Aftershock: The 112th Congress and Post-Crisis Asia
Edward Gresser and Daniel Twining
Authors Edward Gresser and Daniel Twining participated in Engaging Asia 2011, along with a panel of practitioners from Capitol Hill, on March 30, 2011, in Washington, D.C.
This essay examines the 112th Congress and the key policy issues in Asia that this Congress will face.
Four issues will confront the 112th Congress almost immediately. The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) will likely be Congress’s most important Asia policy vote. The risk of war on the Korean Peninsula is higher than in the recent past, and Congress will need to ensure that U.S. forces receive the support and resources necessary to prevail in any conflict against North Korea. Stronger and in a nationalistic mood, China has been testing the resolve of the international community on issues from maritime security to trade, leading senior members of the new Republican House majority to call for changes in policy. Congressional appropriations on funding for Afghanistan will likely proceed, but will also frame the debate on policy toward that country during the 2012 presidential campaign. Additionally, in the long run the question of U.S. finances and their relationship to the U.S. role in regional security will be as important as any other issue.
The U.S. should pursue a confident approach to trade through congressional action on KORUS and—if concluded—the Trans-Pacific Partnership as part of a larger strategy to encourage exports and more effectively tap Asia’s growth.
A bold yet thoughtful response is needed to the national fiscal dilemma, which if not wisely managed could lead to unprioritized changes in security funding that undermine Washington’s ability to fulfill its treaty commitments in Asia.
Any decline in U.S. military spending should be structured so as to ensure that the U.S. can perform its role as a guarantor of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, in the Taiwan Strait, and in regional maritime disputes.
An appreciation of America’s enduring strengths should be a source of confidence for the 112th Congress. With the right choices, the U.S. will meet the challenges in Asia, draw benefits from Asian growth and peace, and continue to shape the future.