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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Leveraging State-to-State Global Relationships

Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
Global Engagement 2011: Public Diplomacy, Trade & Economic Development
University of Georgia Office of International Education
Athens, GA
November 10, 2011


Date: 11/10/2011 Description: Special Representative Reta Jo Lewis delivering remarks during her visit to Athens, Georgia. - State Dept ImageThank you, Kavita, for that very kind introduction and for inviting me to address this timely event which you were so instrumental in planning. I commend the many individuals, including University President Dr. Michael Adams, Vice President and Provost Jere Moorehead, Honorary Consul for Lichtenstein Dr. Bruce Allen, and Consul General of Germany Dr. Lutz Gorgens, for their tireless efforts and support for this inaugural symposium to examine global engagement.

It is absolutely wonderful to be here at the University of Georgia with many familiar faces, and it is also good to see new ones. The four years I spent as an undergraduate at UGA was an exhilarating and formative time of my life. I am forever grateful for the opportunities for intellectual and personal growth.

I also would like to take a moment to express my appreciation to the Atlanta Consular Corps for serving as a co-sponsor of this symposium and for their fine work in promoting economic, commercial, scientific, and cultural relations between their governments and the state of Georgia.

Now, I want to thank you for taking the time to examine U.S. global engagement and for including this issue as a central part of the university’s strategy. I commend you for devoting this day to discussing how to broaden the conversation about international engagement at UGA and beyond.

A lot has happened in the last 12 months, from revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, to the deaths of Osama bin Ladin and Muammar Qaddafi, to renewed fears over economic default in Europe. These changes have served to reinforce our conviction that American leadership continues to be a uniquely powerful force for advancing human freedom and universal rights around the world. As Secretary Clinton has said, “Seizing the moment and leading the world in the years ahead will take the clear-eyed choices and commitment to shared service and sacrifice that built our country’s greatness, paired with fresh thinking and new strategies, that match the circumstances of today.”

So to meet the challenges and to lay the foundation for sustained global leadership for decades to come, the Obama Administration is working to strengthen the sources of American power here at home. We are leading internationally in new ways that fit a time of complex challenges and scarce resources, and we are prioritizing our investments in the areas of greatest opportunity and consequence.

At the same time, we have to find new ways to lead in a changing world. This begins by understanding the current international landscape and the demands it places on American leadership. Today the major powers are at peace, but new regional and global centers of influence are quietly emerging.

In such a complex world, we need to be both smart and persuasive. In pursuit of 21st century diplomacy, Secretary Clinton uses “smart power,” which combines military hard power and diplomatic soft power in economic development and technology. As the Secretary has said, “It’s up to us to figure out how we position ourselves to be as effective as possible at different times in the face of different threats and opportunities.”

We are leading with partnership, based on a principle of mutual responsibility, mutual respect, and mutual interest. Due to Secretary Clinton’s initiative in this era of engagement, we are leading with new partnerships.

Leadership does not have to mean shouldering the burden alone. It means inspiring others to join in doing the job. We lead with pragmatism, keenly focused on results that benefit, first and foremost, the American people.

And so American leadership must be as dynamic as the challenges we face. We have to be ready to adapt and innovate and to go beyond traditional diplomatic channels and engage directly with civil society, the private sector, and state and local entities. It also means using the power of technology to solve problems in new ways.

As Secretary Clinton has said, “This is the time to press forward, not to pull back.” Our foreign policy relationships will continue to be nation-to-nation. But the scope of what defines nation-to-nation conversations are shifting in the modern, more global, more flattened economy – deeming city-to-city, and state-to-state dialogues just as critical to the larger context of executing, implementing and achieving a nation’s overarching diplomatic goals.

