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A general view of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington February 28, 2013. Positions hardened on Wednesday between U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders over the budget crisis even as they arranged to hold last-ditch talks to prevent harsh automatic spending cuts beginning this week. Looking resigned to the $85 billion in "sequestration" cuts starting on Friday, government agencies began reducing costs and spelling out to employees how furloughs will work.   REUTERS/Jason Reed   (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) - GM1E92S1U0N01
Report

2019 trends to watch

2018 was marked by dramatic gatherings of world leaders, a flurry of data breaches, momentous elections in America and abroad, upheavals in global trade, and much more. Already, 2019 is shaping up to be no less eventful.

Brookings experts are looking ahead to the issues they expect will shape the world this year and the solutions to address them. Below, explore what more than 40 of them have identified as the biggest policy issues in their field for 2019, the ideas or proposals they encourage policymakers to consider, and the overlooked stories that deserve greater attention.

Responses are color-coded by Brookings Research Program:

grey for executive office, blue for governance studies, yellow for foreign policy, red for economic studies, green for metropolitan policy, purple for global economy and development

Biggest Policy Issues in 2019

Emerging and new technologies - John R. Allen

John R. AllenEmerging and new technologies—to include artificial intelligence, supercomputing, biotechnology, and many more—represent some of the greatest policy opportunities and challenges of 2019 and will, in no uncertain terms, define the remainder of the 21st century. Unlike anything that has come before, these technologies represent a true revolution in human affairs and will redefine our current understanding of society, governance, and even the human condition.

Unfortunately, I fear liberal democracies are too slow to adapt, and are not currently equipped to grapple with the implications of these technologies. Meanwhile, near-peer and other illiberal competitors like Russia and China are already pursuing them with little regard for the ethical, legal, and societal implications they will introduce. In an environment of truly breathtaking technological advances, perhaps the greatest policy issue of our generation will be how the principled, values-based community of nations embraces technology for the benefit of humankind, making this a major priority in 2019.

John R. Allen
President, The Brookings Institution

The effects of and public support for autonomous vehicles - Darrell M. West

Darrell M. WestThe development I am watching is the upcoming rollout of autonomous vehicles in major American cities. Most Western automotive firms are well-advanced in their pilot testing and ready to put these cars and trucks on the roads for real over the next year. This will launch one of the largest transportation experiments in U.S. history. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to ease road congestion, reduce air pollution, and cut highway fatalities.

But public opinion surveys show that many people are nervous about these vehicles and not ready to ride in them. When asked in a recent Brookings Institution survey how likely they are to ride in a self-driving car, only 21 percent of adult internet users said they are inclined to do so, compared to 61 percent who are not.

The support for self-driving cars is down a bit from other surveys over the past year. For example, Northeastern University/Gallup undertook a mail survey of 3,297 U.S. adults from September 15 to October 10, 2017 and found 25 percent were likely to ride in a self-driving car and 54 percent were unlikely. In January 2018, Reuters/Ipsos completed a survey of 2,592 adults, finding 27 percent were comfortable riding in a self-driving car and two-thirds were uncomfortable. As actual road testing takes place, it will be interesting to watch how safe the autonomous cars turn out and how people respond to these vehicles.

Darrell M. West
Vice President and Director, Governance Studies

Consumer data privacy - Cameron F. Kerry

Cameron F. KerryIs this going to be the year Congress passes comprehensive legislation to protect individual privacy? After a steady stream of news about data collection and data breaches and several high-profile congressional hearings, policymakers and the public have become much more aware of just how much data about every one of us is being collected and shared every moment. Key committee leaders have announced that privacy legislation will be on their agenda for this Congress, and a number of members are working on bills with an eye toward getting something passed by 2020. Against the backdrop now privacy laws in the EU and California, a lot of forces are aligning to make legislation possible.

Cameron F. Kerry
Ann R. and Andrew H. Tisch Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Governance Studies

Consumer protections in emerging technologies - Tom Wheeler

Tom WheelerThe connected issues of personal privacy exploitation for the purpose of market dominance by tech companies will be paramount in 2019. In many ways, the current era resembles the Gilded Age—a time in which power was centralized in the hands of the few and extreme inequality took hold. That phenomenon eventually gave way to massive reforms. As I argue in a recent paper, lessons learned from that period that can help us effectively protect citizens and protect liberal democratic capitalism in today’s information age.

