Home>Jamieson Greer's Remarks, receiving the 2022 US Sciences Po Alumni Award


Jamieson Greer's Remarks, receiving the 2022 US Sciences Po Alumni Award

My experience with Sciences Po started right here in this building.  I was working in a legal office in Delaware for the summer, and there was one open day when my wife and I could come and get our student visas.  The one day we could come was July 13, which is the day before July 14, which is Bastille Day – the French National Day.  You would not be surprised to know that the French Embassy consular services division was planning to close early the day before Bastille Day.  Through sheer luck – or something more deliberate – we were the last people to make it through the door of the Embassy on July 13.  We had brought stacks of documentation – birth certificates, marriage certificates, bank statements, passports – and we brought them in triplicate.  But the document the official was most interested in was the letter from Sciences Po saying that we were invited to come to France.  And so we did.  And here I am again today – having come full circle in the most surprising way possible for me.

Since that time, I’ve had many interesting professional experiences in both public service and the private sector.  My area of practice is international trade law and policy – a topic that, in the past few years, has moved from mid-level discussions among technocrats to high-profile negotiations – and even significant trade disputes – led by world leaders themselves.  Indeed, Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine has resulted the most coordinated, rapid, and expansive disruption of trade since perhaps World War II.

Tonight I want to say a few words about (1) how this economic disruption with Russia has been implemented, (2) what this means for relations between the U.S. and Europe (as well as other allies), and (3) what it means for China’s relationship with the West.

First, what is this economic aspect of the war?  It is a coordinated effort among the United States, EU, UK, Canada, Japan, and many others, to limit trade and investment with Russia, in a staged and escalating way, to reduce Putin’s ability to prosecute the war.  The hope is that sanctions will prevent Putin from acquiring the equipment, know-how, financing, and other support he needs to continue his invasion.  You will hear people identify other goals of the sanctions as well – and there are certainly other outcomes and effects – but I believe the goal I have outlined is the fundamental goal of the sanctions, and the metric against which we should measure their effectiveness.  

But let me go into more detail about the sanctions themselves.  My experience is that those who are not steeped in international trade and economics hear the word “sanctions” and assume that all sanctions are the same, and more specifically that these measures are tantamount to a trade embargo.  But the landscape is much more nuanced than that.  I am speaking to U.S. sanctions here, but as I discuss this, keep in mind that U.S. sanctions are largely consistent with those imposed by the EU, UK, Switzerland, Canada, and other jurisdictions.  Moreover, many of these measures apply equally to Belarus, Russia’s willing partner in its aggression.

The Crimea region of the Ukraine as well as the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic – the Russian-occupied portions of Ukraine – are subject to comprehensive sanctions, which constitute an effective trade embargo.  This means that no imports or exports are allowed and no financial transactions are allowed, either directly or indirectly, by U.S. persons.  

But the other sanctions in response to this war are largely targeted to specific Russian individuals, entities, and sectors.  In the United States, the Treasury Department is the primary sanctions authority.  For this conflict, Treasury has designated as sanctioned persons numerous oligarchs with close ties to the Russian government and Russian government officials, such as members of the Duma, Russia’s parliament.  Likewise, certain Russian banks, oil and gas companies, aerospace and shipping companies, and companies with military ties have been specifically sanctioned.  This means that these individuals and entities cannot transact with U.S. persons through imports, exports, provision of services, financing, and other activities.  Treasury has also designated specific economic sectors as target areas for sanctions, such as the oil and gas industry and business organization and management consulting services.  

Some entities are identified as sanctioned persons but are subject to narrower limitations than the ones I just discussed.  Specifically, there are instances where U.S. persons cannot deal in debt or equities of a Russian company, but can otherwise do business with that company or entity.

Separately, there are limits on goods, software, and technology that can be exported to Russia at all, regardless of who it might be going to.  The U.S. and other jurisdictions have long lists of what are considered “dual use” items – items that have both civilian and military applications.  This includes items like machinery, semiconductors, certain materials, aerospace parts and components, software, encryption, and other items.  The U.S. Commerce Department has broadly imposed a rule requiring authorization in order to export items on this list to Russia.  And the agency has announced an intent to deny applications for such authorizations or licenses.

So you can see that the term “sanctions” covers an enormous area, and there is enormous complexity within sanctions programs.  As many in the audience may know, developing a multilateral sanctions program is exceptionally difficult, and one can look at the example of Iran to understand the difficulty.  The West has struggled to reach a common approach to Iran, and Iran, frankly, has benefitted from dissension within the West, even playing Western nations off each other.  When it comes to economic responses to global bad actors, a familiar pattern is a willingness of the United States to take strong measures, and for the EU and other partners to take a different, more conciliatory approach.  I am not making a judgment point here, but simply want to highlight the differences that often arise among allies when it comes to economic sanctions.  So, it is remarkable to me that the United States, EU, UK, and others have managed to align and implement such a stunning array of sanctions in such a short period.  It is remarkable enough that it merits some discussion.

