5 Transnational issues that will directly impact Americans this coming year

What happens in America doesn’t stay in America

America remains in the early stages of an economic recovery and its focus is mostly on the home front, with debates in Washington centered on how to further strengthen America’s economy and democratic system. 

The Biden administration made some important foreign policy moves, including recent decisions on Afghanistan and diplomacy with European partners and Russia. More national security issues like China and a bevy of challenges in the Western Hemisphere and the Middle East loom on the horizon. 

Bigger picture, five key issues that know no national borders are already directly impacting the lives of Americans and could have a wider impact in the coming year as the country heads towards midterm elections in 2022:

1. The coronavirus pandemic.   Many think that America may be done with COVID-19, but the pandemic may not be done with us. The highly contagious Delta variant is spreading globally and has already hit America’s shores. About 150 million Americans are fully vaccinated, but the places and groups like younger Americans who are unvaccinated remain vulnerable to this new strand. 

Bigger picture, the world has lost 4 million people to the virus, and global vaccination efforts remain in very early stages, with 3.3 billion vaccines administered worldwide, about one third of the 11 billion doses experts estimate are needed. 

As we’ve seen in the past year, this virus mutates and could become even more deadly as it transmits among segments of the global population still unvaccinated, and that could easily boomerang into more waves inside of the United States if the vaccination rates don’t increase.

2.  Global economic issues.  America’s economy is booming and people are heading back to work, but a number of global economic dynamics are impacting America:

  • Rising energy prices – As much as the country wants to move towards clean, green energy, the transition has not yet occurred and will take years to implement.  The early summer run-up in gas prices served as a reminder that America’s economy is still linked to global oil and gas prices, and places like the Middle East still matter. 

  • Food prices Food price inflation is occurring at home and abroad.  Some of this is related to the normal supply and demand factors, but part of it is related to new dynamics in global supply chains and the impact of climate change.

  • Global supply chain challenges.  In addition to food, the global supply chain has experienced some strains on key products, including microchips that are essential for a wide range of products from automobiles to cell phones.

  • Monetary policy impacts.  Another dynamic with a global reach is the interest rate shifts and policy decisions made by the U.S. central bank.  This factor receives much less attention from foreign policy and political analysts, but the United States remains the unrivaled power in the global financial markets, and the U.S. dollar remains the dominant currency.  Policy decisions by America in this arena have an impact on other major economies as well as developing countries, and that in turn can boomerang back into America’s economy. 

3. Cybersecurity.  The challenges presented by cyberthreats continue to impact the daily lives of Americans, as we saw earlier this spring when hackers disrupted America’s energy supplies.  Russia reportedly continued to conduct more attacks against American targets in the weeks after President Joe Biden met Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and issued warnings – a key question now that more attacks have occurred is how the United States will respond. 

4.  Climate change.  This remains a chronic challenge and its impacts are becoming readily apparent to Americans across the country, most recently in the western part of America experiencing record heat waves.

5.  Global migration.  In 2020, the number of people fleeing conflict and persecution rose to more than 80 million people, according to the United Nations refugee agency, and 2021 is already seeing a continuation of that trend. This will directly impact America as it debates immigration policy and considers how to best respond to the flow of refugees along its southern border. 

As the United States continues to put its own economy on a more solid foundation and debate how to strengthen its political system while dealing with a wide range of vexing foreign policy files, it will need to keep an eye on these five transnational trends and look for ways to strengthen its own capacity to deal with the impact and work with other countries to develop effective responses.