Tom Wheeler
Visiting Fellow, Governance Studies

Congress’s role in setting the foreign policy agenda - Scott R. Anderson

Scott R. AndersonThis may be the year that Congress reasserts itself in foreign policy. The newly Democratic House and many Senate Republicans share serious concerns with the Trump administration’s foreign policy, including its ambivalence toward key treaty partners, courting of autocratic foreign leaders, and handling of crises ranging from North Korea to Yemen. This may result in new statutory limits on the president’s authority, most likely as part of omnibus legislation that is difficult for the president to veto. Such legislation will in turn raise new questions about the constitutional separation of powers in this area, and may trigger legal challenges.

Scott R. Anderson
David M. Rubenstein Fellow, Governance Studies

Competing factions across governing bodies - Sarah A. Binder

Sarah BinderTwo of the biggest policy issues I’ll be paying attention to in 2019 are: How, if at all, will Congress and the president manage to govern in an intensely polarized and partisan period?; and how will the Federal Reserve manage competing political pressures as it seeks to make monetary policy?

Sarah A. Binder
Senior Fellow, Governance Studies

Education policies - Jon Valant

Jon ValantI wouldn’t expect much education policy activity from Washington, D.C. this year. The Trump administration struggled to get meaningful legislation through a Republican-led Congress, and that will only get harder now that Democrats control the House. I’ll be watching to see how aggressively House Democrats go after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with oversight hearings. There’s some potential for bipartisan legislation in higher education, but the real education policy work of 2019 is likely to happen at the state and local levels, on issues that include teacher compensation, student discipline, gun violence, and career and technical education.

Jon Valant
Fellow, Governance Studies

Court nominations - Russell Wheeler

Russell WheelerI am monitoring whether President Trump and the GOP Senate will have the opportunity to continue staffing the federal courts, especially appellate, with very conservative judges.

Russell Wheeler
Visiting Fellow, Governance Studies

Yemen, Syria, and Israel - Natan Sachs

Natan SachsIn 2019, two horrendous civil wars will continue to dominate Middle Eastern affairs. In Syria the war is winding down, with Assad, Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah the victors. The United States, by contrast, is now withdrawing its troops and abandoning its allies in the fight against ISIS. In Yemen, the war is in full force, and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States all face major decisions on whether and how to continue the Yemeni misadventure.

In Israeli affairs, 2019 will be dominated by elections set for April 9. Prime Minister Netanyahu enters as the clear favorite, but a cloud hangs over his head: his possible indictment over corruption charges, including bribery. The elections themselves will serve a dry run for his possible successors, jockeying in position for “the day after Bibi Netanyahu."

Natan Sachs
Fellow, Foreign Policy

The U.S.-China relationship - Cheng Li

Cheng LiThe most important bilateral relationship of this century is entering a new era of competition and confrontation. Sentiment has been mounting in Washington that the United States faces the potential for major conflict with China across multiple fronts: strategy, diplomacy, security, military, politics, ideology, economics, finance, science, technology, education, and even culture. Similar views are also increasingly prevalent in Beijing. The biggest policy challenge will be ensuring these two powers can find a way to prevent their mutually reinforced fear and animosity from spinning out of control, a situation that could lead to a war with catastrophic consequences.

Cheng Li
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

The U.S. trade war with China - David Dollar

David DollarThe first 60 days will reveal whether it is possible to get a truce in the U.S.-China trade war. It’s in our interest to accept a practical compromise in which China agrees to open new markets. However, hawks in the administration may pass up the practical compromise in order to try to isolate and contain China. This will be very costly to the U.S. economically and may precipitate a crisis with partners who do not want to go down this path. An under-reported story is that many American firms have been hurt by Trump’s tariffs, a number that will grow if the trade war escalates.

David Dollar
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Global Economy and Development

The U.S.-China relationship - Dhruva Jaishankar

Dhruva JaishankarThe biggest policy issue in Asia in 2019—possibly the biggest in international relations—will concern the U.S.-China relationship. The question is less whether or not we are in a new Cold War, as some have suggested following Vice President Mike Pence’s speech in October. The growing contest over technological leadership, political interference, trade, freedom of navigation, and the Belt and Road Initiative point to a certain inevitability. The bigger question is: what does a new Cold War look like in a world that is so economically and socially integrated? And how will other factors, both within and outside U.S. alliance structures, adapt?

Dhruva Jaishankar
Fellow, Foreign Policy

Brexit and Syria - Amanda Sloat

Amanda SloatOne of the biggest issues animating European politics in early 2019 will be Brexit: will it happen, how will it unfold, and what will be the political and economic effects?

Another is how the consequences of Trump's year-end decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria evolve in 2019. There will be struggles among regional powers (including Turkey, Russia, and Iran), an uncertain future for Kurdish fighters, repercussions for refugees, and continued challenges to countering terrorism and securing peace.