Second, what does this strong economic response to Russia’s war tell us about the relationship between the U.S. and Europe?  At a minimum, this tells me that Western nations are capable to responding in concert to a perceived threat to shared, core national interests.  

It is important to acknowledge that the threat level differs between the U.S. and EU, and that the cost also differs.  For example, two-way EU-Russia trade in goods was nearly $250 billion in 2021, with Germany as Russia’s largest trading partner in terms of both export and imports.  This is a substantial amount, and includes, importantly, energy trade upon which European households depend for their winter heat.  But the very real presence of armed conflict in Europe, and tanks rolling in the Eastern plains, poses a tangible, physical threat to security unseen since WWII.  As a result, the EU is balancing the very real cost of a sanctions program with the imperative to degrade Putin’s ability to wage a war that may not end in Ukraine.  And I think the Europeans should be commended for this.

On the U.S. side, two-way trade in goods with Russia was only roughly $36 billion in 2021, a much lower amount compared to Europe.  However, the direct national security risk to the United States from the war is much lower compared to the risk to Europe.  The net result is that the U.S. can implement the same sanctions on Russia as Europe, but at a much lower cost and with less disruption.  This is not to say there is no cost – I know from my own experience advising U.S. companies that certain sectors and businesses have particular exposure and are suffering enormous losses due to their compliance with these sanctions programs.

Thus, we know that the United States and EU can come together in a powerful, coordinated way to implement economic and diplomatic pressure.  It may be that it took a kinetic war to drive this outcome.

My hope would be that the United States and the EU can work together in a similar way to deal with other global challenges, including in situations short of war.  Indeed, there are some challenges that pose an existential threat to national sovereignty, international order, and universal human rights.  I am talking about the challenge of China as governed by the Chinese Communist Party and its Chairman, Xi Jinping.

So this brings me to my third and final point -- what does EU-U.S. cooperation on the Russia matter mean for how the West can address the challenge posed by China?

Like in the Russia context, Western states must first decide on whether they agree that China – as governed by the Chinese Communist Party – is a threat to liberal values and democracy, and if so, to what extent it is a threat, and finally, what to do about it.

In the United States, the position on the threat posed by China has become clearer over the past few years.  The 2017 National Security Strategy issued under President Donald Trump described the U.S. view:

“For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others. China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale and spreads features of its authoritarian system, including corruption and the use of surveillance. It is building the most capable and well-funded military in the world, after our own. Its nuclear arsenal is growing and diversifying. Part of China’s military modernization and economic expansion is due to its access to the U.S. innovation economy, including America’s world-class universities.”

I must also note that through its unfair trading practices – subsidies, overcapacity, forced technology transfer, high tariff and non-tariff barriers, and economic coercion – China has expanded its own industrial base at the expense of businesses and workers in the U.S. and the EU.  It has used its market access from its World Trade Organization membership to send subsidized goods all over the world, while largely keeping its own markets closed or difficult to access on a fair and equitable basis.

And we can now add to the foregoing list of offenses the knowledge that China is pursuing a sort of genocide in Xinjiang province, where the Uyghur population is being cleansed, oppressed, and subjugated through forced dislocation, re-education in concentration and labor camps, destruction of religious and cultural sites, and the tearing apart of Uyghur families, which perhaps is the most damaging thing of all.  An historic building ultimately is just a building – but a family is something truly sacred.

The Trump administration’s response to these malign activities was to impose costs on the Chinese Communist Party: by implementing tariffs that make subsidized Chinese goods more expensive to import; by enforcing laws that prohibit trade in goods made by forced labor; by strengthening scrutiny of Chinese investment in critical technology, critical infrastructure, and data-driven companies; by expanding export controls that limit the ability of the Chinese military-civil complex to grow and develop; by increasing investigation and prosecution of intellectual property theft; and many other means.

This approach largely has continued under the Biden Administration.  In fact, the Biden Administration has differed from the Trump Administration in almost every area of policy in very significant ways.  But on trade issues, and on China issues in particular, there has been continuity.  Congress is generally unified on this as well.  The tariffs remain in place, investment scrutiny and export controls continue, and there is continued attention to IP and trade secret theft.