Just as Secretary Clinton engages in a conversation with the Foreign Minister of South Africa on issues of greenhouse pollutions, so too does the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs host pivotal conversations on the matter, with U.S. governors, mayors, and other elected officials and their counterparts, such as the Mayor of Durban or the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Ultimately, the agreements and points of collaboration between local government representatives are increasingly important pieces of the puzzle, when national representatives are seeking out far reaching agreements. And this trending dynamic is starting to cut across both public and private sectors, applying whether you are a country looking for fuel efficiency partnerships, or even if you are a company looking to better understand green energy standards being implemented in areas where you manufacture.

So in this day and age, sweeping evolutions in technology have given more of the world a voice; and more corners of the world access to one another. No longer are global business leaders just paying attention to traditional high-density growth areas like Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley, Brussels, Beijing, or Dubai – so too must they look at prospective growth opportunities in the urbanization of Andhra Pradesh, India, the tech rich corridors of Alexandria, Virginia, the pharmaceutical sectors of New Jersey and Puerto Rico; and even the rapid energy sector growth in Moscow.

The rapid decentralization of growth, moving toward peripheral cities, or remote citizenries outside of major tourist destinations, is also having a rising impact on socio-economic policy.

In a single generation, revolutions in digital communications technology have enabled just about anyone to set up shop, recruit talent, and move their products – wherever there is an Internet connection. This is expanding the ability for communities and business to grow outside the conventional major-city and urban-city development models, and empowering smaller and smaller businesses to thrive in smaller and remote cities.

Even through the power of mobile devices, we now have the power to move shares of stock or read the latest news on the Eurozone debt crisis from the palms of our hand. Our Blackberries may annoy our families at the dinner table from time to time, but as national wireless infrastructure grids become more and more of a priority for developing nations, telecommunication businesses are able to place phones in the hands of those who were once voiceless. And with that expanding high-speed infrastructure, those who once had never seen the mountain tops of the Himalayas, or the shimmering waves of the Pacific – are now able to communicate with those who were once foreign strangers, lend a microloan to a rural farmer, and even add Mark Zuckerberg as a “friend” on Facebook.

Admittedly, the challenges of remaining competitive, as a business or a nation, in a more decentralized global economy seem to grow by the day – but so too do the 2lst century opportunities they afford.

Many major business interests used to include just a handful of key countries or trading partners in their development portfolio, but with the nexus of power and innovation moving beyond the central government, and toward the provincial and local authorities, “subnational” clusters are indeed the 2lst century laboratories that generate new political, social, and indeed economic solutions.

A recent report by the World Bank notes that the world could have as many as 10,000 cities with populations of 100,000 or more by 2025, including more than 800 cities with a half-million residents. More surprising perhaps is that most of the world’s megacities, cities with populations of 10 million or more, will be located in the developing regions of the globe.

From a perspective of 21st century statecraft, these trends point to the necessity that nation states, and indeed the United States must aggressively cultivate subnational partnerships, if the U.S. Government hopes to manage this rapidly spreading global growth, and learn how to sustain collaborative political, social and economic networks – in the face of these rising regional tides. Interestingly, the processes of globalization and decentralization seem to influence and impact one another, skyrocketing the criticality of this must needed subnational engagement.

Faster and cheaper international communications has allowed local experiences to be heard around the world, which means local decision makers are able to use experiences from varying regions to shape their own local policies.

Whether it is the Mayor of Atlanta, New York City, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, or Durban, the interlinking processes of city-to-city exchanges has the potential to influence local civic decision makers to consider alternatives to the way they do business, creating a market opening for all companies in all regions of the world. And this creates immense opportunities for businesses, because the more subnational partnerships are fused together and groomed, the more market demand those regions would have for particular services. Moreover, if services are thriving in one corner of the world, city-to-city engagement only raises the prospects that companies will be pitched as the gold-standard leaders by which other public institutions should be engaged in a partnership.

With President Obama and Secretary Clinton making subnational engagements an essential tool of this Administration, we have been a catalyst not only for our states and our cities to engage but also with governors and mayors all over the world – advancing the probability and potency of those very public-private partnerships.

