Trump signs executive order to brand foreign aid with common logo
President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday directing federal agencies to brand U.S. foreign assistance with a common logo of the president’s choosing so that those who receive it know it was paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Under the order, the secretary of state and administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development will be responsible for implementing the new policy within 120 days of the order. More than 20 federal agencies are responsible for distributing foreign aid overseas.
“To foster goodwill between the recipients of United States foreign assistance and the American people, and to encourage the governments of nations that are receiving foreign assistance to support the United States, it is essential that recipients of United States foreign assistance be aware of the manifold efforts of American taxpayers to aid them and improve their lives,” the executive order states.
“To further this awareness and to ensure United States foreign assistance supports the foreign policy objectives of the United States and maintains American influence and leadership, such assistance must appropriately and conspicuously be identified as American aid,” it continues.
The executive order specifies that Trump will select a logo “that embodies the values and generosity of the American people” within 30 days of the order’s signing. That would be shortly before he leaves office; President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 41 days after the order’s signing. The rulemaking process would extend into Biden’s first months in office, meaning that his administration could make changes to the policy before it is implemented.
The White House did not specify what Trump’s choice of logo would be. The executive order is among a string of actions Trump is taking in the waning days of his presidency.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that the use of a common logo “will elevate United States engagement in partner countries and underscore the breadth and depth of the American taxpayers’ generosity and support for the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities around the world.”
The idea to re-brand U.S. foreign assistance under a common logo is an idea that has “kicked around for a while,” a former administration official said, and is also viewed as key in countering China in their efforts to shift the narrative around the COVID-19 pandemic through foreign assistance.
“The fundamental issue here, at the end of the day, is China does a better job in branding and marketing than the United States,” the former official said. “The United States is the largest bilateral donor of foreign assistance in the world, in history.”
But the re-branding issue had not gained real forward movement because of concerns about the high cost of carrying out such an effort — and whether such costs would be imposed on the American taxpayer or taken out of grants provided to recipients.
“Overall not a terrible idea — an expensive idea with these unanticipated or [not]-thought through additional expenses that would accrue to the assistance budget. And that’s, of course, at a time when we’re stretching our nickels so that we can provide assistance for COVID.”
The former official said the quick timeline on the executive order, coming shortly before Biden’s inauguration, is likely a “jab” at the incoming administration.
The former official said that in earlier talks about such an initiative, the idea was floated to have the president’s signature included on the logo. Politico reported in August 2019, however, that a draft executive order for the rebranding did not include the president’s name.
“It’s cynical if it’s rolled out with his name on it in 30 days,” the official said.
W. Gyude Moore, senior policy fellow with the Center for Global Development and who served as Liberia’s Minister of Public Works, said the executive order is likely part of efforts by the U.S. to counter China but criticized the Trump administration for providing an opening to Beijing in the president’s “America First” foreign policy.
“Throughout the pandemic, as the U.S. attempted to withdraw from the WHO and refused to join COVAX, the global effort to provide vaccines to the poor, China has been only too glad to step in and present itself as a defender of multilateralism. It has, arguably, gained from the U.S. missteps here,” Moore said.
Further, Moore said it’s unclear the impact of Trump’s executive order being delivered with only a little over a month before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
“It is also possible that this is just a part of a series of last ‘hurrahs’ of the Trump administration and the Biden administration might rescind it. So it’s hard to read too much into this,” he said.
“I finished high school in a refugee camp and I can say from that experience that recipients will be ambivalent about the branding.”
—Updated at 6:46 p.m.
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