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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Interview With Andrey Kortunov About U.S.-Russia Relations; Iran Elects Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi; Interview With Taliban Spokesman Suhail Shaheen; Interview With "Financial Times" Editor, Gillian Tett. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired June 20, 2021 - 10:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from New York.
ZAKARIA (voice-over): On today's show, an important exclusive. As Western forces leave Afghanistan, there is great concern about what will happen as the Taliban gains influence in that country. I will have an exclusive interview with the spokesman of the Taliban, Suhail Shaheen, about what his group will do once Allied forces leave.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did what I came to do.
ZAKARIA: You've heard a lot about the Biden-Putin meeting from Americans.
BIDEN: I told President Putin we need to have some basic rules of the road that we can all abide by.
ZAKARIA: But what did it look like to Russians? I'll ask Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council.
And Iran held elections Friday as President Hassan Rouhani's term comes to an end. Who has been chosen to replace him? And what will it mean for nuclear negotiations and stability in the Middle East? I will talk to Robin Wright and Vali Nasr.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's my take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: America is back at the table.
America is back.
The United States is back. (END OF VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: This was the refrain that Joe Biden kept repeating on his first trip abroad as president. It's a fair description of what he accomplished, a restoration of America's role as the country that can set the global agenda, encourage cooperation and deter maligned behavior.
So American diplomacy is back. But is America? That's a more complicated question.
The United States' influence has always been built on a combination of power and purpose. Biden can into this trip with two significant achievements under his belt. He ramped up vaccinations so far so fast that the United States is the first major country to enter a post- pandemic world. Second, he passed a massive relief bill that will ensure that the U.S. economy has a roaring recovery.
But prosperity alone is not enough to lead. Donald Trump presided over a booming economy before the pandemic, yet polls even then showed that most leading nations neither respected him nor the United States under his leadership.
The Biden team has led by focusing on the big issues on which American allies agreed. Strengthening ties between free countries, combatting climate change, deterring Russian aggression in various forms, stepping up to the challenge from China. It was a far cry from the behavior of President Trump who reveled in denigrating NATO and its members.
The meeting with Vladimir Putin was not a superpower summit as some in the media described it. Russia is not a superpower. Its economy doesn't even crack the top 10 and is in decline on many key measures. But the country spanning 11 time zones has one of the world's largest arsenals of nuclear weapons, a robust military and a U.N. veto.
Under Putin it has been eager to play the role of spoiler on the international stage, annexing territory in Europe for the first since 1945, engaging in cyberattacks on a massive scale, and pursuing and assassinating dissidents even if they live abroad.
Biden handled the meeting with his Russian counterpart with professionalism and skill, prompting Vladimir Putin to call President Biden an experienced statesman and a balanced and professional man. In contrast to his recent comments about Trump being a colorful individual who made impulse based decisions.
Despite Trump's fawning behavior toward Putin, Putin might recognize that it's better to have a calm and rational American president than a mercurial and unpredictable showman. For its part Washington's goal toward Russia should not be ceaseless hostility, but rather some kind of stable relationship in which many problems can be discussed, negotiated and managed.
The biggest news out of the Biden-Putin meeting involves cyberspace. The problem of cyberattacks, cybercrime and ransomware has grown exponentially, and yet the governments have appeared either unable or unwilling to do much about it.
When North Korea allegedly launched a devastating cyberattack on Sony Pictures in 2014 to punish it for a movie satirizing Kim Jong-un which destroyed 70 percent of the company's computers, the U.S. government did very little in response.
Biden has moved policy in this realm significantly forward, for the first time signaling that the United States would be willing to use its considerable cyber capabilities to retaliate against a Russian attack. Biden gave Putin a list of 16 critical systems that should be considered off limits, hinted that the retaliation could take the form of crippling Russia's oil pipelines and agreed to have U.S. and Russian experts begin discussing these issues to define some rules of the road.
This is a policy shift that is likely to last. It was a trip with modest but realistic goals, most of which were achieved. America is perceived once more as a constructive force in the world with an astonishing rebound in its approval ratings across the globe.
But the story is not entirely positive. One aspect of American power remains substantially diminished, its role as beacon of democracy. Among the countries surveyed 57 percent said the U.S. is no longer the model for democracy it used to be. Young people worldwide are even more skeptical about America's democratic institutions.