Not only does this offer stronger, and more personalized cultural exchanges – a new contour of 21st century statecraft and diplomacy under this Administration – but it also allows those civic leaders around the world to share ideas about local governance and learn from each other. The greater understanding among localities about how cities are managed, or how business is done, the better are new relationships between their staff and their citizens, while encouraging new linkages among the private sector, in a way never seen before on the world stage. Conversations that end up pointing how to best deliver goods and services in the new global environment, how to manage housing challenges, how best to battle crime, and how to evenly distribute social benefits – not only give smaller cities motivation to adapt and improve their processes, but they simultaneously give thought to which private entities are best equipped to help in the delivery of these social efforts.

I submit to you today that the next great chapters of economic growth will include cities in America, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Mali, or Nigeria and the 10,000 others on the rise. Cities that encourage innovation, topple barriers for small business, and harness the power of regional economic development to establish regional clusters of growth.

As a recent Economist entry stated: cities rather than nation states are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built.

Which is why the clarion call for subnational engagement that Secretary Clinton has championed stems from the fact that it can empower us to help each trade better, invest better, create better jobs, educate our children better, and solve the problems we all share. The new world is not – and will not be – one global village, so much as a network of different ones, supporting our collective ends.

Taken together, the advent of global hubs and megacities forces us to rethink whether state sovereignty or economic might is the new prerequisite for participating in successful global diplomacy. The answer is of course both, which exponentially expands the opportunities for state-to-state engagement.

As subnational engagements increasingly provide a level playing field by which cities, powerful or weak, large and small can interact – so too does the mere physical expansion of peripheral cities afford hefty economic opportunity in many regions of the world.

In terms of trade and economic development, the megacities will be the heart of consumer trade.

Goldman Sachs’ global economics team, for example, recently released a report about rapidly developing nations stating that, the number of people with an annual income over a threshold of $3,000, will double in number within three years and reach 800 million people within a decade.

This predicts a massive rise in the size of the middle class in these nations, in areas of the world that for too long have been overlooked for lacking a strong middle class.

Moreover, in 2025, it is estimated that the number of people in Brazil, Russia, India, and China earning over $15,000 may reach over 200 million. Ultimately indicating that a huge pickup in demand will be restricted to basic goods but impact higher-priced goods as well.

So with developing nations rapidly expanding in wealth, and the smaller cities rapidly leveraging innovation to expand business opportunity, more and more subnational entities will quickly assume established roles to which the global economy must inevitably turn its attention. And, that is exactly why codifying subnational relationships is of utmost importance.

Many of these cities on the rise will experience a rapid transfer of wealth, and with that, a rapid expansion of urban development. Managing that influx of capital, making astute investments with that capital, and understanding how to meet utility demands for everything from electricity to irrigation – will all be unique challenges for these cities to deal with.

Subnational conversations will help establish a dialogue that will transfer knowledge among parts of the world already well versed in managing these rapidly expanding demands. Moreover, this peer-to-peer engagement on city, state and county levels will provide inclusive growth, because cities will actively pursue other areas of the world whose resources and demographics mirror theirs, in order to apply best practices in a way that more effectively meets the nuanced cultural demands of a particular region of the world.

Moreover, state-to-state engagement provides private businesses better access to compete for bids and contracts in these new markets, from the very point of inception, because if we are increasing dialogue about the regional needs of communities, we are also boosting the dialogue about what science and engineering institutions, building contractors, agricultural providers, and other required private entities are best suited to meet regional public needs.

So again, the Department of State’s efforts to codify subnational relationships not only promote deeper cultural exchange among nations – better advancing principals of openness, freedom, transparency, and fairness in economic growth; but also enhance prospects for new development projects.

The opportunities presented by state-to-state engagement are wide and varied.