Amanda Sloat
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

The U.S.-China relationship - Ryan Hass

Ryan HassI will be watching whether U.S.-China relations shift from intensifying competition toward adversarial antagonism, and how the United States, China, and other countries respond to a deterioration in relations between the United States and China.

Ryan Hass
David M. Rubenstein Fellow, Foreign Policy

U.S. diplomacy in Asia - Jung H. Pak

Jung H. PakWill the U.S. and North Korea be able to move past summit diplomacy and make substantive progress on nuclear negotiations? What are Kim and Trump willing to compromise to advance their respective positions and policy preferences, and what would be the implications for U.S. alliances in East Asia, North Korean denuclearization, and its internal stability? How far is the Moon Jae-in administration in South Korea willing to go to improve ties to the Kim regime and how might potential differences in South Korean and U.S. objectives stress the alliance? What will the U.S. alliance system in Asia look like by the end of 2019 as President Trump completes his third year in office?

Jung H. Pak
SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies and Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

Iran and North Korea - Robert Einhorn

Robert EinhornOn Iran, I’ll be watching how effective the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign will be in squeezing Iran and whether the Europeans and others will be able to persuade Iran to remain bound by the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal) despite the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA and re-imposition of nuclear sanctions.

On North Korea, I’ll be watching whether the Pyongyang regime and the Trump administration can begin a productive, professional-level negotiation and reconcile their very different approaches toward denuclearization.

Robert Einhorn
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

Terrorism and counterterrorism - Daniel L. Byman

Daniel BymanMy primary field is terrorism and counterterrorism. The biggest 2019 question is likely to be the status of the Islamic State. Is it largely defeated? Will the U.S. withdrawal from Syria allow it to revive? Will it focus its efforts locally and regionally, or will it successfully attack the West?

Daniel L. Byman
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

The stabilization of Iraq and Syria - Ranj Alaaldin

Ranj AlaaldinThe big policy issue I’m following is the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq and Syria, two theaters of conflict that have seen the collapse or weakening of state institutions, the brutality of jihadi terrorist groups, and the militancy of transnational militia groups backed by Iran. Zooming in on these two countries in 2019 will additionally help establish the implications of a military conflict between the U.S. and Iran for the region at large, but also help establish potential de-escalation mechanisms and areas for consensus that could stave off a regional conflagration.

Ranj Alaaldin
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

Afghanistan and Mexico - Vanda Felbab-Brown

Vanda Felbab-Brown2019 may well prove a defining year for Afghanistan’s foreseeable future and U.S. interests in Central Asia, South Asia, and beyond, including in countering terrorism and reducing violent conflict. Will the Afghan government manage to negotiate an equitable, broadly inclusive, and lasting deal with the Taliban? And will U.S. decisions on troop deployments hamper or assist in it or will the country slip further toward civil war?

In Mexico, the new administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised a broad and sweeping economic, social, cultural, political, and public safety “revolution.” Will its new security strategy, defined by the administration as a radical departure from those of its predecessor, succeed in reducing Mexico’s extraordinarily intense criminal violence and preserve some meaningful cooperation with the United States?

Vanda Felbab-Brown
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

European parliamentary elections - Célia Belin

Celia BelinA lot is at play in the European parliamentary elections this year. The outcome will take stock of the relative power of nationalist and integrationist forces across Europe and will influence the capacity of policymakers to reform the European Union.

Celia Belin
Visiting Fellow, Foreign Policy

U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan - Madiha Afzal

Madiha AfzalI’ll be watching the reaction to and consequences of Trump's announced drawdown in Afghanistan: both the Afghan and regional reactions will be important, as will the effects on negotiations with the Taliban. What happens to the Haqqani network, and its sanctuaries in Pakistan? What dangers can this pose to American security?

Madiha Afzal
Visiting Fellow, Foreign Policy, Global Economy and Development

European elections - Giovanna De Maio

Giovanna De MaioI’ll be watching Italian politics and European elections in light of the rise of sovereigntist movements.

Giovanna De Maio
Visiting Fellow, Foreign Policy

The Affordable Care Act’s future - Christen Linke Young

Giovanna De MaioWith respect to Obamacare, I expect 2019 to look a lot like prior years: despite ever-present threats, the Affordable Care Act will continue not to fail. The Texas v. United States lawsuit that made headlines at the end of 2018 was just the most recent in a string of increasingly silly lawsuits, and will likely be sorted out quickly. The repeal of the individual mandate and the Trump administration’s efforts to promote the sale of limited plans has certainly had some negative impact on enrollment in the individual market, but issuers priced for this and the final enrollment numbers were well within the expected range. And with the House of Representatives back in Democratic hands, we can look ahead to the first Congress since 2011 where that body won’t be passing a bill to repeal the ACA.