In one key way, things look worse now than in previous periods of crisis. You see after Watergate, many in America were surprised that the world still looked up to the United States for facing and fixing its democratic failures. It was a sign of America's capacity to course correct.
But imagine if, after that scandal, the Republican Party, instead of condemning Nixon as it did, had embraced him, slavishly insisting he did nothing wrong, settled into denial and obstructionism, and even proposed laws to endorse Nixon's most egregious conduct. Imagine if the only people purged by the party had been those who criticized Richard Nixon?
The decay of American democracy is real. This is not a messaging problem or an image problem. Until we can repair that reality, I'm not sure we can truly say America is back.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
Let's keep going on President Biden's trip abroad and talk about how Moscow viewed his summit with Putin.
Joining me now is Andrey Kortunov. He is the director general of the Russian International Affairs Council.
Welcome, Andrei. Before we get to the summit, I want to ask you, what was the Russian view -- give us a sense of the backdrop. What was the Russian view, what do you think Putin's view was of Donald Trump's presidency as it pertains to U.S.-Russian relations?
ANDREY KORTUNOV, DIRECTOR GENERAL, RUSSIAN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL: I think that Putin considered Donald Trump to be a weak president in the sense that Donald Trump failed to deliver. He made certain commitments to Putin, to Russia, probably he had very good intentions, but in the end of the day, the relationship between the two countries got even worse during the time -- years in power.
I think in the U.S.-Russia relations, affinity might be important, but respect is more important than affinity. All the very strong U.S. leaders can fix relations with Moscow to the extent this relationship can be fixed under these current, quite challenging circumstances.
So I think that probably there are expectations that Joe Biden will turn out to be stronger than his predecessor, and the U.S. attitude will be more professional, more consistent and the relationship will become more predictable. Of course, this relationship is going to be primarily adversarial.
ZAKARIA: And when you mentioned the way in which Putin characterized Biden, professional and things like that, were you surprised by how positive Putin seemed about Biden?
KORTUNOV: In fact, many here were surprised by the fact that we had an early meeting in Geneva because it took more than a year and a half for Donald Trump to have a meeting with Putin in Helsinki, and so no, it was not a splashing success to put it mildly.
So that was a surprise. I think that another pleasant surprise was that Biden was very fast to extend the new START agreement. So there were many doomsday prophets in Moscow who argue that with Biden in power, the relationship is going to go down the drain and that we will lose even these few lines of communications that we were able to preserve under Trump. But it turned out differently.
It turned out that Biden, at least as we can see today, is not willing to start a crusade against Russia and is not willing to push Russia into the corner. Definitely this is positive news, though, again, let me underscore that the relationship is not likely to involve any reset or even detente any time soon.
ZAKARIA: Part of it, I think, you know, there is no talk of reset on either side. Both sides are being realistic. But let me ask you about the most thorny issue, which is the cyberattack. You know, the United States says basically that the Russians are engaging in massive cyberattacks. The Russians are denying it. There has been some agreement but, you know, is there likely to be progress on this which might end up being the kind of the central issue?
KORTUNOV: Well, I think it's a very complicated issue, and probably it is one of the issues that should be sliced into smaller parts in order to handle it. I do recall that in 2017 when Putin met Donald Trump for the first time in Hamburg, on the margins of the G-20 group they also discussed an option of Putin together a joint task force to explore opportunities to set some rules for the cyber domain.
However, when Trump got back to Washington, he basically decided not to do that. So it's an open question whether Biden is ready to go ahead with this initial idea. But if he does, I think if this is an issue which will be considered by experts on both sides, maybe we can at least narrow the gap in perceptions between Russia and the United States on cyber.
ZAKARIA: On the whole, very briefly, you think that this was -- you know, give it a grade. How positive do you think the atmosphere, you know, how much has been changed by this summit?
KORTUNOV: Under the circumstance, I would give a B, maybe even B-plus. Of course not everything was resolved. There are certain issues which remained unclear but I think it went better than many of us had anticipated.
ZAKARIA: Andrey Kortunov, always a pleasure to get your perspective. Thank you so much for joining us.
KORTUNOV: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, Iranians voted on Friday and the country has a new president-elect. Who is Ebrahim Raisi? Just how conservative is he? And what will his time in office mean for Iran's relations with the world? All of that when we come back.