Business organizations have the chance to shape the best practices of these newly thriving cities from the ground-up. That unique level of bottom-up influence, once communicated through the world via subnational conversations, increasingly allows a small enterprise in Iowa to communicate with a small, budding enterprise in Rangoon – and discuss what worked and did not work for them, and what companies, whether it be Bechtel or Raytheon, helped actualize those efforts. But of course any of these strategic relationships in which the United States plays a role, and that our office advocates, must be governed by basic principles that support the long-term, high impact and inclusive growth, for the localities involved.

  • First, the United States seeks an open platform, one that allows for participation from around the world, in order to maximize opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors, workers, and consumers everywhere. Openness has been an attribute consistent with U.S. economic policy for many administrations and it reflects our shared belief that an open system invites the most growth.
  • Second, the United States seeks a free platform, one that includes as few barriers to trade and investment as possible. In recent years, we have made strong progress together toward removing tariffs and other so-called border barriers. But let’s face it: Numerous non-tariff barriers remain.
  • Third, we seek a transparent platform in which the so-called rules of the road are developed in consultation with all stakeholders and known to everyone, no matter their connections or country of origin. In the absence of transparency, corruption flourishes; regulations can be applied arbitrarily, small business owners may discover that some rules change without warning or apply to them but not to others. None of this is good for competition or for sustaining the trust and confidence that is necessary for trade and investment in a global economy.
  • Finally, we seek subnational engagement grounded in fairness. The United States is looking for a level playing field, an environment in which businesses rise or fall based on honest competition rather than government manipulation.

Respect for the pillars of our strategic partnerships is precisely why the United States has launched thriving initiatives with countries such as China and Brazil, enhancing our global competitiveness, increasing our exchange of cultural capital, and adapting to the global decentralization that accelerated much of these two countries’ growth.

U.S.-China and U.S.-India ties are richer and more extensive than ever before. Bilateral cooperation and dialogue has moved well beyond traditional diplomacy, rapidly expanding into the fields of economic, environmental, educational, and commercial engagement.

To further broaden and deepen our bilateral relationships, we need to engage and bring into play the skills and energies of partners beyond the Federal Government.

The relationships between leaders in U.S. states and Indian states are indispensable. At the same time, leaders in U.S. states and Chinese provinces are among those helping to shape, and draw benefit from positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationships. And increasingly these leaders are recognizing that economic prowess and 21st century statecraft does not begin or end at the border’s reach – instead these local-to-local relationships are vital to improving our mutual understanding of this flatter world, and our independent understanding of our unique economies.

On the U.S. side, governors, mayors, and county executives have continued to lead international trade delegations while their state and city governments work with local businesses to promote investments, exports, and jobs in their home states.

Georgia is a prime example of a state with a strong global outlook which actively pursues state-to-state-engagement to the benefit of its citizens. Georgia is a state that continues to attract globally recognized corporate brands. Just look at the city of Atlanta. Trade is one of Atlanta’s top three industry sectors. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport is the world’s most traveled airport serving over 90 million passengers annually.

Since assuming office in January, Governor Nathan Deal has vigorously sought international opportunities to promote job creation, tourism and travel. Just last month, Governor Deal led an economic development mission to South Korea and China to seek opportunities for trade. While in China, he was a member of the U.S. delegation, which I led, to the U.S-China Governors Forum in Beijing. This forum brought together six U.S. governors and eight high-level Chinese provincial officials to discuss topics of mutual interest, including trade and investment, job creation, and economic development. During the Governor’s visit to China, Georgia signed an economic pact with the city of Shanghai to further mutual investment opportunities. Earlier in the year, the Governor led trade delegations to Canada and the United Kingdom to promote trade and foreign direct investment. Governor Deal clearly recognizes the importance of looking outward and forming partnerships at the state level.

The benefits of state and local partnerships transcend all segments of society.

For example, since education in the United States is primarily the responsibility of state governments, subnational relationships are another way that we are able to work with universities in other countries to attract foreign exchange students, promote the teaching of foreign language, and encourage students to study overseas.

