The Foreign Service Journal, December 2018

78 DECEMBER 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS W. AVERELL HARRIMAN AWARD FOR CONSTRUCTIVE DISSENT BY AN ENTRY-LEVEL OFFICER ELENA C. AUGUSTINE Shaping U.S. Policy on Trade with South Korea This year’s recipient of the W. Averell Harriman Award is Elena C. Augustine, for her constructive and well-argued Dissent Channel message that, together with her exten- sive front-channel reporting as the lead working-level trade officer in Seoul from 2016 to 2018, directly contributed to the successful conclusion of negotiations to amend the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agree- ment (known as KORUS), reaf- firming the U.S. commitment to the pact. The Trump administra- tion’s threat to pull out of the deal strained U.S.-South Korean relations at a time of unprecedented tension with North Korea. This caused some South Koreans to doubt the U.S. commitment to the alliance. The five-year-old agree- ment seemed to be on the verge of failure, and the State Department was relatively disengaged on the matter. Ms. Augustine took the initiative to write her opinion on the dangers of withdrawing from KORUS and campaigned for the State Department— which unlike the Office of the U.S. Trade Representa- tive (USTR) has “boots on the ground” in Korea—to explain U.S. trade policy to stakeholders and to seize the opportunity to more actively shape U.S. policy on KORUS. In Ms. Augustine’s dis- sent cable,“Shaping U.S. Policy on the KORUS FTA an Opportunity for the Depart- ment of State to Lead,” she recommended that the United States not withdraw from KORUS; that instead it work with interagency partners to clearly define success and formulate a path to achieve it, while ensuring that the regional strategic context was taken into account. Ms. Augustine warned that proceeding with negotiations without a clear vision of how to achieve fair and balanced trade or withdrawing from the deal would risk increasing the U.S. trade deficit, alienating a critical ally and allowing the growth of a narrative—that the United States is no longer a reliable international part- ner—which global competi- tors could easily exploit. The Policy Planning Staff responded to Ms. Augustine’s cable, acknowledging her concerns and affirming the department’s role in making recommendations based on how trade actions could affect our overall foreign policy objectives. They also stressed that the department must remain engaged on the issue and rec- ognize KORUS’ significance to the United States’ broader geostrategic concerns on the Korean Peninsula. This led to affirmation of the State Department’s role in eco- nomic policy, a better-nego- tiated FTA and strengthened interagency cooperation. While serving in Seoul, Ms. Augustine drafted most of the embassy’s reporting on KORUS and served as the primary officer explaining U.S. policy on trade to contacts in the Korean government, the U.S. and Korean private sector, think tanks and academia. This work gave her Dissent Channel message the authority and heft it needed to convincingly lay out the risks of the existing policy. Ms. Augustine skillfully tailored her reporting to USTR and interagency policymak- ers and accurately predicted South Korean requests in advance of the amendment negotiations. She alerted Washington that most South Koreans saw trade and secu- rity issues as linked, and she warned about the dangers of overreaching. By actively shaping the interagency discussion, Ms. Augustine directly contributed to the successful conclusion in March 2018 of negotiations to amend KORUS. Her assignment as an economic officer in Embassy Seoul’s Macroeconomic and Trade Policy Unit, with a port- folio focused on bilateral trade and the KORUS FTA, was only her second Foreign Service position. Her first assignment was to U.S. Embassy Mos- cow’s consular section. In July, she transitioned into the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau’s Office of Regional and Security Policy. She speaks German, Russian and Korean. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Ms. Augustine earned a master’s degree in inter- national administration in conjunction with Peace Corps service in Kazakhstan as part of the Peace Corps Masters International program at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She has an undergradu- ate degree from Bucknell University in political science, English and theater. She was raised in the Foreign Ser- vice—in Bulgaria, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Austria and the United States. n COURTESYOFELENAAUGUSTINE AFSA CONSTRUCT I VE D I SSENT AWARDS