Washington, DC – Following his introduction yesterday of H.R. 3524, the historic Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act, Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, delivered a speech outlining the major provisions of the bill, along with his vision for renewing American leadership in the world in response to the growing challenges and competition presented by the People’s Republic of China.
Video of the event can been found here, and the full text of Chairman Meeks’ remarks, below:
“Thank you, Kevin. And my sincere thanks to Asia Society and the Asia Society Policy Institute for hosting me today. Being a life-long New Yorker, I wish I was doing this in person from the Asia Society offices in the Upper East Side, but I am nevertheless glad to be with you today.
“I want to commend Asia Society for building bridges between the United States and Asia through its work on policy, arts, and culture. That work was critical in the aftermath of the second World War, when the Society was founded, and, I believe, it is just as, if not more essential today.
“I’m here today to talk about China and how to confront the challenges its policies pose to the United States and the American-led rules-based international order, which has yielded decades of growing prosperity and relative peace in Asia and the wider world.
“It saddens me to say that this order is more tenuous today than it has been in years, and of course a significant reason why is China. As the country has grown in economic heft, its government has unfortunately used its newfound influence and power in ways that run contrary to the interests of others in the region and clash with the very international order which facilitated its rise.
“We are all aware of these challenges. They range from the PRC aggressively pressing its border, maritime, and territorial claims, to its economic coercion against U.S. allies. It includes the PRC’s theft of intellectual property and technology, and its anti-competitive industrial and trade policies that have for years put American companies and workers at a disadvantage. It also includes attempts by the PRC to mold regional and international institutions in ways that undermine a rules based order, erode the market principles of non-discrimination, market access, reciprocity, fairness, and transparency, and apply undue influence on sovereign states.
“I was very disturbed when the PRC government abrogated its commitments to the one country-two systems principle in Hong Kong with its draconian National Security Law, and I am deeply concerned by the continued attacks on the freedoms and the rights of the people of Hong Kong.
“And the world has watched in horror as the government of China has committed atrocities against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minority communities in Xinjiang, building high-tech surveillance and censorship tools that it has no compunction in exporting abroad.
“I could go on, but there is no shortage of people diagnosing the problems. We know the challenges. The real question is how we respond to them.
“As we answer this critical question, we must consider the environment that has enabled the PRC to act in the manner it does. We have to be frank about the fact that part of the reason is that we have allowed American leadership and American engagement globally to slip by the wayside. Instead of supporting and trusting our allies and partners, we have been alienating them. And we have stopped investing in American institutions, innovation, and the American worker, raising doubts among our friends about America’s resilience.
“The United States became complacent, not by supporting China’s rise, but by taking our foot off the pedal when it comes to bolstering the international order and our alliance system. The last administration forgot that if we don’t lead that order, someone else will take advantage of our absence.
“The fact of the matter is the PRC loves a vacuum. And it knows how to fill it.
“Going forward, we will need more than tough talk and bluster about China. It will require leveraging America’s true strengths and focusing on the real challenges posed by the PRC. America will come out ahead, as long as we lead with confidence and abide by a few core principles.
“First, we have to show up. That means doing the hard work of diplomacy in the region, and in the regional and multilateral institutions where China has increasingly gotten a foothold.
“Second, we have to be clear-eyed about what our interests are and steadfast in their defense. This cannot be an effort to counter everything China does around the world. We cannot let the PRC dictate U.S. policy and strategy.
“Third, we have to exercise leadership on the foundations of our core values. That means not being afraid to call out human rights violations in China, and leading on the principal transnational challenges of our time, including climate change.
“Fourth, having just gone through two of the longest wars in American history, America must work to prevent what many refer to as an avoidable war with China. This requires we keep open lines of communication and dialogue with China and put in place crisis avoidance and management procedures to reduce the risk of accidents and unwanted conflict. Our goal is constructive competition, not conflict.
“Last but not least, I believe that it is absolutely critical that we do not go it alone. America’s greatest superpower in the global arena is our alliances. We must reinvigorate that system and reassure our allies and partners, not just with words, but through action.
“I have been delighted to see the approach the Biden Administration has taken towards the Indo-Pacific. Just last week, I met with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, who was in Washington for a summit with the President. President Biden’s first official summit was with Japan. Secretaries Blinken and Austin’s trips to Japan and Korea, and Secretary Austin’s separate trip to India, so early in the new administration, reinforced America’s role as a Pacific power, and signaled to China and the world that the United States is back in the arena with our allies and partners alongside us.
“But in my conversations with our allies and partners, I hear doubts about whether the United States will stay the course. After the tenure of the previous administration and the insurrection in Washington on January 6, there is a fear that the next administration could undo the commitments made by this one.
“That is why Congress must act. As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will make sure that we remain steadfast in our focus to renew American institutions and competitiveness at home, and American engagement and leadership abroad.
“The right path is one that is shaped by the lessons from our past and guided by a positive vision for the future -- a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific and a peaceful and prosperous world governed by international rules.
“Today, I am proud to be introducing comprehensive legislation to accomplish these objectives. The “Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement” or EAGLE Act will bolster U.S. leadership and investments in the Indo-Pacific region and globally in response to the China challenge.
“First, to accomplish the critical task of bolstering our diplomacy, the EAGLE Act authorizes an increase in Department of State personnel and resources devoted to the Indo-Pacific and presents regional blueprints to enhance American engagement. It emphasizes the power of multilateralism, focusing on boosting American leadership in international organizations such as the United Nations, as well as regional ones like APEC. And it stresses the need to strengthen the bonds with our partners and allies across the Pacific and the Atlantic through bilateral and trilateral engagement as well as through the Quadrilateral Dialogue.
“Second, the EAGLE Act presents a proactive agenda for the Indo-Pacific and the international system based on open commerce and the rule of law. It shines a light on many of the countries typically ignored by American foreign policy, including the Pacific Island states, states in the Caribbean and in Africa. These countries are often at the frontline of international and transnational threats and are especially vulnerable because of the lack of international infrastructure, technological, and cyber-related standards. They are looking for U.S. leadership in strengthening a rules based order, and this Act positions the U.S. government to do just that.
“Third, the United States must be at the forefront in tackling global issues like climate change, global health, and nuclear security. The Eagle Act spurs U.S. strategic and economic competitiveness through climate action, vaccine diplomacy, development finance, and support. It recognizes we cannot solve these problems alone and that China has to be part of the solution. We have to ensure that we hold China – the world’s largest emitter of green house gasses – accountable on climate, and that China plays a constructive role on nuclear security.
“Fourth, the Eagle Act ensures that the United States leads with its values. This bill takes concrete steps to respond to the PRC’s human rights violations by imposing costs on China for its use of Uyghur forced labor and providing temporary protected status and refugee status for qualifying Hong Kongers.
“Finally, the bill aims to strengthen America’s economic diplomacy and statecraft. We will only be able to restore America’s global leadership to its rightful place if we shape the economic rules that govern global commerce, empower American workers and businesses, and invest in the technologies of the future. The EAGLE Act calls on the Administration to negotiate digital trade agreements, bolster U.S. economic engagement with key partners like ASEAN, enhance transparency around U.S. financial markets, and boost U.S. assistance and financing as an alternative to China.
“No matter what China does, America has a clear task ahead of it. Diplomacy has to be the cornerstone of how we go forward. Our military might is second to none, but we must invest in our institutions and international alliances, because these are the true sources of our unique and enduring strength.
“I have said it before, and I say it again: We can no longer be America first; we must be America forward.