ZAKARIA: Here are some key things to know about Iran's Friday elections. Voter turnout is believed to have been the lowest since the Islamic republic began in 1979. Of the 600 registered candidates for president, only seven, and not one major reformist or even a centrist, were allowed on the ballot by the country's all powerful Guardian Council.
And the winner, the president-elect is Ebrahim Raisi, the ultra- conservative head of the judiciary. He is known to be close ally of the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, oh, and Raisi is already under U.S. sanctions.
So what does all this mean for Iran, for its neighbors, for the nuclear deal? Vali Nasr is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Robin Wright writes for "The New Yorker" and is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Welcome. Robin, let me ask you to set the scene. What is this election about and why was the Guardian Council so selective? I mean, they always winnow down the number of candidates, but this was extraordinary. From 600, they went to just seven.
ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Yes, and three of those dropped out so it was only four in the end. The stakes in this election were not just the presidency, it really is the future of the revolution. Iran is at a turning point with the supreme leader now 82, there is a sense that this election paved the way for what happens next, what happens after he dies, not just who will be the president of Iran in the next four or eight years.
And there is an even bigger question at stake, and that is the division of power in Iran. Iran is a hybrid and unique political system that is divided between people who are elected, who enact Republican law based on European law, and those who are clerics and believe that Islamic law should ultimately prevail and decide when there are disputes. Is Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran, first and foremost, a republic, or is it first and foremost an Islamic state?
And one of the things that looks like will happen next is that the supreme leader will move to reform the system to engage in constitutional changes that may introduce a parliamentary system where you have a much weaker government with only a prime minister who has hundreds of thousands of votes from his constituency rather than a president who could stand up to the supreme leader on key political foreign policy or domestic issues on the basis of having tens of millions of votes.
So this election will decide an awful lot about what happens inside Iran and in its engagement with the outside world.
ZAKARIA: And, Vali, would it be fair to say that one important backdrop here has been the failure of the reformists? I sometimes think that Americans think that they have, you know, too much influence or they exaggerate the influence they have on the world, but in this case it seems to me that President Rouhani came into office and that the big agenda was, I'm going to make peace with the West, we're going to get sanctions lifted, and Iran is going to grow, the middle class is going to grow.
And the fact, you know, that the United States pulled out, doubled down on sanctions, put maximum pressure on Iran, in Donald Trump's word, has essentially shattered the reformist credibility in Iran. Fair to say?
VALI NASR, PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Yes, fair to say. In fact, the scenario that Robin was laying out of this imperative of consolidation of power under hardliners as the supreme leader moves towards managing his own succession was possible because it was a unique opportunity that the Iranian public was both apathetic about the promise of America and engaging the world, and was also angry and disappointed in President Rouhani.
Not just because of the reformist political, social openings, but also because they believe he had mismanaged COVID, he has mismanaged the economy, he had an elitist, aloof air about him, and so it was a unique opportunity that the Iranian public was not going to come to the ballot box with any kind of enthusiasm about a better time period lying ahead. And that apathy basically opened the door for that power grab. So, yes, I think it's not just reformists have failed to reform, the
moderates and reformists have also failed to govern and the anchor of trying to push Iran in the direction of opening was, you know, frustrated by President Donald Trump. And the damage that that did to, I think, Iranians' hope for change was quite severe.
ZAKARIA: Robin, explain who Raisi is and what is your judgment of him. I was struck by the fact that during one of the presidential debates, one of the other candidates -- and these are all hardline, you know, right-wing candidates, one of them asked Raisi, can you assure me that if you win, you will not jail me? That sounded a little scary.
WRIGHT: Yes, well, the political divisions are very deep in Iran, even among hardliners. And one of the most precarious jobs in Iran is either running for president or being a former president. You have several whose children or vice presidents are in jail. There are two former presidential candidates who have been under house arrest for a decade.
Ebrahim Raisi is famous because he has been, since 2019, the head of the judiciary which is the body that carries out some of the most draconian actions against dissidents. But he is most famous, and he was sanctioned by the United States, because he is associated with the so-called death commission which in the 1980s engaged in executions of thousands of political prisoners. It is one of the most notorious and troubling aspects of the early days of the revolution.
And it led to even more splits, some of the earliest splits within the system about how much control the state had and how much latitude it would give people to voice their opinions in public.
