GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — Foreign policy in the United States is influenced by a variety of actors, including Congress as a whole, the President, the President’s Cabinet members and other important players. Each new administration has the opportunity to nominate people for these positions in order to carry out U.S. foreign policy agenda, including how U.S. foreign aid is distributed. President Biden has made it clear that he will have a very different foreign policy approach than the Trump administration. President Biden plans to put more of a focus on multilateral development and U.S. foreign aid and Biden’s nominees for key foreign policy positions reflect this commitment.
Secretary of State: Anthony Blinken
For arguably the most important position in determining foreign policy, President Biden has nominated Anthony Blinken to be the secretary of state. The secretary of state serves as head of the State Department and advises the president on all foreign policy and diplomacy activities. Blinken has extensive experience with foreign policy, beginning his career working for the Clinton administration, then serving as deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration and working with President Biden on the Foreign Relations Committee. Blinken has stated that he would “bring aid back to the center of our foreign policy,” a big switch from the power and competition framework of the Trump administration. From Blinken, it can be expected that U.S. foreign aid policies will return to what they were during the Obama administration.
Deputy Secretary of State: Wendy Sherman
The deputy secretary of state is the second in command at the State Department, essentially assisting with all the duties of the secretary of state. President Biden has nominated Wendy Sherman to be the first woman serving as the deputy secretary of state. Sherman also has previous foreign policy experience, serving as the assistant secretary of state for congressional relations during the Clinton administration and then as a political consultant for an independent firm. Sherman was also one of the lead negotiators for the Iran Nuclear Deal, showing an inclination toward multilateral agreements.
USAID Administrator: Samantha Power
The USAID administrator directs how U.S. foreign aid is administered in coordination with the State Department and the National Security Council. For this position, President Biden has nominated Samantha Power, another familiar face from the Obama administration. She previously served as the ambassador to the United Nations and was on the National Security Council. Since Blinken has commented on the importance of U.S. foreign aid as a part of foreign policy, some experts want to see the USAID administrator take a more prominent role in the Biden administration.
Ambassador to the United Nations: Linda Thomas-Greenfield
The ambassador to the United Nations represents the U.S. president at the United Nations and advises the president on foreign policy issues. For this position, President Biden’s nominees include Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who has worked in the foreign service for 35 years. President Biden also plans to keep the position of ambassador to the United Nations as a Cabinet position. As ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas-Greenfield signals a return to traditional U.S. leadership in multilateral foreign aid projects.
US Trade Representative: Katherine Tai
The U.S. trade representative, while not directly related to foreign aid, has influence over how and where the U.S. trades. By advising on new emerging markets, this position can aid development through increasing trade. For example, through the Aid for Trade initiative, the U.S. helps developing countries become a part of the global market. President Biden has nominated Katherine Tai to be the next U.S. Trade Representative and the first woman of color to serve in this position. Tai worked during the Obama administration at the Office of the General Counsel for the U.S. trade representative and is currently working on the House Committee on Ways and Means as the chief trade counsel.
With many familiar faces from the Clinton and Obama administrations returning to service in the new administration, President Biden’s nominees represent a very experienced foreign policy team. The nominees will have a strong influence over foreign policy and how U.S. foreign aid is used to alleviate poverty and encourage development.
– Starr Sumner