Christen Linke Young
Fellow, USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act - Isabel Sawhill

Isabel SawhillNow that Democrats have taken over the House, there are likely to be discussions on repealing and replacing the 2017 tax law. That law was badly flawed: fiscally unsustainable, unfair, and not well-designed to promote economic growth.

Isabel Sawhill
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies

Economic concentration - Jay Shambaugh

Jay ShambaughHow to deal with economic concentration is one of the biggest issues I’ll be following. There may be other issues that have a more immediate or direct impact on the economy (monetary or fiscal policy for example) but the one that will require new thinking and insights in the field is what to do about the level of concentration in the U.S. economy. Whether it is in high tech, communication, labor markets, or asset ownership, there are more and more questions about whether concentration is leading to worse outcomes for the economy and what we should do about it.

Jay Shambaugh
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies

Amazon HQ2 - Joseph Parilla

Joseph ParillaIn 2018, the competition that landed New York City and Northern Virginia with the rights to Amazon’s second (and third) corporate headquarters—along with the controversial billion-dollar incentives packages being offered—thrust local and state economic development policy into the spotlight. As we transition into 2019, I will not only be paying attention to how elected officials and community leaders in those two jurisdictions work with Amazon to prepare local workers for the new jobs, but also whether Amazon’s selection of those two regions based on their deep technical talent pools will spur leaders in non-winning cities to evolve their economic development approaches to invest more in workforce development.

Joseph Parilla
Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program

Iran’s economy - Djavad Salehi-Isfahani

Djavad Salehi-IsfahaniI will be watching Iran’s economy, how it adjusts to the re-imposition of sanctions following the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, and whether the European Union can help Iran maintain enough benefits from the nuclear deal so that it continues to keep its side of the bargain and refrain from reviving its nuclear enrichment program. The country and the region will face more instability if Iran decides to resume enrichment.

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

New approaches to global development - Ann Mei Chang

Ann Mei ChangNumerous forces, including the rise of nationalism, rapid technological disruption, and the concentration of poverty in fragile states, will force a rethink of our traditional approach to global development.

Ann Mei Chang
Nonresident Fellow, Global Economy and Development

The UN Sustainable Development Goals - John McArthur

John McArthurSeptember 2019 will mark the first major checkpoint for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) when presidents and prime ministers convene at the UN to take stock on how things are going, four years after all countries agreed on the goals and 11 years before the 2030 deadline. Our recent research has shown that hundreds of millions of people are still getting left behind on their most basic needs and UN summits can generate crucial public attention and debate. So 2019 offers a key opportunity for leaders around the world to elevate the relevant issues and start bending curves toward SDG success.

John McArthur
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Social unrest in MENA - Nader Kabbani

Nader KabbaniI will be following the social unrest taking place across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, especially in Jordan and Morocco. The old social contract has been broken; most MENA countries can no longer afford to provide their citizens with jobs, benefits, and subsidies in exchange for political acquiescence. This reality is requiring regimes to become either more inclusive by allowing greater political and economic participation, or to become more authoritarian and repressive. Many MENA countries have already moved in one direction (Tunisia) or the other (Egypt). Countries like Jordan that are trying to introduce greater fiscal discipline by reducing benefits or increasing taxes will find it difficult to avoid negotiating a new social contract. A global economic downturn in 2019 would place additional pressure on MENA countries and accelerate these shifts.

Nader Kabbani
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) - Geoffrey Gertz

Geoffrey GertzIn 2019 I’ll be watching the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) ratification process, aka NAFTA 2.0, as a harbinger of the shifting American trade policy debate. While the Trump administration succeeded in securing Canadian and Mexican support for the new deal, it still has to convince perhaps an even tougher audience: the U.S. Congress. While the substantive differences between USMCA and NAFTA are relatively small, achieving ratification is likely to be a contentious and complex process. Democrats in Congress are loathe to give Trump a symbolic victory on trade, suggesting the administration will need a sophisticated and well-executed legislative strategy—something it has struggled with to date—in order to successfully coerce and cajole the necessary votes. And with the 2020 race already beginning to kick off, the USMCA ratification debate will shape how trade and foreign economic policy are discussed among the next crop of presidential contenders.