And so I think this is going to be a difficult moment for President Biden who has made human rights an issue of his presidency, trying to deal with Iran to get that final hurdle in renewing the nuclear deal, and even more so dealing with issues after that on Iran's missiles, its meddling in the Middle East, its human rights -- abysmal human rights record will be very hard for this president. And he is likely to come under criticism at home, and it will make it very hard for him to do a deal with the Iranians.
ZAKARIA: Vali, we often forget in these moments about Iran, the Iranian people, Iran is a country with actual, you know, ordinary people. How tough is all this -- how tough does all this make life for ordinary Iranians who are already suffering one of the worst responses to COVID, right?
NASR: Well, I think in terms of social rights, civil liberties, possibility of opening the cultural sphere in Iran, this will be a huge setback.
And as Robin said that Raisi comes from the most hardline part of the Iranian political system and has a checkered past behind him. But on the other hand, I think that the possibility of some kind of a deal with the United States that would at least bring economic relief is not less now than it was a few months ago. That portfolio is in the hands of the supreme leader, the Vienna talks are going along. The ultimate decision will have to be made by him.
In fact Foreign Minister Zarif has pretty much removed himself from the nuclear negotiations. This is being managed much more directly by the supreme leader. And also, when you listen to Raisi, and I did so during the presidential debate, it's surprising how shallow and how much of a dilettante he is. He's very Green. He got where he is by being a yes man. He's not a man of substance.
He's not a statesman with great deal of international or even economic experience, and all of that suggest to me that he's going to be managed much more directly by the supreme leader and his decisions are going to devolve towards him. And I think the Biden administration made the correct calculation not to vest their hopes on the Vienna talks, in an outcome of the Iranian presidential election, and not try to influence those elections.
And now we're aiming for a mid-July date for a possible agreement. And if that comes, you know, Raisi stands to benefit from some degree of economic opening in Iran, and then we'll see what the mood of the public would be at that point in time.
ZAKARIA: We've got -- we've got to end it on that note.
Vali, thank you so much. Robin Wright, both of you really provided incredible illumination on this topic.
We will be back with the Taliban spokesman.
Starting in the mid-1990s, the Taliban ruled over Afghanistan. They were then toppled shortly after the U.S. invaded in the fall of 2001. The September 11 attacks were, of course, the impetus behind the U.S. invasion. Now, President Biden promises all U.S. troops will be out of there by this September 11th.
Afghanistan's democratically elected government is currently held by President Ashraf Ghani. The Taliban refuses to recognize that government. So, what happens after the Americans leave? Will the Islamist militant organization try to come roaring back? Joining me now from Doha is Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban spokesman.
Welcome, Mr. Shaheen.
SUHAIL SHAHEEN, TALIBAN NEGOTIATOR AND SPOKESMAN: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you the question I posed right there, which is, what happens after American troops leave, the coalition forces leave? Will the Taliban keep fighting to topple the Kabul government? SHAHEEN: The overall issue has two dimensions or two aspects. One is the foreign, which was the occupation We had negotiation with the U.S. side for 13 months. And then we signed the Doha agreement. And the basis of that, the American troops and the allies, NATO troops, are withdrawing from the country.
And the other aspect of the Afghan issue is the internal aspect. And that we are having a negotiation with the Afghan sides, all Afghan sides. They are here in Doha and the negotiations are underway. We want to reach a solution which is acceptable to all Afghans. That is our policy, not fighting. We want and we are insisting that we reach an acceptable solution through negotiation.
ZAKARIA: Would that solution include recognizing the legitimacy of the democratically elected government?
SHAHEEN: First, that you said, democratically elected government. It is not, I think, because the Afghan population is now almost 40 million people. And 40 million people, only 1 million voted for the current administration. And that was also -- there was fraudulence and rigging in that voting. So, they had delayed because they were squabbling and row over the voting because the other side said there is a lot of rigging.
So, in that sense, it was not acceptable to the remaining majority population of Afghanistan. We want to have a new government to replace this administration which is acceptable to all Afghan people, and that we want to reach through negotiation in peaceful talks.
ZAKARIA: In the past when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, you did not allow women to go to school, to college, women were discriminated in many different ways. You now say that women will be allowed to be educated, they will be allowed to work. The only restriction, you say, is that they must wear the hijab.
