By Michael R. Czinkota
Barack Obama, a key candidate and the presumptive nominee for the U.S. presidency, is traveling around the globe. Some claim it to be a bit unusual for a non-elected candidate to undertake such a trip.
But such visits should be welcomed ― they are great opportunities for listening and learning. Both candidates should consider regular outreach to the world. If physical travel is not possible, there should at least be virtual contact.
Current outreach differs in major ways from earlier trips by U.S. leaders. For many decades, U.S. leaders toured nations to impart their views, while bearing policy gifts to the countries visited.
The goal was for others to better understand what the United States stood for, and what new policy initiatives meant. When international statesmen came to visit the United States, they typically expected to be briefed on new U.S. positions, demonstrate their closeness with U.S. policymakers and receive special concessions.
In the present economic and political climate, the tables are turned. Now U.S. leaders need to learn and listen in order to integrate global perspectives into their thinking. Their acceptance abroad will influence the U.S. view of a candidate's capability.
Hosts no longer need to rely on intermediaries and be misled in outcome expectations, as was the case in the last U.S. elections. Instead of receiving gifts, they need to consider what policy concessions and support they can offer to the United States.
The world is looking forward to the next U.S. administration. New directions are expected on military, economic and political issues. After eight years, the entrenched policies and approaches of any administration will restrain flexibility. It is as though the ship of state has become weighed down by the many crustaceans attached to its keel. The dislodging of the barnacles may improve its speed and maneuverability.
Now that there is an early opportunity for the addressing of new directions, it is important to consider what world leaders could be prepared to present to their visitors in support of a redefined partnership. Here are some possible offerings:
Canada and Mexico ― the U.S.' largest and closest partners, could provide close collaboration in the energy field.
Mexico's offer could focus on developing its internal market, in order to reduce the emigration pressures on its citizens. Together with other Central and South American partners, it could volunteer increased efforts, aimed at restricting drug production and trafficking.
Europe, an economic superpower, could acknowledge that politics do play a role in economic issues. Of concern are interest rates, the strength of the dollar and energy prices. A greater openness to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) would improve agricultural policies and negotiations.
Stronger enforcement of anti-bribery rules could relieve a major burden for the U.S. There can be much more civilian assistance and financial contribution by the EU in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and more collaboration on Iran.
Greater European investment in Africa, specifically by France and Italy, could demonstrate European commitment to hotspots, such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.
Given global concerns about energy, a new proposal could create a Global Energy Conservation Corps. Building on discussions held in Liechtenstein, young people could spend time learning about the tools, devices, and measurement of energy conservation and then reach out globally.
A hands-on commitment to service and sustainability would increase emotional connections and networking on a global scale.
Asia could offer more defense and more food to the world. Quotas, duties, and export bans of foodstuffs, could be voluntarily reduced.
Vietnam, India, Cambodia, and Japan could divest their stockpiles to increase supply. Others could lead by supporting openness, freedom, and individual liberty and demonstrate to the world that there is a common vision of a human future.
A jumpstart of the Doha Round of trade negotiations could reconfirm global support for trade and investment flows. Currently, only the fierce opposition of those who suffer from globalization is visible.
Vitriolic anti-globalization campaigns are generated, even if only a small portion of troubles emanate from international issues. Initiatives and collaboration from those who gain from international economic activity are crucial. Success needs much greater visibility and continuity, to discourage those worshipping on the altar of protectionism.
African leaders need to prevent cultural conflicts from becoming irreconcilable. They must ensure that societies are cohesive, linked, and ready for collaboration. Joint enforcement of behavioral standards for human dignity would be essential.
Islamic leadership could demonstrate its willingness to be more inclusive and offer an increased commitment to the reduction of discrimination against non-Muslims. Such collaboration should clarify that there is no orchestrated international effort against Islam.
The Bush administration intended to leverage U.S. humility in foreign policy. However, unforeseen events derailed this plan. Getting to know each other more is good, as is ongoing communication.
Right now, there is a need for clear, supportive, and specific actions, which key nations can propose to the U.S., in order to reaffirm a more equitable international partnership. Candidates around the globe should travel more to increase their exposure and understanding.
Michael Czinkota conducts research in international business and marketing at Georgetown University and the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. He served in trade policy positions in the Reagan and Bush administrations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.