January 28, 2014

Chairman Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Nomination Hearings, Including for Senator Max Baucus to be US Ambassador to China

Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below opening statements, at today’s nomination hearings for Senator Max Baucus to be U.S. Ambassador to China, Arnold Chacon to be Director General of the Foreign Service and Daniel Bennett Smith to be Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.

The statements follow, as prepared for delivery:

Panel One

“Clearly one of the biggest challenges and biggest opportunities before US foreign policy today is getting the relationship between the United States and China, in the context of our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, right. And I can think of few individuals more able and qualified, at this important moment in history, than our friend and colleague, the Senator from Montana to help provide advice and guidance to the President and to Congress about how to get that relationship right.

As you are well aware, China is likely to become the world’s largest economy and all of us need to embrace that fact. Six of the world’s ten largest container ports are in China (as are numbers 11 and 12 on that list). This presents tremendous opportunities for American exporters.

U.S. exports to China have increased by almost $40 billion in the past four years alone, from $67 billion to $106 billion, creating and sustaining millions of U.S. jobs in sectors across-the-board – automobiles, power generation, machinery, aircraft and other vital industrial sectors.

Through the rest of the 21st century and beyond, much of the strategic, political and economic future of the world is likely to be shaped by the decisions made in Washington and Beijing, and the capitals of Asia,  over the next four to five years.

The key challenge you will face as Ambassador, should you be confirmed (and I’m sure you will) is how to recognize the strategic and economic realities unfolding with the rise of China. You will play an integral role in reconceptualizing the problems we face and how to turn them into opportunities. In my view, the strategic decision by the Obama Administration during its first term described as a “rebalance to Asia” was absolutely right.

If confirmed, you will be a central player in conveying a clear message to the entire region that America is an Asia-Pacific player, and will be part of the region for the long haul, that we will continue to extend the efforts to rebalance our foreign policy to the Asia-Pacific, making sure that resources are there to work with allies and partners to shape the broader regional environment and context of China’s rise, that disagreements need not lead to conflict (neither should any of us labor under any false pretence that we are not going to safeguard and promote our national interests). And, that we need to work with China and our other allies in the region to construct a new rules-based order for the Asia-Pacific community built on open and inclusive diplomatic, security, and economic mechanisms and institutions.

With that said, I look forward to working with you in your new role as cooperatively as we have worked together in the past.”

Panel Two

“On our second panel today are Arnold Chacon and Daniel Bennett Smith. I'm pleased to see the nominee for Director General of the State Department, Arnold Chacon, before the Committee this morning.

The position of Director General is not one well known outside the halls of the Foggy Bottom, but it is vital to the proper functioning of the Department. It is often said in this town that "personnel are policy", and as the Department's senior official responsible for the recruitment, evaluation, discipline, and career development of the Department’s personnel, it is a position which has tremendous influence on the way in which the United States conducts its foreign policy.

And although other officials have direct line responsibility for Embassy Security, in an age in which we must be increasingly attentive to the needs of security training of our State Department personnel, and assuring their security needs are met at Posts overseas, your job has an important role to play on those issues, too.

I want to raise one issue here that I have had the opportunity to speak to the nominee about, and which I intend to work closely with him and other senior leaders of the Department: workforce diversity. I have been and remain particularly concerned with the under-representation of Hispanics at the Department, and with what appears to be some systemic failures and shortcomings in the recruitment and retention of talented Hispanics by the Department of State.

Our Foreign Service – our foreign policy – is stronger when it reflects the rich heritage of our nation, the values that this speaks to, and draws on the talents of all our people, and I look forward to working with the nominee, who I know shares this commitment, to assure that we have the strongest and best Foreign Service, and one that represents our diversity as a nation.

I look forward to working closely with you on this issue.

Our second panelist is Daniel Bennett Smith, the President’s Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research. He has most recently served as the United States Ambassador to Greece from 2010 to 2013 and has been a career officer in the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Career Minister.

Ambassador Smith has served as Executive Secretary of the State Department and as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs and Deputy Executive Secretary. Ambassador Smith, I understand you were voted out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence a few weeks ago, and I congratulate you on that.

I appreciate you coming before us to answer questions here today.”   


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