For most of the last century, the United States has been the world leader in economic, military, and humanitarian terms. America has been, and I believe can and must continue to be, the greatest force for good in the world.
American foreign policy has had many incredible triumphs in past decades. The end of the Cold War culminating in the peaceful breakup of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact was a victory achieved through the unabated efforts of nine presidents from both parties. While the nature of the threats we face has changed and we no longer fight against a monolithic enemy, the necessity of a unified long-term commitment to our policy and principles has not diminished.
I believe that America needs a long-term foreign policy strategy to navigate the twenty-first century world. Countries like China, India, Brazil and a host of others are growing and competing with us for foreign markets and influence. The key to staying on top is to outperform our competitors through robust economic relationships, security partnerships, and effective humanitarian assistance.
Free trade is the basis for building economic ties around the world. In today’s global economy, growing markets around the world represent opportunities for expanded exports. If America does not actively go after those markets, we are ceding them to foreign competitors who will reap the economic prosperity that comes with increased exports. I believe that American businesses can compete with any in the world if they are given a level playing field. Not only does increased trade help America’s economy by opening up new markets to American companies, but countries with mutual economic interests are much less likely to enter into conflict.
For those reasons, I was a vocal proponent of the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, which were formally approved by Congress in July 2011. More exports into these three countries strengthen America’s economic power in the key regions of South America and Asia. These agreements are extremely beneficial to the American economy and jobs. Total exports from Illinois supported 15,807 companies in 2007, and 7.1 percent of private sector employment in Illinois is linked to export supported manufacturing jobs. Eight out of ten pieces of Caterpillar equipment manufactured in the U.S. are shipped abroad to global markets. These agreements also help farmers. According to the American Farm Bureau, the value of American farming exports to Colombia could rise to $700,000,000- more than doubling current U.S. agriculture exports.
Due to the importance of Colombia as a trading partner for Illinois and the U.S. at large, I founded the Congressional Friends of Colombia Caucus with three of my colleagues in the House of Representatives. This bipartisan group is made up of Members dedicated to promoting and strengthening the U.S.-Colombia relationship through increased trade.
Maintaining and building security partnerships is another essential component of an effective long-term foreign policy strategy. American leadership has served us and our allies well in the past, and we must continue to lead. One good example is U.S. leadership of a broad international coalition to impose strict sanctions to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. During my time in Congress, I have voted numerous times to impose new sanctions and strengthen existing ones. Most recently, Congress passed, with my support, H.R. 1905, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012. Enacted into law in August 2012, this measure expands the sanctions on Iran’s energy sector. Such sanctions have, by the regime’s own admission, severely crippled Iran’s oil exports, a key component of Iran’s economy. Along with multilateral sanctions on Iran’s financial sector, led by the U.S., the Iranian regime is facing growing pressure to change course and it is vital that we stay the course. I also voted in favor of H.R. 2105, the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act, which required frequent Presidential reports on people who are giving technological support to Iran, North Korea and Syria so that sanctions can be brought against those actors.
Aaron meeting with the Colombian President
Diplomacy should always be our first course to resolve conflict, but when diplomacy fails, we must have superior military strength to defend ourselves and our allies. I have consistently voted to provide America’s armed forces with the equipment and training they need to protect American interests abroad. For example, I voted to increase base pay for military personnel by 1.6 percent as part of H.R. 2055, the Defense Appropriations for fiscal year 2012, and again by 1.7 percent in H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013.
America must maintain a superior military force, but an effective long-term strategy also looks at ways to prevent the necessity of military intervention. Foreign aid amounts to slightly more than 1 percent of the annual federal budget, but its effects far outweigh that cost. As a global power, the U.S. has interests in many places around the world, whether security interests or resources. Often, these interests are in fragile states in unstable regions of the world. In the long-term it is better to spend a bit more than 1 percent of the budget per year to help these states build their state capacity than to wait until a crisis arises and spend many times that amount, and possibly American lives, resolving it. In order for foreign aid to truly be effective, the strictest accountability must be maintained to ensure that funds are used only for their intended purpose and not diverted by corrupt governments.
Congressman Schock has also been strong supporter of assisting the people of Sudan since being first sworn-in as a Member of the U.S. House in 2009. Since then, Congressman Schock has supported numerous pieces of legislation, written letters urging support and assistance on behalf of the Sudanese people and is a member of the Sudan Congressional Caucus.
Moving forward, America needs a long-term and comprehensive foreign policy that not only engages with the rest of the world, but that leads it. I will continue to work for policies that contribute to our long term goals and that keep America on top of our competitors.