My only question, what's changed? Have you arrived at a new interpretation of Islam, or is it a recognition of the fact that women in Afghanistan will not agree to be discriminated against? What has changed between 2001 and now that you now say that you are in favor of women's education and participation in the work force?
SHAHEEN: At that time, it was a war situation and the policy was there. I myself, when I was deputy ambassador in Islamabad, I had talked to media, we are not against the basic rights of women. That is, education and their work. Only because we are an Islamic society, they had to observe the Islamic hijab. Even now, if you see -- if you go to Kabul City, the women are observing hijab, voluntarily, by themselves because they are a different culture, Afghan culture and Islamic culture.
ZAKARIA: You can imagine, Mr. Shaheen, that a lot of people are going to have a hard time trusting what you are saying, believing what you are saying. The last time the Taliban was in power, it blew up statues, it essentially relegated women to second- or third-class status. It housed Al-Qaeda. Why should people believe you this time?
SHAHEEN: First, even at that time, no one from the Afghan side was involved in that horrendous incident of 9/11 in New York. At that time, when I was a deputy ambassador of Afghanistan in Islamabad, we immediately convened a press conference and we strongly condemned that incident, and we showed our readiness to cooperate in an investigation of the incident.
Secondly, now, we have an agreement, while we had no agreement at that time. So based on the current agreement, we have committed ourselves that we will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan. We know it is not in the interest of our people and of our country that anyone use the soil of Afghanistan. So -- and based on that, we have made a policy. So, now it is a policy.
ZAKARIA: Mr. Shaheen, I think a lot of people will find what you've to say very interesting. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
SHAHEEN: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, what happens when anthropologist becomes a top editor at the "Financial Times"? She has a really interesting way of looking at the world of business, the economy, everything. That anthropologist turned editor, Gillian Tett, joins me next.
ZAKARIA: How did Kit Kat candy bars become such a runaway success in Japan? Why did so men grow beards during the pandemic? And what is the best way to sell vet (ph) food to westerners. These are all questions answered in Gillian Tett's fascinating and surprising new book. Today, Tett shares the U.S. editorial board for the "Financial Times." But by education and training, she's an anthropologist. Her book is called "Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life."
GILLIAN TETT, AUTHOR, "ANTHRO-VISION": Thank you.
ZAKARIA: So, I'm going to start by asking you to explain how that PhD in anthropology helped you to predict the global financial crisis or to see that there were things seriously awry with the financial system in 2007?
TETT: Well, anthropology teaches you two things. Firstly, that rituals, symbols, ceremonies matter and we tend to ignore them because we think we look at the world with our brains, but actually where we act really matters and tells us a lot about how we really look at life.
But secondly, anthropology tells you to embrace a bit of culture shock. Now just to understand others and get empathy for others who seem different from you, whether that's in the next-door department or end of the road or the other side of the world, but also because you can then flip the lens and look back at yourself. A fish can't see water, as a great Chinese proverb says, unless you jump out of your fish bowl.
And back in 2005, I used those tools to look at the financial system, the tribe of bankers who were creating all the funky innovations like core derivatives. And using that mentality, I could see how the bankers were percept (ph) with tunnel vision, had lost sight of any sense of context or consequences for what they were doing and how their creation myth around innovation was riddled with dangerous inconsistencies. And that helped me to see that the financial crisis was coming.
And frankly, I think we could use that same tool set, that mindset, to make sense of many areas of the world where there are problems developing and to look for opportunities.
ZAKARIA: When you talk about tribal rituals and you say that it's very important that -- you know, all of us live in tribes, and we like rituals that kind of seem familiar and comforting, and you have a very interesting point in the book where you say, if somebody really wanted to understand a Donald Trump rally with everything that was part of it, they should have really thought about wrestling matches.
TETT: Well, this is a lesson anybody watching can use and apply in their own lives right now, which is to not just reach out to a different world from yourself, but also think about the embodied experience, walk in someone else's shoes, experience all the ceremonies and the rituals that they're engaged in.
And when I went to a lot of wrestling match, I realized that Trump's performative political style, the way he staged rallies, the way he did the name-calling, Crooked Hillary, Little Marco Rubio, the kind of stage aggressive melodrama for show, all of that had been borrowed directly from the world of wrestling matches. Where, of course, he was deeply involved many years.