In hosting this conference today, the University of Georgia is displaying its commitment to global engagement and international education. The University is to be commended for increasing services to international students and faculty and attaining impressive growth in educational programs abroad. As the flagship institution in the University System of Georgia, UGA has successfully met and exceeded the U.S. Government’s strategic goal of preparing students “to function successfully in a global society.”

The facts speak for themselves. Approximately 2,000 UGA students study abroad every year. UGA also has outstanding foreign language programs. The University sponsors many international research collaborations and initiatives. For instance, UGA’s Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases provides numerous grants for research worldwide. In addition, the UGA Dean Rusk Center for International Law and Policy, the Carl Vinson Institute, and the Cox International Center for Journalism offer a variety of training programs for international students. Finally, UGA’s Center for International Trade and Security is a leader in the area of international security and nuclear proliferation issues.

In addition, the University’s many on-going China initiatives are truly outstanding. In support of the Obama Administration’s 100,000 Strong Initiative, UGA sponsors funded opportunities for study in China. Under the auspices of the China Scholarship Council, UGA has received five scholarships for study in China from the Chinese Consulate General in Houston and the Chinese Ministry of Education. The Carl Vinson Institute’s Training Project on Public Administration is an outstanding example of state-to-state engagement. Since its inception in 1999 and through a partnership with Shanghai Administrative Institute and, subsequently, Fudan University, the Institute’s China Public Management Training program has helped more that 1,200 municipal and provincial officials from seven Chinese provinces obtain the public administration knowledge and skills needed to build governments that are more efficient and responsive to citizens.

Another example of the benefits of state and local partnerships lies within the environmental sector. Municipal governments, in conjunction with private organizations, have pioneered efforts in the United States to combat climate change and to protect the environment through local ordinances, recycling programs, and other initiatives to protect the environment.

Similarly through a subnational dialogue, China and India’s provincial and municipal governments have separately started working with local partners to establish relationships between domestic and foreign hospitals, and other public service providers.

Local officials in China are now responsible for ensuring that environmental regulations are properly enforced. And through ongoing subnational dialogues, provinces there are increasingly approving foreign investment transactions below a certain value, with many provincial leaders taking the lead from their central governments by aggressively working to make their respective regions an attractive investment vehicle in and of themselves.

In an effort to re-engage with India, Secretary Clinton launched the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in 2010 as the capstone dialogue between the United States and India. As a follow-up to the Secretary’s participation in the 20ll U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, I traveled throughout India this summer to promote U.S. India state-to-state partnerships. I visited New Delhi and several cities within the Indian states of Assam, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra to meet with local government, business, and academic leaders. Common themes throughout my discussions with local Indian leaders included trade and investment, infrastructure, education, science and technology.

As part of the U.S-India Strategic Dialogue, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency announced two grants that will lay the groundwork for Smart Grid pilot projects in the greater Delhi area and help to establish new solar grid-connected power plants in the states of Karnataka and West Bengal using U.S.-based technology.

Moreover, to build on this momentum and continue sustaining such growth, India has set a goal of achieving $1 trillion in infrastructure investment b y 2017. U.S. businesses are eager to help to develop India’s infrastructure.

An indispensable example of what is possible with trade and investment between two countries is creating new levels of mutual prosperity and security. As one of India’s leading trade partners and direct investors, the United States is committed to continuously strengthening ties through new opportunities for engagement.

In Brazil, we have seen the benefit of catalyzing state-to-state partnerships. During President Obama’s March 2010 visit to Brazil, a memorandum of understanding was signed supporting subnational cooperation for capacity building around opportunities for the 2016 Olympics and 2014 FIFA World Cup. In furtherance of the MOU, the Office of the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs has hosted several visits to the United States by Brazilian state and local leaders.

We also have worked to promote the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality. In furtherance of the mission, Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners John Eaves partnered with Brazilian leaders to share best practices, resources, and information to promote equality of all racial and ethnic groups in advance of the 2016 Olympic Games. In addition, we have facilitated access to the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board for visiting Brazilian subnational delegations.

