Home Business Yellen speech confirms that the U.S. is back on the world stage

Yellen speech confirms that the U.S. is back on the world stage

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen listens to President Joe Biden as he delivers remarks on the national economy and the need for his administration’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation in the State Dining Room at the White House on February 05, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Stefani Reynolds | Getty Images

Following four years of a decidedly protectionist agenda, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is here to tell you that things are about to change in a major way.

The Cabinet official most in charge of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda set forth a bold set of principles Monday that differ from the previous administration’s priorities by about as much as one could imagine.

Gone is former President Donald Trump’s saber-rattling against China. In its place is a policy that “will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be” but only “adversarial where it must be.”

Where Trump and his Treasury leader, Steven Mnuchin, used their pulpit not only to pick fights with traditional adversaries like China but also traditional allies such as Germany, Yellen countered with “America first must never mean America alone.”

And while the past administration paid generally little heed to issues like diversity and climate change, Yellen said both are at the center of not only the U.S. social agenda but also its economic one.

Drawing a line between the past and present, Yellen asserted, in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, that “the most important difference today is a fundamental recognition that our policies at home and abroad must be designed to be inclusive, tackle inequality, and respect our environment.”

Global speech for a global audience

The searing rhetoric, though, was no ordinary policy speech.

Instead, it serves essentially as a curtain-raiser for this week’s World Bank/International Monetary Fund spring meeting.

The message: that globalization, and the U.S.’s perceived role as the center of the mission, is back in vogue.

“Over the last four years, we have seen firsthand what happens when America steps back from the global stage,” Yellen said. “America first must never mean America alone. For in today’s world, no country alone can suitably provide a strong and sustainable economy for its people.”

Those weren’t the only tough words Yellen had for the prior administration.

‘More inclusive global economy’