None of this is easy or cost-free.  The U.S.-China economic relationship in terms of two-way goods trade was over $650B in 2021.  This is orders of magnitude higher than U.S.-Russia trade, or even EU-Russia trade.

The EU’s view on China seems to be less clear.  Last year, an EU Member State official stated that “where the U.S. seeks confrontation with China, the EU seeks engagement.”  I do not agree with the sentiment, and I am greatly troubled by an effort by important European officials to distance the EU from the U.S. and suggest closer ties with China.  Whatever was meant by that statement, the perception is unsettling on this side of the Atlantic.

But that is only one statement, and we have also seen important changes in the European discourse on China.  The EU imposed sanctions in response to genocide in Xinjiang province.  The French government refers to China now as a “systemic rival.”  And despite heavy investment by German companies in China, we have recently seen German officials take issue with abuses in Xinjiang province, and we have heard German defense officials unequivocally declare that they are not “somewhere in the middle, but are and will continue to be part of the West.”

Nonetheless, the messages have been mixed.  A worry on the U.S. side is that as U.S. companies, encouraged by the U.S. government, seek to diversify reliance on China, that European companies may take advantage of that movement to improve their own position in China while the United States deals with the China issue alone and bears the costs alone.  China in turn would feel much less pressure to change its behavior, and would continue to have considerable access to Western technology and capital.  This would be as if the U.S. left the EU to deal with Russian aggression on its own – an outcome that seems unthinkable and absurd now.

But the Russian experience suggests to me that it is very possible that there could be joint support for sanctions or trade measures that inhibit the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to unlawfully expand its borders, illegally obtain Western technology, unfairly compete in international trade, and systemically oppress people in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.

It will be difficult for the West to maintain its values while also maintaining robust economic relations with China as governed by the Chinese Communist Party.  It is not a question of picking “sides” as much as it is a question of picking values.

And Companies are looking for clear signals from governments as to what the policy toward China will be with respect to economic matters.  Ideally, this is something that the U.S., Europe, and other like-minded nations do together and articulate very clearly.

I am hopeful that efforts like the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council, or TTC, will support trans-Atlantic coordination on issues like export controls and investment scrutiny.  It would be disappointing if the TTC becomes a forum purely for talking and not for taking concrete action to address Chinese abuses.

I am hopeful that the clarity of purpose that drove Europe to fundamentally change its trading relationship with Russia can be seen as an example – if not a template – for coordinated action against ongoing and future abuses by the Chinese Communist Party.  To be very specific, the type of sanctions imposed on Russia could be the types of sanctions imposed on China depending on how things develop.  And both the U.S. and Europe should be prepared to move forward together.

Dialogue with China is and will always be important, but we have found that dialogue alone has been a way for the Chinese Communist Party to defer accountability for malign activities that harm the West and harm its own people.  It has only been when dialogue is coupled with enforcement – whether through sanctions, tariffs, or other trade measures – that we could even begin to hope for changed behavior from the Chinese Communist Party.  And if it will not change its activities – a very real possibility that I acknowledge – coordinated measures will prepare the West for less dependence on China while also depriving China of access to the trading and capital markets of the West.  There will always be some trade and investment between the West and China, but it should be carefully measured and managed to ensure that it benefits the shared interests of the U.S. and EU, and does not support the Chinese Communist Party in its goals.

This will be an ongoing conversation over the months and years to come, and it is important for our children and our societies that we get the answer right.  Finding a peaceful coexistence is paramount, but it may take some very hard measures to get there.  

Before I conclude, please indulge me and let me finish with one more story about Sciences Po.  I mentioned that my wife, Marlo, and I moved to Paris together.  The most important part of our story is that Marlo gave birth to our first child when we were living there.  We named her Noëlle.  After a few weeks, Marlo brought Noëlle to Sciences Po to visit with my classmates.  We were in the court at the building on the rue des Saints-Pères.  And we passed this baby around.  And I think we were all very surprised that we – university students – were allowed to be holding a baby and in fact, were responsible for its well-being!  And here 15 years later, Noëlle is turning out wonderfully, and I see my classmates and other Sciences Po graduates around the world in charge of things.  Running companies, providing public service, conducting important research, leading governments.  And it is a little bit like holding that baby – we have these fragile, important things that have been entrusted to us, and at least for me, I sometimes look around and am surprised to be in such a position, recognizing that ultimately, it is just people running our institutions, and it is just people ensuring that shared values of liberty, equality, and fraternity, continue to be at the core of our civilizations.  But I’m always heartened when I see that is it is people from Sciences Po, who I know have been trained to leave the world a better place than they found it.  

Thank you so much for this award, and so much for your friendship and trust.  Thank you.