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ICYMI: Rubio Joins One Decision
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined One Decision to discuss the rise of China, the war in Ukraine, artificial intelligence, and more. See below for highlights and listen to the full interview here.
On the rise of China:
“The system of economics that China has followed for the last 25 or 30 years, it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t allowed a country that was once a developing country to rapidly expand its economy, pull millions of people out of rural areas and into urban areas, and create wealth and national champions….
“China took advantage of the rules of international trade. They took all the benefits of it and none of its responsibilities. They were able to provide cheaper labor so that foreign entities would invest in production capacity inside of China. But they didn’t respect intellectual property rights. Once they figured out how you did what you did, they would replace you with their own companies. They’ve chosen national champions. The companies that they’ve sent abroad and have subsidized to capture market share become the dominant player in their fields and don’t worry about making a profit.
“It has led to a lot of growth. But at some point, you grow to a more developed economy, and it is difficult for developed economies to grow at five percent or six percent. It’s also created tremendous inefficiencies inside of these companies and corporations that are national champions in China. Even though they’ve captured this market share, they haven’t had to compete, and they’re not as efficient. So they’ve made some investments that don’t make sense.
“The Chinese know for a fact that they have not produced enough children to remain as productive as they have been, which is why they’re so focused on advances in technology that will allow them to get more productivity.
“It’s not a very transparent system. It’s very difficult to actually know what the actual numbers are, even what the health of some of these companies is, because they don’t have the same transparency requirements that you need in the West to be publicly traded.
“There’s no doubt that China has begun to confront some internal challenges. That said, they are still the world’s second largest economy. They still have a lot of people. They still have a tremendous size and capability, and they’re going to be a world power for the rest of our lifetimes and beyond. But, certainly, they’re facing some economic challenges, which, frankly, could be worse than what we know. We just don’t know.”
On the future of China’s foreign policy:
“As they face some of these domestic pressures, they may turn to nationalism, foreign adventurism, things of this nature, to compensate for it. I continue to see China executing on a long design to challenge a world order that they think is controlled by and written to the benefit of Western countries, in particular, the United States, our European allies, the United Kingdom, Japan and South Korea, and others. I still continue to see them aggressively pursue that in both rhetoric and action.
“Obviously, if they’re facing some internal actions, that may limit their ability to quickly move on some of these things, and it may temper how adventurous they may become. But I think there’s an alternative fear here, and that is that a government who perhaps is not able to deliver economically on some of the promises and needs turns to something like bringing Taiwan under its mandate as a way to rally domestic support at a time when that’s failing. I think there’s some elements of that with what Putin has done with Ukraine.”
On conflicts within the Biden Administration:
“They’re conflicted within the Biden Administration. On the one hand, they claim they want to challenge China, and the Chinese most certainly do not want the U.S. and our allies to have diversified supply chains, not be overly reliant, and not allow China to dominate certain fields and technologies that are going to be critical to the 21st century. But the Biden Administration has these dueling mandates….
“We’re going through an argument now about the building of electric charging stations in the U.S., and whether or not U.S. taxpayer dollars should be involved in subsidizing the construction of these facilities using Chinese technology. It is, in essence, a direct U.S. subsidy to these Chinese industries. These solar panel and renewable energy mandates that some in the Biden Administration want to impose have timeframes that would require you to depend on manufacturers in China.
“There are other voices there that seek to stabilize the relationship and maybe not be as conflictive. There’s the trade and economic folks. Then, of course, there’s John Kerry and the climate folks. Oftentimes, what the latter want to do is in direct conflict with the Biden Administration’s goal to develop some level of independence from Chinese productive capacity. I see these goals crashing into each other.”
On the need to close loopholes in legislation intended to counter China:
“I was an early proponent of industrial policy when it came to things like semiconductors, but I ended up voting against the final CHIPS bill, because it didn’t have security restrictions in place. It poured billions of dollars into research and facilities taxpayer dollars, but had insufficient security to guarantee that whatever we were making, whatever these facilities were, weren’t going to be stolen or undermined because some company in the U.S. that is actually a front for Chinese investment gained access to it. Unfortunately, we now have multiple examples, some in the public domain, though not all, that that’s exactly what’s happening.
“We want to close loopholes like this. We see it in unrelated matters. We filed a bill about the slave labor in Xinjiang that presumed that products that were made there were made by the slave labor of Uyghur Muslims. But now they have found a way to circumvent that through de minimis rules (if it’s under a certain amount, you don’t have to scrutinize it) or simply by shipping it via a third country (it looks like the product is coming from Vietnam, for example, and not from China). Those are loopholes that we need to close.
