FARGO — It’s important to the economy and security of the United States and North Dakota that America’s government, businesses and aid groups remain committed to policies that help developing nations keep their people fed, healthy and safe, panelists at a U.S. Global Leadership Coalition forum said Monday, Nov. 25.
“It pays off locally to be involved globally,” U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told more than 150 local leaders attending the luncheon event.
Cramer said he believes in American exceptionalism, and that the U.S. has a Christian imperative to support liberty around the world.
Aid, he said, is “a transfer of our views, our values” around the world.
Liz Schrayer, the president and CEO of USGLC, was the moderator for the forum. She asked Cramer if the U.S. should commit more money to foreign aid efforts.
Currently, the International Affairs budget, which includes foreign aid spending, makes up less than 1 percent of federal expenditures, Schrayer said.
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“I know you can’t do too much,” Cramer said, but the U.S. also doesn’t “have an unlimited checkbook.”
At the same time, Cramer said the Chinese are using their foreign aid money to make diplomatic inroads around the world.
“Everywhere we leave a vacuum, they take it,” Cramer said. “I think we could and should do more.”
Aid from businesses can build markets, said Jock Scharfen, Cargill’s vice president for corporate affairs for North America.
“It’s good business to have our investments and presence overseas,” Scharfen said. Nations such as Columbia are now more stable thanks to U.S. aid and “it allows us to make major acquisitions. It’s a rich market” now for U.S. exporters.
In Vietnam, Cargill is now known as the company that builds schools, he said.
“We try to be good citizens wherever we are, and in Vietnam we’ve built, funded and set up thriving schools, and there are 93 of them so far and we’re pushing on and we’re creating more of them,” Scharfen said.
North Dakota sees big benefits from exports. Canada, Mexico, Australia and Germany are major destinations for the state’s farm equipment, manufactured goods and oil and gas exports. In 2018, $6.8 billion in goods were exported to foreign markets.
About 110,800 jobs were supported by international trade in 2017, about 19.2 percent of all the jobs in the state, USGLC said. In 2016, 1,526 companies exported goods from North Dakota, of which 84 percent were small or medium firms.
North Dakota’s agricultural exports were $4.5 billion in 2017, the USGLC said.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Newton said “the challenges are mounting” due to the number of conflicts worldwide.
The focus of U.S. policy shouldn’t be just on its warfighting capability, “the kinetic fight,” Newton said, but on “how do we win the peace.”
Foreign aid efforts affect U.S. national security, Newton said.
Cramer said that at least 60 other developed countries are involved in export and import banking, and they “are far more liberal” in how they invest.
“If we want to export American values — including North Dakota values — we have to be in the game,” Cramer said.
Schrayer pointed out that by 2030, about 2 billion of the world’s population will live in conflict-torn or fragile states, including about 80 percent of the world’s poorest people.
Newton said the U.S. has helped stop the spread of AIDS in western Africa, and is working to eradicate malaria in eastern Africa.
“There is a value proposition for diplomacy and development,” Newton said.
Chinese investments were brought up several times as indicators that the Chinese are intent on asserting themselves as a world power. Scharfen said that underlines the need for U.S. aid to support nations in need.
“You have to show up. It’s not a competition if you aren’t there,” Scharfen said.