Support leadership and policies that support American competitiveness and a return to U.S. foreign engagement.

American Leadership Initiative

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The American Leadership Initiative (ALI) is dedicated to developing a new vision for reestablishing American global leadership through smart and robust diplomacy, development and trade policies. This new vision seeks an effective, long-term alternative to the populist isolationism that is now undermining American interests. ALI provides a platform for policy ideas and reform proposals by working with a community of thought leaders from civil society, politics, academia and business.



America’s Path back to Global Leadership – WTO Reform

Even before the explosion of trade-related news generated by President Donald Trump’s election, there were calls for reform in the World Trade Organization. Two main issues face the organization: the challenge to market economy principles and practices from an ascendant China, as well as increasing populist, protectionist and isolationist pressures around the world, including in the United States (1). The U.S. must positively engage with other nations and play a leadership role to reform and modernize the WTO in order to address these challenges. The WTO, and the multilateral, rules-based system world order it represents, provides an essential strategic underpinning that bilateral agreements -- and unilateral demands -- lack. For seven decades, market-oriented, rule-of-law economic principles have been the core of the WTO. This approach, rather than an “America First” strategy which isolates the United States, is key to American interests and values. According to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer: “[The] WTO is obviously an important institution. It does an enormous amount of good and provides a helpful negotiating forum for contracting parties. But, in our opinion, serious challenges exist.” The United States is certainly not alone in its criticism of the WTO. A Canada-sponsored meeting on WTO reform, currently without the U.S. or China, is set for October 24-25 in Ottawa. The main areas of complaint are that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and illegal subsidies are wreaking havoc with various sectors of the global economy, that the proliferation of bilateral trade deals is undermining the purpose of the WTO, and that the dispute settlement process is badly deteriorated.

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With the negotiation of the new U.S.-Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), there is concern about its potential impact on labor. Ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne, and Raquel Chuayffet have written an excellent piece, published by The Wilson Center (, which discusses ideas for trilateral workforce training and development. Addressing job losses from trade and training labor for the jobs of the future must be a strong component of U.S. domestic policy. One of ALI’s founding principles is that America must be strong at home in order to be strong abroad. Policies which promote inclusive and sustainable growth at home are a necessary predicate to insuring that the U.S. can restore its global economic leadership.

A North American Workforce Development Agenda

North America faces an alarming skills gap that negatively affects the international competitiveness and economic performance of all three countries. Simultaneously, the United States, Canada, and Mexico are facing economic and technological transformations. This set of challenges calls for priority investment in the development of the continent’s workforces. North America’s highly integrated production and commercial networks mean that more regional collaboration is essential. If done well, such collaboration is an opportunity to create jobs, achieve higher levels of productivity, and strengthen the competitiveness of the region vis-a-vis China and other global economic powers.


This article, published online by the Center for American Progress (, discusses the threat to democracy posed by rise of far-right populism in Brazil and around the world, an issue at the heart of ALI. The authors’ argument that the rise of populism is an affront to American values and a challenge to U.S. leadership, was a key motivation behind the development of ALI.  Our mission is focused on the premise, echoed in the article, that the United States will need to adopt bold new policies, focused on American values, in order to combat populism both at home and abroad. 

The Rise of Far-Right Populism Threatens Global Democracy and Security

Brazil’s recent election of soon-to-be President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrated that far-right populism and authoritarian promises to restore law and order remain a potent and growing force in global politics. Bolsonaro’s campaign drew from a familiar playbook, placing at its heart an authoritarian and xenophobic vision of Brazilian society. He declared that he would not accept election results if he lost; defended Brazil’s decades-long brutal military dictatorship; threatened to shoot supporters of the opposing Workers’ Party; and vowed to pack the country’s supreme court with sympathetic jurists and persecute media critical of him.


The Global Youth Bulge: Challenge and Opportunity

A young person's search for the right job has never been easy. However, according to the International Labor Organization, the difficulty for young people to secure decent employment is at a high. This unfortunate reality is a global challenge, and it directly affects American interests.  Young Americans face some of the same challenges as their peers in other countries, and this is often compounded by the burden of extraordinary college debt. This unaddressed "youth bulge" across the developing world challenges the political stability of fragile and strategically important countries, thus endangering global security and economic growth.


ALI is convening a series of structured conversations with ALI’s growing thought leadership community drawn from think tanks, politics and government, business and civil society. These convenings are informing ALI’s development of a new vision for American global leadership, supported by facts, and specific policy and reform proposals.

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