“The problem we have is that we have industries that benefit from those loopholes being exploited, who are lobbying against any congressional action, as they did against the Uyghur bill that we got passed initially. I hope there’ll be some congressional action. Unfortunately, I think until some of these abuses have been exposed, and we’ve paid the price for some of these abuses, it may be tough to get people to act, because there is a concerted and organized lobby in the American corporate space that is working hard to keep these things from passing.”
On the future of the war in Ukraine:
“I think it’s obvious to Vladimir Putin that he is not going to achieve the strategic objectives that he had in mind in February of 2022. He’s not going to conquer Kyiv and take over. That’s not going to happen. I think he has settled into the belief that holding on to the territorial gains he has made and compelling neutrality on Ukraine, meaning not joining NATO, not becoming a member of the EU, is victory as he defines it.
“I think Putin feels that once he makes it past his fake elections in March, because he controls the media inside of Russia, he can sustain domestic support for his efforts and for whatever he determines to be victory. I think he feels pretty optimistic that he’s going to be able to achieve that. I think he’s counting on a loss of interest on the part of the West in terms of being supportive.
“I think the Ukrainians and the Russians will both realize that their maximalist aims are probably not achievable for either side. Some of that process is going on. Now, my guess is that the stronger hand Putin feels he has, the higher his demands may become in any sort of agreement like that. I think it’s premature to talk about it in detail. But that’s where I think we are headed.
“On the one hand, I think China, as an example, would love nothing more than for the United States to be depleted in our efforts to [support Ukraine]. On the other hand, if we decide not to do that, I think they are prepared to go around the world and say, the United States is no longer able or willing to live up to its commitments. For example, they would message the Taiwanese: ’If the U.S. wouldn’t even provide weapons for Ukrainians to fight for themselves, how are you counting on them to actually come and defend you? You might as well cut with us the best deal you can, because it’s a fait accompli.’
“I think we have to find a policy moving forward that doesn’t deplete us, and at the same time preserves our credibility on the world stage and does not allow Putin to be rewarded in a way that would encourage others to take similar actions. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that from the moment [our evacuation of Afghanistan went so poorly], we have Ukraine. We have what’s happening now in the Middle East, which continues to escalate. We have North Korea becoming increasingly aggressive and firing rockets over Japanese and South Korean airspace. Who knows what other developments are out there? Anytime our adversaries believe that the U.S. and our allies in the West are incapable or unwilling or spread thin, it invites adventurism.”
On how much aid the United States should provide to Ukraine:
“It can never be zero. It will not be zero no matter what, simply because much of the aid we provided Ukraine is out of our own weapons stockpiles that we have to restock. At a minimum, we have to at least restock the weaponry that we have shared and provided, because we need it for our own defenses.
“I would say that the coupling came about as a result of this. Americans are saying, ’We have had eight million people enter the United States illegally in the last three years’…. I think a lot of people are saying, and they say to me, ’How is it that we can find $60 billion to help a foreign government, but we can’t even help ourselves?’ That’s where this coupling argument came from.
“The challenge is that the genesis of our migratory crisis in the U.S., where it really took off, is when Biden made executive orders to repeal some of the measures that Trump had put in place. The first step to reversing this crisis is to re-implement those things. That doesn’t mean there aren’t changes we can’t make to our immigration laws that would improve them. But what would really have the most dramatic impact is something Biden has had three years to do and refuses to do.
“If you put them up for a vote individually, there’s probably enough votes in the House and Senate to continue aid to Ukraine, maybe not at the same exact level as what’s been proposed, but to some level that’s satisfactory…. I think that’s probably where we’re going to wind up when it’s all said and done.
“I do think it’s been a failure on the part of our administration. They have not done a good job of convincing the American people why Ukraine is not simply some regional conflict, but is in our broader national interest. And what is the end outcome that we are trying to help Ukrainians achieve? That argument has not been made, and that’s one only a president can make. I’ve shared this directly with the president.
“I don’t think anyone would argue that this is the last time that Ukraine is going to need assistance in this conflict. I think if it’s been hard now, it’s going to be nearly impossible the next time, if we can’t convince the American people that it is in our broader national interest as a country, and that there is an endgame in mind that we are helping to bring about.”