With regard to South Africa, our efforts to promote state-to-state engagement have produced tangible positive results. I traveled to Durban earlier this year to participate in the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) National Conference and to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between SALGA and the National League of Cities. The MOU promotes subnational collaboration between the two municipal organizations and is geared around capacity building in the areas of governance, sustainability, social housing, municipal finance, and economic and community development.

In furtherance of the MOU, the National League of Cities plans to invite 10 South African mayors to attend its annual conference in the United States in March 2012. In addition, the National League of Cities is exploring opportunities to provide leadership training for South African community leaders.

Mutual opportunities for growth in subnational agreements create a vortex of opportunity for U.S. business growth, jobs growth, and industry growth. Fueled by the expansion of a 300 million person middle class, a whole range of American companies and products – from communications equipment to automotive manufacturing – have expanding markets in South Asia. In the State of Kolkata, Pepsi is using advanced U.S. technology to recycle more clean water than it consumes for is production facilities and to enable its Indian partners to keep fresh food longer using cold storage technology.

Thus, this new era of global, flatter partnership, is in essence an innovative, yet increasingly symbiotic relationship – a two-way street where global actors are important for each other in basic ways – to stimulate the creation of jobs and economic growth in both countries, while also exploring new technological possibilities.

Partnerships are on display in India. Partnerships have been on display with China since the signing of a subnational memorandum of understanding earlier this year. Partnerships are on display at international conferences with mayors; and, they are on display at global conferences discussing the need to green our communities.

In a 21st century world, there is no shortage of great partnerships, nor a shortage of great ideas when we shore up our collective will to address the most human of challenges we face. But part of understanding and leveraging that effectively, means that we need to build upon these subnational agreements; build greater understandings that we are even able to conceive of now; and forge a nexus of community and business – development and technology – to be the intersection where we begin paying attention, start learning from, and start investing in.

Many of you have in-depth knowledge of the communities and cultures in which you work. You have greater latitude to experiment with different approaches, and the flexibility and adaptability to try out these different approaches. We know that the challenges we face cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach.

By combining our strengths, governments and philanthropies, we can more than double our impact to this subnational end. And the multiplier effect continues if we add businesses, NGOs, universities and entrepreneurs. That is the power of partnership at its best – allowing us to achieve so much more together than we could apart.

The real power of relationships lies in the ability to leverage local knowledge about the individual communities you are in, their particular needs, and what each can offer with the opportunities that an ever-globalizing world is opening up for all of us. That is why it is import to build coalitions that include the private sector, government, academia, and civil society. Symposiums like this one are model vehicles to begin work.

Just this morning, I returned from Hawaii where I attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, which brought together the heads of state from 21 nations and corporate interests from around the world. While in Honolulu, I was struck by how Hawaii has utilized subnational engagement to build tangible financial partnerships in the Pacific, particularly with Japan. Many Hawaiians expressed the hope that the APEC conference would provide Hawaii with yet another opportunity to build lasting cultural and financial partnerships with the entire Asia-Pacific region. Similarly, Atlanta has leveraged state-to-state partnerships to rise as an international business center.

Everywhere I travel, I meet people not just looking to us, but asking us for leadership. This is a source of strength, a point of pride, and a great opportunity. So I thank you, but in order to continue and remain the hallmark leaders in the world that define us, we strongly encourage private institutions and universities to adopt and establish subnational relationships.

In closing, I would like to say a few words to the students with us today about my deep commitment to public service cultivated here at the University. As you know, UGA has a long tradition of public service. One of the greatest privileges of my life has been to serve my country in my present position working with Secretary Clinton and, under the inspired leadership of President Clinton, at the White House. It is so important to work for the common good and to give back. In the years ahead, I urge you to consider serving your community or your government. Our country needs dedicated and capable people to fill the ranks of the public sector. I can tell you first hand that public service is valuable and highly rewarding.

Thank you and I am happy to take your questions.

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