Geoffrey Gertz
Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Policies from the Federal Reserve - Brahima Coulibaly

Brahima CoulibalyDuring 2019, I will be attentive to the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy actions. The Fed has the task of normalizing monetary policy in the particularly difficult and unprecedented context of: (1) exiting from a long period of very low interest rates while reducing its balance sheet; (2) a heightened uncertainty about the fundamental structural features of the economy; and (3) a volatile political and policy environment. A policy mishap on its part could trigger or precipitate a U.S. and global economic recession.

Brahima Coulibaly
Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Deaths of despair - Carol Graham

Carol GrahamIn 2019, I hope to see a decrease in deaths of despair—suicides, opioid overdoses, and other preventable deaths—among low-skilled whites. These deaths drive up our mortality rate and reflect a broader social crisis. The causes are complex, and include loss of hope and increased stress in the face of the loss of blue-collar jobs and communities. The solutions are complex and there is no federal leadership. Yet pockets of hope and resilience at the local level provide important lessons. I will continue using well-being metrics to document the trends and to evaluate the scalability of these efforts.

Carol Graham
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Ideas for Policymakers

Digital privacy protections - Tom Wheeler

Tom WheelerPolicymakers must pursue meaningful privacy protection legislation in 2019. Last year, the European Union emerged as the world’s leader in protecting personal rights when it implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The United States, the birthplace of the internet and a beacon of individual liberty, should not settle for spillover benefits from Europe’s regulation and cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the privacy risks of the digital age. Every day our connected world creates 44 exabytes of new data—an amount equal to three million Libraries of Congress—collected daily! Furthermore, policymakers must empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to act to protect consumers and competition. The FTC needs to be as innovative in oversight as the companies are in technology.

Tom Wheeler
Visiting Fellow, Governance Studies

Consumer data protections - Cameron F. Kerry

Cameron F. KerryCongress needs to think big and broad. Consumers and businesses across the board need basic rules that provide people with a consistent basis to trust that data about them will be handled fairly and consistently with their interests. As I have written at greater length, our existing system of laws to address specific sectors or issues has become a losing game. It leaves growing gaps and depends too much on consumer choice and understandings of privacy that are undermined by technology. We generate too much data in too many constant digital interactions to manage them without the help of some guardrails.

Cameron F. Kerry
Ann R. and Andrew H. Tisch Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Governance Studies

President’s authority to withdraw from treaties - Scott R. Anderson

Scott R. AndersonCongress should set limits on President Trump’s authority to withdraw from treaties. Currently, the president can do so unilaterally as a matter of practice. But this is premised primarily on congressional acquiescence, not on constitutional authority. By explicitly prohibiting treaty withdrawal, setting conditions on its consent (including, potentially, a fast-tracked congressional vote), and authorizing counsel to challenge any contrary actions on its behalf, Congress could reassert control over the treaty withdrawal process. Doing so could in turn protect important treaty relationships toward which the Trump administration is increasingly hostile, including with the United Nations and NATO.

Scott R. Anderson
David M. Rubenstein Fellow, Governance Studies

How we design incentives to increase investment - Isabel Sawhill

Isabel SawhillInstead of deep cuts in corporate tax rates we need more precise targeting of any incentives to increase investment and productivity—a rifle and not a shotgun. We especially need to design incentives that encourage businesses to invest in worker training and in sharing their profits with those who helped to create them. Productivity depends on workers, not just on the amount of capital invested in a business.

Isabel Sawhill
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies

Increasing workers bargaining power - Jay Shambaugh

Jay ShambaughPolicies to help workers bargain better and labor markets function more like actual markets. Too many U.S. workers have non-compete contracts, face no-poach agreements by franchises, or flat out collusion by firms. In some cases, excessive occupational licensing limits the ability of many people to access high quality jobs.

At the same time, workers have insufficient information in bargaining for wages. We could do more to improve workers ability to negotiate with wage transparency, non-compete reform or bans, and enforcement of antitrust law in labor markets.

Jay Shambaugh
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies

The policy agenda of new governors - John D. Ratliff

John RatliffWith 20 new governors elected last fall, many bringing with them optimistic visions of opportunity for the people and places left behind by today’s economy, it will be important to track how they translate their rhetoric into action. They have a few new tools, including Opportunity Zones and the authority to tax online sales, but these won’t move the needle unless state leaders act deliberately to build inclusive economies. As governors tackle the barriers that have exacerbated disparities by race, class, and ZIP Code, and invest in assets like a talented workforce and modern infrastructure, state policy experiments in 2019 will serve as inspiration for leaders at every level of government in the years ahead.