On America’s illegal mass immigration crisis:
“Migration has always existed. It will never be zero. I think the sheer volume of migration, so many people in such a short period of time, in any society is going to create tumult in that society. When it really becomes problematic in politics is when people begin to feel as if those in charge are ignoring it, not addressing the issue, or diminishing it as an issue at all.
“It particularly becomes difficult in the West because of our moral values. We have a belief that we have an obligation to help the less fortunate and those who are going through difficulties. The problem is that that always has to be tempered with the reality that no nation on earth, no matter how wealthy, how advanced, or how compassionate, can assume and absorb millions and millions of people from halfway around the world in short periods of time without creating a societal pushback.
“For a long time, there was a denial that this was even a problem, that this was even happening. Then there was the accusation that anyone who says it’s a problem is somehow motivated by xenophobia or hatred or bigotry or racism. Only now that this crisis is reaching major metropolitan areas like Chicago, like New York City, like major airports (hundreds of migrants are living in these airports), only now that it’s impacting people far from the border are we starting to see this desire to address it, three years later. I think the best way to remove it from its divisive spot in our politics is for leaders to agree and acknowledge that it has to be fixed.
“One of the things that’s causing migration at this mass level is when you have policies that incentivize it. When people realize that if they get to the border of the United States, they will be allowed to cross, they will be allowed to enter, they will be released pending a court hearing way down the road that they are not going to show up for, you have created an incentive for more people to come. You are incentivizing the creation of a migratory pathway, and you’re luring people into that, and into the hands of these evil cartels.
“If you take eight million people from anywhere on the planet, they’re not all going to be saints and angels. There are going to be bad people embedded in eight million people. There will be people there that are not just fleeing for a better life. They’re fleeing the law. They’re criminals. They have ideologies that are dangerous.
“Eventually, there’s going to be something that happens as a result of someone who came across that border illegally. Then we’re really going to be in a very different place when it comes to this. I think we’ve got to get rid of those things that incentivize so many people to come so quickly and illegally across the borders of any country, including our own.”
On how Chinese labor affects third-world countries:
“The other phenomenon that’s happening is that as the Chinese get these contracts to do work, they bring their own companies and their own workers. Then what happens is, the project ends, and these workers decide: ’Maybe I don’t want to go back to China. Maybe I’d like to stay here, maybe even use it as a way to get into the United States.’ We’re seeing a lot of that happening as well.
“It’s difficult for any country to absorb people from halfway around the world who are laborers that are now competing with your native-born. It’s bad enough that they couldn’t get hired on the project and the government cut a deal with China on it. But now these people are entering the workforce and competing at lower labor costs against people from that country. It creates a lot of internal friction in these societies, as well as incentives for migration. If the working class in those countries can’t make ends meet, they have reason to leave as well.”
On China’s economic presence in third-world countries:
“The Chinese come in, and they basically offer free money: ’Here’s $4 billion for a road or a stadium or a series of libraries or what have you. And here’s $10 or $15 million for you and your friends under the table to benefit you directly.’ It’s hard to compete against that.
“There’s been some growing awareness on the part of some of these governments of the vulnerabilities of debt traps and the national security vulnerabilities in Chinese technology, if it’s embedded in your system. But some of these companies will argue that they need to develop their 5G networks, and the only cost-effective company on the planet that offers not just 5G, but all the suite of goods that come with it, like safe cities and surveillance technology, is the Chinese one.
“It comes with a lower price. It comes with economic incentives attached to it, and often it comes with bribes. These projects get embedded into those countries and societies, and now the Chinese have got contractual rights.
“The other thing we’ve seen is the exploitation of raw materials, like the lithium grants that they’ve gotten in places like Chile and the like. There’s a growing awareness on the part of some of these governments about the danger it poses, but they face a cross-pressure of needing to create economic development. For them, it’s oftentimes difficult to walk away from billions of dollars of what they view as free money, which they can get credit for, and for which the populace will reward them for in the short term.
“Officials oftentimes are incentivized by bribes as well. And then, once they get themselves into this situation, it’s difficult for future administrations to extricate themselves from it, because they either have contractual rights, or because now they’re embedded in your system, and you need them for replacement parts and upgrades.
“We don’t offer a lot of competition, either. Most of our companies can’t by law go down there and compete by offering better bribes, as an example. I think the lack of alternatives has been a challenge. I think there’s more awareness, but we’re still not doing enough, and there are still a bunch of places where we’re very concerned that the Chinese will tighten their trade grip.”
