Guest op-ed by Prakash Kopparapu, chair of the Asian and Latino Coalition
From Russia to North Korea and the threat of ebola to ISIS, international engagement and foreign policy are among the most pressing issues for our country. Yet we haven’t heard a ton from the presidential candidates about their foreign policy plans.
According to a recent CNN poll, 75% of Democratic voters said foreign policy is very important when deciding who to support. And it should be.
Whether we realize it or not, foreign policy affects our daily lives. Right here in Iowa, we see the challenges and opportunities of disengaging and engaging on the global stage.
Whether it’s tariffs or competing with China in the developing world, the livelihoods of farmers and our fellow Iowans rely on the agriculture economy. Iowa’s future depends on stable, reliable markets around the world. Those markets are the product of strong U.S. diplomatic efforts and development tools.
These civilian tools are not only critical, but also cost-effective. Diplomacy and foreign aid are just 1% of the federal budget, but these programs save millions in military spending. They also support our economy, not only in the agricultural sector, but in the 1 in 5 American jobs that are tied to international trade.
The United States is the leader of the free world, but without international investments and strong alliances around the world, our leadership is at risk. China has increased its development investments in Africa by 520% over the last 15 years. As a result, China’s trade with Africa has tripled to the size of U.S.-Africa trade. And without clear focus from the presidential candidates, I worry the trend will continue.
That’s why dozens of Democratic activists and leaders in business, agriculture, government, military, science, academia, and non-profit organizations right here in Iowa are partnering with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC).
The bipartisan Iowa Advisory Committee of the USGLC provides a platform for a focused discussion on the importance of America’s global leadership to Iowa’s economy, our national security and moral standing in the world. We have invited all the candidates for president to meet with us to discuss these important issues and share their plans for global leadership.
Iowans take seriously their responsibility to vet presidential candidates. And while there is no shortage of issues competing for their attention, none is more important to Iowa’s economy and our nation’s future than how we foster relationships abroad.
Without a robust agenda for U.S. diplomatic and development engagement overseas, we risk our stability and security for years to come. That’s why we must encourage candidates to explain their plans to design a foreign policy that ensures the security and vitality of our state and nation.
By Prakash Kopparapu, chair of the Asian and Latino Coalition