candidate be elected president, U.S. foreign policy would be based on predictable adaptation to the changing international environment. An unconventional candidate, however, would be a wild card, whose actions would be difficult to predict.
  • Topic: Security, Politics, Elections
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Andrew J. Tabler
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Washington's nascent policy of "uncoordinated deconfliction" with Bashar al-Assad's regime in the fight against the "Islamic State"/ISIS may not be a formal alliance, but it does have the potential to foster serious problems. The regime's tacit agreement to avoid firing on coalition strike aircraft -- juxtaposed with long delays in the Obama administration's train-and-equip program for the Syrian opposition and the president's October 2014 letter to Iran's Supreme Leader on cooperation against ISIS -- is creating widespread perceptions that the United States is heading into a de facto alliance with Assad and Tehran regarding the jihadists. If Washington continues this policy as is, it will merely contain ISIS, not "defeat" or "destroy" the group as called for by President Obama. Worse, it could lead to a deadly extremist stalemate in Syria between Iranian-backed/Hezbollah forces and jihadists, amplifying threats to U.S. national security interests.
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Syria
  • Author: Anna Borshchevskaya
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: After two rounds of peace talks in Geneva failed to resolve the Syrian crisis, Moscow proposed in December 2014 its own peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition. Earlier this month, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov confirmed that the talks would take place January 26-29, according to Russian press reports. Bogdanov has described the talks as "consultative" and "preparatory," without any preconditions or set agenda. They could, he said, lead to more concrete discussions. Although the United States is not participating in the Moscow talks, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry expressed hope on January 14 in Geneva that they "could be helpful."
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Moscow
  • Author: David Pollock, Robert Satloff, Andrew J. Tabler, James F. Jeffrey
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: In last night's State of the Union speech, President Obama had the opportunity to educate the American people on the unique challenges posed by the "Islamic State"/ISIS, as well as the tough choices the United States and others will have to make as they deal with this phenomenon. Instead, he cited the issue only in passing, reiterating his "degrade and ultimately destroy" commitment without giving any idea what the next steps are beyond mentioning the increasingly risible effort to arm a Syrian opposition on slow simmer (see PolicyWatch 2357, "Train and Equip Not Enough for U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels"), and the passing of a Congressional resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIS. This was in contrast to the extensive airtime he dedicated to touting his initiative on Cuba, which -- regardless of one's views on that decision -- is an almost irrelevant issue given the various crises occurring around the globe.
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: David Makovsky
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Although the prospect of the ICC actually prosecuting Israeli officials is uncertain at best, the PA has torpedoed any chances for near-term diplomacy merely by opening that door, and perhaps invited U.S. financial countermeasures as well.
  • Political Geography: United States, Palestine
  • Author: Jonathan Rynhold
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 23, Jonathan Rynhold and Elliott Abrams addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Rynhold is a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA), director of the Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish People, and author of the just-released book The Arab-Israel Conflict in American Political Culture (Cambridge University Press). Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks.
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Washington, Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Author: Ali Jalali
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Afghanistan's presidential election was resolved in a U.S.-brokered deal that created a national unity government (NUG). New president Ashraf Ghani, by decree, created the post of chief executive officer (CEO), filled by Abdullah Abdullah. This has resulted in a power-sharing arrangement between two teams, the legal parameters of which will not be decided for another two years. In addition to its internal tensions, the NUG faces a challenging political, security, and economic situation in the country at large—one that threatens to be exacerbated as international assistance and U.S. military forces draw down. The formation of the NUG, however, also presents an opportunity for Afghanistan's leaders to redefine the role of government and institute reforms that can strengthen public support and improve the chances of obtaining further international assistance. To take advantage of these opportunities, leaders in the NUG could make a serious unified commitment to reforms and fully integrate the governing body both politically and professionally, despite the power-sharing arrangement that has been created.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States
  • Author: Michael Knights, Phillip Smyth, P.J. Dermer
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: On February 6, 2015, Michael Knights, Phillip Smyth, and P.J. Dermer addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. Knights is an Institute Lafer Fellow and author of the Institute study The Long Haul: Rebooting U.S. Security Cooperation in Iraq. Smyth is a researcher at the University of Maryland and author of the Institute study The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects. Dermer is a retired U.S. Army colonel who served multiple tours in the Middle East, including two in Iraq. The following is a rapporteur's summary of their remarks.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Andrew Engel
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: Earlier this month, Aref Ali Nayed -- Libya's ambassador to the UAE and former lead coordinator of the Libya Stabilization Team -- visited Washington to address the "Islamic State"/ISIS presence in his country. In his view, the group is rapidly expanding and may threaten Europe, though the U.S. government assessment is less certain -- some American intelligence officials believe Nayed may be overstating his case, but U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones asked in a February 4 tweet whether "a divided Libya" can withstand ISIS. Indeed, the group has dramatically increased its physical and media presence in Libya since the Islamic Youth Shura Council (IYSC) of Darnah pledged allegiance to it last October, after which ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recognized the Libyan "provinces" of Barqa (Cyrenaica), Tripolitania, and Fezzan as belonging to his self-styled "caliphate." At the same time, the group's supporters online have been aggressively recruiting while making the case for ISIS expansion in Libya and a new strategy in North Africa.
  • Political Geography: United States, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Jennifer Spence
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: In April 2015, Canada will hand the chairmanship of the Arctic Council to the United States. As the chair, the United States will have an opportunity to shape the priorities of the Arctic Council for the next two years and communicate its vision for the future of the circumpolar region. In anticipation of acquiring this leadership role, the United States first provided a sense of its vision for the chairmanship on September 30, 2014 in Washington, DC, during the Passing the Arctic Council Torch conference supported by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Centre for International Governance Innovation.