John D. Ratliff
Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program

The war in Yemen - Bruce Riedel

Bruce RiedelThe urgent humanitarian priority in the Middle East is to end the war in Yemen where millions of lives are endangered: This will require Congress to use intense pressure on the Saudi government to end the war and its blockade. It’s imperative to also begin the process of holding those responsible for the war and its crimes accountable.

Bruce Riedel
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

U.S. posture toward China - Tarun Chhabra

Tarun ChhabraI hope that bipartisan support for a tougher stance on China translates into bipartisan and bicameral congressional pressure on the Trump administration not to remove U.S. troops from South Korea or Japan; to increase funding, in coordination with U.S. allies, for alternative development and infrastructure projects in Asia; to sanction actors complicit in Beijing’s large-scale human rights abuses; and to not relent on pressure over intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer.

Tarun Chhabra
Fellow, Foreign Policy

The China-Taiwan relationship - Richard C. Bush

Richard C. BushOn cross-Strait relations, I have the following recommendations for the United States, Taiwan, and China: For the United States, do not give into the temptation to use Taiwan as a bargaining chip or point of leverage in negotiations with China. For Taiwan, maintain the current China policy of moderation and restraint. For China, end the policy of demonizing and marginalizing the current Taiwan administration, which was democratically elected.

Richard C. Bush
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

OPEC - David G. Victor

David G. VictorOPEC needs to figure out if it can remain relevant as output from non-OPEC sources (notably the U.S.) surges. Cheap oil will continue to create huge impacts on oil exporters who have less cash and will need more reform. And cheap oil will put pressure on the world to create reliable incentives to reduce emissions. Low energy prices are great for the economy, but not great for reversing growth in warming emissions.

David G. Victor
Co-Chair - Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate

Terrorism and counterterrorism - Daniel L. Byman

Daniel BymanEnable U.S. military operations to keep the Islamic State weak. Resource domestic counterterrorism, with a focus on right-wing violence as well as jihadist violence.

Daniel L. Byman
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

Libya - Jeffrey Feltman

Jeffrey FeltmanGreater attention to Libya, where relatively modest U.S. engagement in summer 2018 helped resolve the oil revenue crisis. A small U.S. diplomatic investment, including the re-opening of the U.S. Embassy and uniting external actors, can make the difference as to whether the upcoming UN-facilitated Libyan National Conference succeeds or fails.

Jeffrey Feltman
John C. Whitehead Visiting Fellow in International Diplomacy, Foreign Policy

India and Japan - Constantino Xavier

Constantino XavierA key question in 2019 will be whether India and Japan will be able to craft a new concert of democratic powers in the Indo-Pacific to limit China’s assertiveness.

Constantino Xavier
Fellow, Foreign Policy

European Union reforms - Célia Belin

Celia BelinResponsible European policymakers should be focused on reforming the European Union to take into account a growing popular discontent with neoliberal economic policies and austerity measures to avoid growing the extremes. Transatlantic trade negotiations need to take socioeconomic and environmental criteria into consideration.

Celia Belin
Visiting Fellow, Foreign Policy

Immigration and populism - James Kirchick

James KirchickPolicymakers need to take concerns about immigration seriously if they hope to beat back populism. This means reducing external immigration into the EU and keeping the numbers down for the foreseeable future.

James Kirchick
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

U.S. arms sales - Sharan Grewal

Sharan Grewal The U.S. should re-consider its arms sales to Saudi Arabia in light of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and more generally re-evaluate its military assistance to dictatorships.

Sharan Grewal
Postdoctoral Fellow, Foreign Policy

Global community of democracies - Ted Piccone

Ted PicconeA revitalization of the idea of a global community of democracies that would protect and strengthen open societies from challenges posed by new technologies, authoritarians and corruption.

Ted Piccone
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

Corporate responsibility - Homi Kharas

Homi KharasPolicymakers should think hard about whether current regulations give incentives to corporations to contribute to prosperity, equality, and environmental sustainability as best they can, while not sacrificing long-term profits. Wealth managers who allocate capital across the globe could also consider new strategies based on sustainability metrics in optimizing their portfolio allocations.

Homi Kharas
Interim Vice President and Director, Global Economy and Development

Delivery of development funds - Ann Mei Chang

Ann Mei ChangGlobal development funding and programs must make a dramatic shift from traditional service delivery to take the measured risk necessary to identify better solutions and catalyze sustainable and scalable paths to scale through local government and the private sector. Tiered funding, prizes, and other forms of outcomes-based financing should become a larger part of the USAID portfolio.