On the international actors responsible for the fentanyl epidemic:
“The Chinese view our fentanyl problem, which their production of precursor materials helps fuel, as something that weakens America and therefore is good for them in the long term. I think it’d be naive to believe that they don’t view it that way. I think they view that issue as one that’s not their problem, it’s our problem. They are willing to use it as a leverage point, as an easy give in a negotiation, maybe arrest a few people, crack down here or there. But at the end of the day, it remains the case that there are companies inside of China that produce all the precursor materials for fentanyl who openly ship it either to the United States or to criminal enterprises and cartels in Mexico who are producing fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is extremely cheap to make and extremely profitable. On a per volume basis, it’s the most lucrative and profitable drug ever produced. I don’t think that there has been a sincere effort on the part of the Chinese to disrupt it. Frankly, I don’t think they see any benefit in disrupting it, other than now and then doing some symbolic act as part of some way to show that they’re seeking stability in the relationship. It’s an issue that we’re going to continue to confront here in the years to come, because it’s not just the Chinese. It’s the partners in these Mexican cartels who are working hand in hand with them.”
On how to prevent the abuse of artificial intelligence:
“This is a new issue. I can’t tell you that I have, sitting here in my pocket, the easy answer to something that’s brand new…. The problem with AI is that it’s being produced by technology and capabilities that are available off the shelf. Almost anybody, if he or she knew where to look, could find tools to generate AI videos and pictures and things of this nature that look very realistic.
“I think one of the first steps is simply awareness about it. If you see something somewhere that looks over the top, almost unbelievable, maybe it is. I just think we have to make people aware of that fact and understand that that’s a fact.
“The fact that people are putting out explicit pictures of Taylor Swift that aren’t real, I imagine, is devastating and troublesome and problematic at the individual level, and for society as a whole. I’m glad to see some of the tech companies have worked hard to prohibit those searches from happening.
“At a broader level, what I worry about is things that could create public unrest, a video of something that is expertly designed to inflame the population of a country on a pre-existing tension point, something that’s already divisive in the country. I think back to 2020, what we were having in the aftermath of George Floyd. Imagine some video that’s put out there that’s showing the police brutalizing someone in ways beyond anything you can imagine, and that would be spreading online as accurate, when in fact it never happened. It could lead to riots and real division in the country.
“I worry about things like that. I worry about videos and efforts to undermine candidates on the eve of an election and things of this nature. It really begins with awareness and then some ability to identify what isn’t real and label it as such as quickly as possible. Frankly, it’ll require the media and these platforms to also be very careful.”
On the possibility of a larger-scale conflict breaking out somewhere in the world:
“The risk of escalation is very real. Whether it’s because of a decision made by a field commander or an outcome you didn’t anticipate, those strikes may cross a line. Hezbollah wants to destroy Israel, but they don’t want a war right now. And Israel probably prefers not to have a war with Hezbollah. Yet they may very well arrive at one, because they are both having to confront one another in a way that could rapidly escalate.
“I think about the situation with the Houthis and them targeting commercial vessels. You think about the strikes that just killed three Americans and wounded 20 others that were conducted in Jordan by these Iranian backed groups. That will elicit a U.S. response, probably and hopefully directly against the Iranians. But I say that with the understanding that that could trigger a response that could rapidly escalate. I worry about North Korea, where you have this Kim Jong Un that’s now firing weaponry in a way that could lead to a response, if misinterpreted, or if he hits the wrong thing.
“If the Ukrainians conduct an attack that somehow crosses some line in Putin’s mind, it could lead him to begin to target other countries that he thinks provide logistical support. He could hit a target inside of a NATO country that maybe he didn’t mean to hit, and now there’s a response. That’s what keeps me up at night.
“We have a lot of irons stoking these fires. Unless they’re tamped down, one of these fires can emerge into a full blown inferno and very quickly wrap us up in a conflict. I don’t want to be alarmist, but at the same time, I recognize that, in many parts of the world, we have a lot of tension and a lot of armed conflicts going on, any of which could quickly spiral and trigger much broader conflicts.
“We saw how the October 7th attack in Gaza has now spread to the Houthis, which nobody anticipated. These Iranian groups targeting Americans in the region, how quickly this could spiral out of control? Suddenly, we would find ourselves in the midst of a much broader conflict that would have dramatic implications, not just on security, but on our economy.”