And the key point is this, that performative single connected him with the large sway of the voters. But people who had never been to a wrestling match didn't even realize that because they were trapped in their own tribe, their own tunnel vision.
ZAKARIA: Kit Kats in Japan. Why did they take off like crazy?
TETT: Kit Kats are such an exciting symbol for both wide cultural matters, cultural difference is interesting. And actually, why globalization can be a really positive thing, which people tend to forget. Kit Kats British chocolate bar biscuit sold all over the world as a symbol of Britishness.
Then some managers at Nestle noticed that they were selling well during certain periods of the year, and they realized that some Japanese teenagers had started using Kit Kats almost like a prayer tool, a so-called Omamori in Japan for good luck in exams, because the Japanese phrase, kitto katsu, which means, we shall overcome, sounds like Kit Kat.
Now, loads of people would have just said, that's so weird. Why bother? But actually, the Nestle group blend into it and really embraced this weirdness and started marketing the chocolate biscuit and candy bar, and within a few years, half of all Japanese teenagers were taking it into exam as a prayer tool.
And what that shows, it actually -- thing are never just in one cultural box, British or Japanese or Swiss, it can blur, it can change, it can actually become this amazingly innovative blend of different cultures, and that's, frankly, very exciting.
ZAKARIA: There are lots more examples in this wonderful book. Gillian, thank you so much for coming in and joining us.
TETT: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I will offer you one easy solution to the climate crisis. Really, there is one, and I will tell it to you when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And now for the last look. At the heart of the infrastructure fight in Washington is this question. Should the U.S. hike taxes on corporations to raise money to fight climate change?
Now, Republicans point out that whatever you tax, you get less off, and today's economy needs more corporate activity, not less. It's a fair point. So, then the answer, to me at least, is obvious, let's tax the thing we should all agree we want less of, which is carbon dioxide emissions.
The fundamental reason why we are not making much headway with reducing carbon emissions is they're everywhere. We tend to focus on electricity and transportation. But those sectors account for only about half of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. When we make cement, that emits carbon. Even if you have solar panels and drive an electric car, the process of making the panels in the car generated carbon. Our food production creates huge amounts of greenhouse gases.
We could try to reduce carbon sector by sector, issuing reams of regulations to mandate emission cuts and spending large amounts of money to prop up certain technologies. That is essentially the current approach. Clunky, selective and subject to political swings. The government is essentially adding red tape and picking winners and losers.
What if, instead, we unleash the power of the market to solve the problem? That's what a carbon tax would do. Think of it as putting a price on carbon, making sure all products reflect their true cost to society by charging a fee for carbon pollution.
Suddenly, every industry in business would have a powerful incentive to reduce emissions wherever they occurred. And rather than the government telling them how to do it, they would be free to figure out the best, cheapest way. Maybe it's buying more efficient equipment, or maybe it's installing solar panels, maybe it's electric vehicles, maybe it's hydrogen vehicles. We will see 100 solutions bloom.
Now, carbon taxes have on been politically toxic in the U.S. and other countries. In many cases, ordinary people feel they have to bear the brunt of higher prices. That's where the new concept of carbon dividends comes in. The idea is to take at least some of the revenues raised by the carbon tax and give it back to people, sending out checks every few months.
Remember how popular the stimulus checks were? Polls indicate two- thirds of Americans support the basic idea behind carbon dividends. A growing of conservatives are getting behind this idea. It's mostly former Republican officials, but some American Republican lawmakers like Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham have expressed interest. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute now support carbon pricing as well.
But if we raise the cost of carbon here, won't that mean China benefits by exporting cheaper, dirtier goods to America? No, because those goods would simply be subjected to the same carbon fee at the border, a green tariff. This could actually help American producers compete with foreign imports because U.S. products are often cleaner.
A study commission by one advocacy group found that carbon tariffs would increase domestic sales of U.S. steel by up to 9 percent. Ideally, these stats won't actually be necessary because other countries will adopt their own carbon taxes. After all, if the choices for Chinese companies to pay the tax to the U.S. or pay a domestic carbon tax into Chinese conference (ph), wouldn't Beijing prefer the later?
Virtually, every economist agrees a carbon tax is the single best strategy to begin to solve the climate crisis. Instead, we are pursuing an inefficient, bureaucratic piecemeal approach. Let's not settle for that. There is a better way.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.