We have been writing about the pervasive importance of the Trump Administration's National Security Strategy as a driver of U.S. foreign and strategic policy (here, here, and here). Now it appears that Congress has also joined in driving NSS strategic decisionmaking.
ARIA allocated $1.5 billion for five years for designated programs in the Asia Pacific region. Beyond the expected--a renewed commitment to traditional alliances, a re-commitment to the denuclearization of Korea, and a reaffirmation of support for Taiwanese autonomy--the Act authorized renewed bilateral and multilateral engagement with US partners. Some have suggested that this opens the door to an arrangement between the now effective Trans Pacific Partnership and the United States, something the Trump administration signalled might be plausible as early as October 2018 (e.g., here). A reconstituted TPP would jump start America First in the sense of solidifying a large multilateral trade area within which production chains might be managed in accordance to shared values and insulated, in some respects from competing pressures. But even the threat of a fully reconstituted TPP could put pressure on China's alternative Belt and Road Initiative are least in the sense that it provides potential partners with bargaining leverage and might increase China's costs to assembling its own multilateral trading area.On the very last day of 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA), which according to the White House “establishes a multifaceted strategy to increase U.S. security, economic interests and values in the Indo-Pacific region.”
The act represents an attempt by the U.S. Congress to exercise a degree of oversight over the White House’s implementation of the Asia policy that is articulated in the 2017 National Security Strategy and the 2018 National Defense Strategy documents. (What ARIA Will and Won’t Do for the US in Asia).
Of course, all of this might be mooted by both the change in the composition of Congress after January and in the tenor and practice of politics at the national level. And once again, national policy might be held captive to the strategic posturings of elected political aristocracies and those who back them behind the scenes all of whom might as much be motivated as much by personal and party interests as by the long term interests of the nation (with respect to which their own dynastic and factional should carry no weight at all). Still, the indication of an inclination among a sufficent number of members of Congress to the extent that might align with reconsidered positions )or reframed positions) of the Executive, could add an interesting element to the construction of both Belt and Road and America First in the Indo Pacific region. And at the bottom of all of this is the continued and perhaps growing importance of the NSS as the operating manual of American foreign and military policy in the coming year.
This post includes a useful summary was provided by IndraStra and the text of ARIA.