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Yellen’s speech confirms US is back on the world stage

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen listens to President Joe Biden as he delivers remarks on the national economy and the need for his administration’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill in the White House State Dining Room on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Stefani Reynolds | Getty Images

After four years of a staunchly protectionist agenda, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is here to tell you that things are about to change dramatically.

The chief of the cabinet most in charge of President’s economic agenda Joe Biden on Monday presented a bold set of principles that differ from the priorities of the previous administration as much as one might imagine.

Ended the saber strikes of former President Donald Trump against China. In its place, there is a policy that “will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be”, but only “contradictory where it needs to be”.

Where Trump and his Treasury chief Steven Mnuchin have used their pulpit to not only choose fights with traditional adversaries like China, but also traditional allies like Germany, Yellen countered with “America d ‘first of all must never mean America alone “.

And while the previous administration generally paid little attention to issues such as diversity and climate change, Yellen said the two were at the center of not only America’s social agenda, but its economic agenda as well.

Drawing a line between the past and the present, Yellen asserted, in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, that “the most important difference today is a fundamental recognition that our national and international policies must be designed to be inclusive and fight against inequalities., and respect our environment. “

Global Speech for a Global Audience

The searing rhetoric, however, was no ordinary political discourse.

Instead, it essentially serves as a curtain raiser for this week’s World Bank / International Monetary Fund spring meeting.

The message: that globalization and the perceived role of the United States as the center of the mission are back in fashion.

“Over the past four years, we’ve seen firsthand what happens when America steps down from the world stage,” Yellen said. “America First should never mean America alone. For in today’s world, no single country can provide a strong and sustainable economy for its people on its own.”

These weren’t the only tough words Yellen said for the previous administration.

Without naming Trump, she criticized the slow response to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying the White House “failed to engage early to resolve the crisis beyond our borders,” which , according to Yellen, further worsens the economics. She stressed the importance not only of stopping the virus at home, but also in other countries.

However, before the pandemic arrived, the economy was doing well under protectionist Trump, who often used the term “globalists” derogatoryly against some of his own administrative officials.

Unemployment was at its 50-year low, inflation was under control, and the administration, despite its repeated alienation from allies around the world, managed to negotiate a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico and redraw agreements elsewhere. .

Leading economic officials, including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, lamented the fact that the wealth gap had narrowed significantly before the pandemic and widened again, largely due to economic restrictions put in place to combat the virus.

Despite criticism from the political left over its handling of world trade and the widespread tariffs put in place, Biden has indicated little change in this approach. Most of Trump’s tariffs were left in place.

Additionally, the Trump years have always been characterized by above-trend economic gains, not to mention a strong stock market.

For Yellen, however, the message was about more than numbers.

“ A more inclusive global economy ”

She spoke about the importance of reintegrating displaced women into the labor market and stressed the importance of providing assistance to minorities who have also been disproportionately affected during the pandemic. Climate change, she said, is “the greatest long-term threat the world faces”.

Overall, she said the administration’s goal was “to fight poverty and promote a more inclusive global economy that aligns with our values.”

From a global perspective, the two big proposals got the G-20 countries to agree on a minimum corporate tax globally and another target, announced last week, to approve $ 650 billion. special drawing rights that will provide US dollars to IMF members.

Both movements could have a clearly global orientation that the Trump administration has mainly avoided, other than an effort to bring home profits that were hidden abroad.

Despite likely criticism that the international attention of the Biden administration could threaten the United States at home, Yellen’s speech sends a clear message that America’s days are over for now.

“Although we embraced trade as an engine of growth, we neglected those who did not. And in the most recent period, when we may have adopted policies at home to deal with these issues and partnered with our allies to resolve issues overseas, we ourselves and we are removed from the international order that we have created, ”said Yellen.

“We can do better,” she added, regarding inequalities. “We have to do better.”

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