Ann Mei Chang
Nonresident Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Reinvesting in MENA institutions - Nader Kabbani

Nader KabbaniOver the past decade, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has witnessed an increasing amount of conflict within and between states. At the same time, institutions that are intended to serve as forums for intra-regional cooperation and coordination, such as the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, have been systematically marginalized. Unilateral actions conducted outside of institutional frameworks have not gone well, from the disastrous war in Yemen to the pointless economic blockade of Qatar. Even though regional institutions have proven ineffective in the past, the region needs them. Recent initiatives, such as the proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance, could help MENA countries focus on shared interests. As such, MENA policymakers should take steps to revitalize existing institutions and invest in new ones.

Nader Kabbani
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Iran sanctions - Djavad Salehi-Isfahani

Djavad Salehi-IsfahaniTo reduce or eliminate the risk of military confrontation with Iran, the U.S. should consider structuring sanctions more constructively, so that compliance leads toward a peaceful settlement of the U.S.-Iran dispute. Currently, the U.S. demands are tantamount to regime change.

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Should Be Getting More Attention

Restoring the integrity of the 2020 Census - William H. Frey

William H. FreyThe Trump administration has done its best to denigrate the quality of the 2020 census for political purposes. Late in the process, the administration added a citizenship question on the false premise that it is needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act. Its real effect will be to scare off millions of Latinos and immigrants from responding to the census—leading to their political underrepresentation. This can still be reversed. Several lawsuits were filed in federal courts, including one in California. Additionally, the new Congress can curtail census funding. The administration’s attempt to politicize the census needs to be averted this year.

William H. Frey
Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program

Housing policy debates in the Democratic primary - Jenny Schuetz

Jenny SchuetzAs more entrants join the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, I’m expecting housing affordability to become a prominent area of policy competition among progressive candidates. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have all proposed bills to address high housing costs, a key concern among younger urban households—an important progressive constituency. Housing advocates may join forces with environmental activists as the Green New Deal takes more concrete form. At the state level, California’s legislature has a slate of housing related bills, including a follow-up to last year’s famously unsuccessful attempt to build more housing near transit stations (SB 827).

Jenny Schuetz
David M. Rubenstein Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program

Rethinking economists’ focus on growth - Isabel Sawhill

Isabel SawhillWe need to stop obsessing about economic growth. Economists don't know how to create more growth, a single-minded focus on it ignores too many other values (e.g., the environment, the health of our democracy), and virtually all of the evidence suggests more growth does not lead to higher well-being in an already affluent society. It's time to reset our priorities.

Isabel Sawhill
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies

Regional inequality - Jay Shambaugh

Jay ShambaughRegional inequality. Huge gaps in economic outcomes across places in the United States have gotten more attention lately (we at the Hamilton Project just published a book on the topic) but it is still not enough. The gaps are large, persistent, and hugely important to policy. Among prime-age workers (ages 25–54), 83 percent are working in top counties compared to 67 percent in the bottom quintile of counties. These gaps show that to make progress on the people not working or inequality, we need to deal with the local economies that are getting left behind by globalization and automation.

Jay Shambaugh
Senior Fellow, Economic Studies

Policies designed to undermine the ACA - Christen Linke Young

Giovanna De MaioOne health policy story that I think is getting too much attention is the Trump administration’s efforts to use “State Innovation Waivers” to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Section 1332 of the ACA allows waivers of certain requirements to states that can show they have an alternative plan that will offer equally good coverage to as many people. The federal government recently took actions purporting to weaken these “guardrails” and allow states to seek waivers without demonstrating they meet the high bar set in the law. I think this guidance has significant procedural issues. Equally important, while the administration may attempt to say that they can grant waivers in situations where fewer people have worse coverage, they don’t actually have authority to do so and any attempt will certainly end up court.

Christen Linke Young
Fellow, USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy

The Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act - Scott R. Anderson

Scott R. AndersonCongress recently passed—and President Trump signed—the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, which makes the recipients of U.S. foreign assistance subject to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts for certain terrorism-related civil claims beginning on February 1. The resulting litigation risk will make it very difficult for many foreign partners to accept any U.S. foreign assistance funds, a consequence many in Congress do not appear to have anticipated. This includes the Palestinian Authority, which is already set to stop accepting such funds, including those that support Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation programs that are widely believed to have substantially improved regional security.

Scott R. Anderson
David M. Rubenstein Fellow, Governance Studies

Climate change’s impact on girls - Christina Kwauk

 Christina KwaukWith climate change promising to take both national and global center stage in the year 2019, we shouldn’t forget how climate change has a disproportionate impact on girls and women by exacerbating their social exclusion and economic vulnerability. In 2019, we need more stories highlighting the inextricable connection between environmental degradation and gender inequality, and to lift up radical examples of how access to quality education, green skills, resources, and leadership by girls and women around the world benefits not only society but also Planet Earth.

