TL(PM) DIGEST: Hitting back against fentanyl
Plus a new defense cooperation deal with Papua New Guinea, lessons from a poll of America's most and least respected companies, and China finally sends a new ambassador to Washington
1. Congress gets closer to actually fighting America’s fentanyl scourge
What happened? Politico reports on two bills moving forward in Congress related to the nation’s fentanyl crisis. One attacks international fentanyl trafficking, while the other increases penalties for fentanyl-related distribution and crimes.
Why does it matter? The first bill, the Preventing the Financing of Illegal Synthetic Drugs Act, passed almost unanimously and “tasks the Government Accountability Office with studying drug trafficking, specifically, the financial methods used by international criminal organizations and U.S. efforts to combat them.” The second bill, the HALT Fentanyl Act, is scheduled to come up shortly and aims to “permanently schedule fentanyl and related substances as Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act and boost research into the drugs.”
President Biden indicated his support on Monday saying he “has long supported” the goals of these two bills, according to Politico.
TLP’s take: For years, the illicit fentanyl trade has killed untold numbers of Americans. It’s about time Congress and the president worked together to put real resources into protecting American communities from the scourge of this deadly illegal drug inundating our cities and towns—both of these legislative efforts deserve our support.
2. U.S. signs security pact with Papua New Guinea
What happened? Filling in for President Biden after his last minute cancellation, Secretary of State Blinken traveled to Papua New Guinea and signed defense and maritime cooperation agreements with the country’s prime minister. In addition to enhanced bilateral security and law enforcement cooperation, the U.S. Coast Guard will be able to help the Papua New Guinea Defense Force patrol the country’s waters.
Why does it matter? Beijing has been making its own aggressive deals in the South Pacific in recent years, sealing its own security agreement with the Solomon Islands last year and trying but failing to secure a wider regional cooperation pact. The U.S.-Papua New Guinea agreement represents an important step forward for both American engagement in the region and the low-level strategic competition with China.
TLP’s take: Secretary Blinken’s visit mitigates the diplomatic damage done by the cancellation of President Biden’s planned visit to Papua New Guinea, and the deals signed with Port Moresby mark the first step toward American re-engagement in the South Pacific. The Biden administration appears to be doing what its critics say it should: showing up with something to offer nations courted by Beijing.
3. America’s most and least respected companies offer lessons for government
What happened? Axios/Harris Poll released their 2023 corporate reputation rankings with Patagonia, Costco, and John Deere emerging as the three most respected companies and Fox, FTX, and the Trump Organization occupying the bottom three slots on the list of 100 companies.
Why does it matter? Axios/Harris built its reputation index based on Americans’ views of nine different dimensions including character, trajectory, trust, culture, ethics, citizenship, vision, growth, and products & services. Clearly the top performing companies in the country are seen as good corporate stewards providing goods and services that people rely on; conversely, the lower rated companies lack public trust and reliability.
TLP’s take: Unlike the government, which receives mostly poor ratings and low levels of trust from Americans, people hold many private companies in high regard. Government agencies and managers should study these results and talk with their private sector cohorts to figure out how best to meet the needs of people, deliver results that people like, and ultimately build and sustain greater trust with citizens over time.
4. Beijing finally dispatches a new ambassador to the United States
What happened? China’s government has sent its new ambassador to the United States, veteran diplomat and vice foreign minister Xie Feng. His arrival comes several months after his predecessor (now Beijing’s foreign minister) departed and amidst so far unreciprocated efforts by the Biden administration to ease tensions with Beijing.
Why does it matter? Xie’s appointment may serve as a signal that Beijing is willing to talk with the United States after tensions grew between the two countries over the first few months of 2023. In any event, both the United States and China will now both have ambassadors in Beijing and Washington for the first time since January.
TLP’s take: While it’s undoubtedly good for this channel of communication between Washington and Beijing to reopen, it’s best not to read too much into the appointment of a new Chinese ambassador to the United States. Relations between the two countries may become slightly less acrimonious, but the overall trajectory of policy in both nations will likely remain the same—as Noah Smith observes, “decoupling is just going to happen” based on Beijing’s domestic and foreign policies going back at least a decade.
Just one more thing…
A series of kite-like desert rock engravings made between 7,000 and 9,000 years ago in what are now Jordan and Saudi Arabia appear to be the oldest architectural plans ever discovered.