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Canada
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Soufan Group
  • Abstract: Iran and the P5+1 countries are expected to issue a joint statement today that outlines most aspects of a comprehensive nuclear deal, but defers some still thorny issues to further talks A key remaining sticking point is Iran's demand for immediate and comprehensive lifting of sanctions, which the P5+1 cannot accept The United States is attempting to reassure nervous regional partners, such as Israel and Arab Gulf states, that the U.S. is not making too many concessions for the sake of a deal U.S. allies in the region are concerned that lifting sanctions, even if done gradually, will enable Iran to provide even more military and financial aid to the Assad regime in Syria, Shi'a militias in Iraq, and the Houthi movement in Yemen.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Yemen, Syria
  • Author: Amy Hawthorne, Frances G. Burwell, Danya Greenfield
  • Publication Date: 01-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: A new Atlantic Council report warns against the tendency of Europe and the United States to sideline political and economic reform in the Middle East while they pursue urgent security priorities in this turbulent region. Instead, the transatlantic partners should forge a shared strategy to encourage political systems that can protect Arab citizens' basic rights, provide security, deliver broad prosperity, and mitigate violent extremism.
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Danya Greenfield, Faysal Itani
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: To cling to current short-sighted policies and to help sustain dysfunctional states in the Middle East for the sake of short-term security would condemn the region to poverty and further instability, which threaten to have negative consequences for US interests.
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Lindsay Oldenski
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Reshoring—when firms shift manufacturing production back to the United States—has been getting a great deal of publicity lately. Oldenski examines the most recent data on the global operations of US firms and concludes that although some companies have reversed their previous offshoring decisions, there is no evidence of a widespread reshoring trend. But this should not be considered a defeat for US competitiveness. US multinationals continue to move operations offshore, but they also continue to grow stronger, producing more in their US operations and adding more to total US exports. The structure of US manufacturing has changed, but the ability to adapt to the changing nature of global business has been and will continue to be crucial to the continued growth of US manufacturing.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Theodore Moran
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: For more than a decade, China has complained about what it maintains has been a pattern of erratic and politicized treatment of Chinese investors when they attempt to acquire US companies. The Chinese want the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to be more open and transparent in its rulings and to not discriminate against Chinese firms. The United States is not likely to accede to these demands in any formal or legal manner. Moran proposes practical steps to address the concerns of Chinese investors without diluting CFIUS procedures. He provides a national security threat assessment filter, which allows Chinese investors—like investors of all nationalities—to determine when their proposed acquisitions might pose a genuine threat and when any such threat is simply not plausible. He also suggests that first-time Chinese investors seek expert counsel to overcome the secrecy surrounding CFIUS objections to figure out how to proceed with problematic acquisitions.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Foreign Direct Investment
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Maral Noori, Daniel Jasper, Jason Tower
  • Publication Date: 08-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In 2011, U.S. president Barack Obama announced plans to "pivot" toward Asia. In 2012, Chinese president Xi Jinping expressed his hope for "a new type of relationship" with the United States. A lack of strategic trust between the two countries, however, prevents critically needed productive cooperation. This Peace Brief addresses the misunderstandings behind this mistrust and a possible way to move beyond them.
  • Topic: International Relations, Communism, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Jeffrey Schott, Eujiin Jung, Cathleen Cimino-Isaacs
  • Publication Date: 12-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Of all the free trade agreements (FTAs) concluded by Korea with its major trading partners since the turn of the century, the Korea-China FTA may be the largest in trade terms. It is, however, far from the best in terms of the depth of liberalization and the scope of obligations on trade and investment policies. Korea and China agreed to liberalize a large share of bilateral trade within 20 years, but both sides incorporated extensive exceptions to basic tariff reforms and deferred important market access negotiations on services and investment for several years. Political interests trumped economic objectives, and the negotiated outcome cut too many corners to achieve such a comprehensive result. The limited outcome in the Korea-China talks has two clear implications for economic integration among the northeast Asian countries. First, prospects for the ongoing China-Japan-Korea talks will be limited and unlikely to exceed the Korea-China outcome. Second, Korea and Japan need to strengthen their bilateral leg of the northeast Asian trilateral and the best way is by negotiating a deal in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Politics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, Korea
  • Author: William R. Cline
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The latest semiannual fundamental equilibrium exchange rate (FEER) estimates find that the US dollar is now overvalued by about 10 percent, comparable to levels in 2008 through early 2010 and again in 2011. Unlike then, the current strong dollar does not reflect a weak renminbi kept undervalued by major exchange rate intervention by China. Instead, China's current account surplus has fallen sharply relative to GDP, and its recent intervention has been to prevent excessive depreciation rather than to prevent appreciation. Additionally, declines in the real effective exchange rates (REERs) for major emerging-market economies and resource-based advanced economies, driven by falling commodity prices in recent months, have strengthened the dollar. Recent increases in the REERs for the euro area and Japan have removed their modest undervaluation identified in the last FEERs estimates in May, and the Chinese renminbi remains consistent with its FEER. The dollar's rise by nearly 15 percent in real effective terms over the past two years could impose a drag of nearly one-half percent annually on US demand growth over the next five years. As the Federal Reserve moves to normalize US monetary policy, it may need to consider a gentler rise in interest rates than it might otherwise have pursued, both to temper possible further strengthening of the dollar in response to higher interest rates and to help offset the demand compression from falling net export
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Monetary Policy, GDP
  • Political Geography: United States, China