Christina Kwauk
Fellow, Governance Studies

China in global development - Tony Pipa

Tony PipaThe Trump administration’s increasingly adversarial stance toward China is spilling over into the global development arena. It is positioning U.S. foreign assistance as a better financing option for developing countries than the more than $1 trillion that China is offering through its Belt and Road Initiative and other development activities. At the same time, the administration is abandoning the multilateral system, the very platform for building the types of coalitions and collaborations that would give such a policy real weight. This is self-defeat at its finest.

Tony Pipa
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Iran’s economy - Djavad Salehi-Isfahani

Djavad Salehi-IsfahaniIran’s economy is doing poorly at the moment, but Washington exaggerates its fragility and the fragility of the Islamic regime. One little-considered scenario is that Iran could potentially withstand sanctions for several years by selling enough oil to buy its necessities, and restructuring its trade toward those countries that are willing to trade with it, like Russia, China, Turkey, and even some EU countries.

Djavad Salehi-Isfahani
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

U.S. climate actions outside the federal government - Nathan Hultman

Nathan HultmanI'll be watching the developing story about accelerating non-federal climate actions in the United States and how they will catalyze enhanced engagement in U.S. national politics and increasing global ambition to tackle climate change

Nathan Hultman
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Food security - Nader Kabbani

Nader KabbaniThe Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has among the lowest shares of arable land in the world and is by far the most water-stressed, with less than 550 cubic meters of renewable fresh water per person (less than half the amount available in the next most-stressed region). As a result, the region is among the highest net importer of food in the world. Urban expansion into rural areas, the introduction of water intensive cash crops, and ill-conceived agricultural policies have all worsened this predicament. Current megatrends are not working in the region’s favor either; MENA countries are among the most susceptible to desertification due to climate change and continue to post high birth rates. Finally, internal conflict has devastated the agricultural sectors of Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. All these factors combined place the region at serious risk of food insecurity and resulting social instability.

Nader Kabbani
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development

Displaced urban populations - Jessica Brandt

Jessica BrandtIn 2019, record levels of forced displacement once again grabbed the attention of policymakers and publics. Far less attention has been paid to the changing nature of displacement, which is now primarily a protracted, urban phenomenon. Current arrangements for responding to displacement are too narrowly focused on meeting the short term, emergency needs of camp-based populations in low-income countries. What we need is a system that addresses the long-term social service needs of urban populations, in countries at all income levels.

Jessica Brandt
Fellow, Foreign Policy

U.S. representation of Europe - Célia Belin

Celia BelinThe Trump administration is serving as an echo chamber for euroskeptic voices, which seek to weaken the European Union. Negative representations of the EU are increasingly commonplace in the U.S. media and they affect Europe’s global standing and, in the long-run, the solidity of America’s best allies.

Celia Belin
Visiting Fellow, Foreign Policy

Smart cities - David G. Victor

David G. VictorSmart cities. Will electric scooters and autonomous vehicles help cities get cleaner and smarter, or will 2019 see setbacks? Cities can't be smart if people can't move around quickly, easily, and with low environmental footprint. The clog of scooters—and some deaths, inevitably—will force policymakers to act.

David G. Victor
Co-Chair - Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate

China-Taiwan relations - Richard C. Bush

Richard C. BushI will be watching China's misrepresentation of political trends in Taiwan. Taiwan’s local elections in November 2018 resulted in a defeat for President Tsai Ing-wen’s party. The main reason was mistakes in domestic governance, but Chinese observers pointed to Beijing’s own policies. These same observes worry that Tsai will shift in a more radical, anti-China direction in her re-election campaign. So far, there is little sign that she will do so.

Richard C. Bush
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

Somalia - Jeffrey Feltman

Jeffrey FeltmanWithout improvements in governance and Somali-led security, tentative gains against al-Shabab and piracy in Somalia can easily be reserved, and the Gulf crisis is also playing out in damaging ways in Somalia. The Ethiopia-Eritrea rapprochement and the United Arab Emirates’ version of its own “belt and road initiative” also have impacts on Somalia’s future.

Jeffrey Feltman
John C. Whitehead Visiting Fellow in International Diplomacy, Foreign Policy

South Korea-Japan relations - Jung H. Pak

Jung H. PakSouth Korea-Japan ties have deteriorated significantly in the past several months, and have the potential to erode further as the two sides continue to spar over history issues, especially Japan's use of Korean women as sex slaves during World War II.

Jung H. Pak
SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies and Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

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