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Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Diplomatic Support for Small Business Abroad


Remarks
Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
Washington Forum 2012; The Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel
State International Development Organizations
Washington, DC
April 12, 2012

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Good afternoon and thank you Manny for that very kind introduction.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to meet with SIDO as you devote two days to engaging in rich and substantive dialogue on ways to expand trade and investment opportunities for your states.

I was enthused when I learned that SIDO requested that I discuss how U.S. diplomacy supports American small businesses abroad. This topic is particularly timely in light of Secretary Clinton’s doctrine of “economic statecraft,” which places economics at the center of our foreign policy agenda.

Secretary Clinton firmly believes that America’s foreign policy can champion U.S. businesses abroad and drive recovery here at home, and also help provide a strong foundation and effective economic tools that can strengthen and sustain America’s global leadership.

Given the Department of State’s far-reaching work overseas, she asked the Department leadership to identify ways to use our platforms and relationships abroad to strengthen the connection between diplomacy and economics. In other words, she asked the Department of State to answer the question of what we can do for business.

In furtherance of this agenda, Secretary Clinton hosted the first-ever Global Business Conference at the Department of State in February. Over 200 private sector representatives from more than 120 countries met with senior U.S. Government officials to focus on regional issues and how we can move forward together to seize opportunities, grow the global economy, and create American jobs.

These issues have not always been a traditional focus for the State Department. So why, you might ask, is the Secretary of State now spending as much time thinking about market swings as missile silos?

Well, to put it very plainly, Americans need jobs. And every $1 billion of goods we export supports more than 5,000 jobs here at home – even more in industries like telecommunications and aerospace. That is why President Obama announced the National Export Initiative in his 2010 State of the Union address and set the ambitious goal of doubling America’s exports by the end of 2014. And, we are very proud that we now expect to hit that target ahead of schedule.

We also understand that America’s economic strength and our global leadership are a package deal. You’re not going to have one without the other. Our power in the 21st century depends not just on the size of our military but also on what we grow, how well we innovate, what we make, and how effectively we sell.

Finally, we fundamentally believe that increasing trade and growing prosperity will benefit not just our own people, but people everywhere. Our economies are interdependent as never before. America’s economic renewal depends to a large degree on the strength of the global economy, and the global economy depends on the strength of America.

Secretary Clinton has made “Jobs Diplomacy” a priority mission at the State Department, with the clear goal of being the most effective diplomatic champions for prosperity and growth.

To achieve these goals, Secretary Clinton has developed a plan which begins with good people and good partners.

So, the Department of State is improving training for diplomats in economics, finance, and markets, and working more closely with colleagues across government to leverage the best possible skills and resources. Secretary Clinton has directed all of our senior diplomats to conduct business outreach and advocacy when they travel overseas. In addition, the Secretary created a new, unified under secretariat for economic growth, energy, and the environment.

Effective Jobs Diplomacy also requires partners on the ground with deep knowledge and extensive networks – and that is why American chambers of commerce and other bilateral trade associations are at the heart of our effort.

So we train our people, we find our partners, but the real questions is: Can Jobs Diplomacy deliver results that make a difference to Americans throughout the country, to the bottom line of companies and to the daily lives of U.S. citizens?

We are pursuing three lines of action to do just that: first, promoting U.S. businesses; second, attracting investment back to the United States; and third, leveling the playing field for fair competition.

Let’s start with how we advocate for U.S. companies trying to win contracts and make sales. This is not about picking winners and losers. It’s about helping all American companies put the best foot forward overseas to get a fair shot in every market.

The State Department is the face of the United States in over 190 countries and at 274 posts around the world. We fight for the rights of the business community. Over the past 60 years, we have helped establish the rules and institutions to safeguard healthy economic competition and spur unprecedented global growth.

For decades, our diplomats, trade negotiators, agriculture experts, and commercial service officers have worked hard to advocate for U.S. businesses. We have over 1,000 State Department economic officers around the world who strive to help American companies, large and small, compete, connect, and win.

We support American businesses overseas by providing commercial information and identifying market opportunities for American firms, advocating on their behalf and encouraging corporate responsibility. We answer questions from the business community and provide information on important issues such as corruption and bribery in overseas markets, export controls on sensitive equipment and technologies, and business-related visas for employees, partners, and clients of U.S. firms. The State Department Business Visa Center in Washington, D.C. assists businesses located in the United States by providing information about the application process for business visitor visa travel to the United States.

Jobs Diplomacy is not just about the giants of business. We are just as committed to helping small and medium-sized businesses. After all, that is where most of the jobs are in the United States. For example, when Iceland began looking for help converting its vehicles to electric power, our embassy championed a dynamic startup from Loveland, Ohio that does this work as well as anyone in the world. And in the end, the Ohio company won a contract worth $500 million and sold 1,000 electric SUVs.

The second focus of Jobs Diplomacy is helping to attract foreign direct investment – we call it “Global Investment” – into American communities. In order to make attracting and retaining foreign investment in the United States a priority across our government, President Obama launched last summer SelectUSA, a federal initiative to attract and retain foreign investment. The Departments of State and Commerce are working hand-in-hand on this program and we are already seeing results. Together we are looking for foreign companies and investors in the top 25 overseas markets to come to your states to make investments.

Several of our embassies have hosted programs for U.S. governors, and have supported promotional agendas for many states, cities and regions from across the United States. For example, the U.S. Commercial Service in Spain has developed the ServiceSolutionsUSA initiative which promotes business links between Spanish investors and American service providers, including lawyers, accountants and consultants. ServiceSolutionsUSA introduces Spanish investors to U.S. service providers as well as to state economic development offices from all 50 states. Many American service providers have already successfully supported Spanish investors in the United States, and this service is now being replicated at other U.S. Embassies.

In furtherance of the Secretary’s vision, the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs has leveraged U.S. state and local officials in our economic strategy in China and India, among other nations.

My office supported the establishment of the U.S. China Governors Forum in 2011 which brought together American and Chinese governors to discuss trade and investment, energy, the environment, agriculture, and education issues. And not long afterwards, one of the largest heavy equipment manufacturers in China announced a $60 million investment in Peachtree City, Georgia, with plans to add an additional $25 million across the state and hire 300 engineers in the next five years.

The U.S. Embassy and five Consulates in China work with our office, in cooperation with the Foreign Commercial Service and Foreign Agricultural Service, to provide tailored programs and services to U.S. governors visiting China. At the same time, Ambassador Gary Locke has made promoting U.S. exports and facilitating bilateral investment a top priority. In addition, the U.S. Mission to China works hard to counter the mistaken impression in China that the United States discriminates against Chinese investment.

We also collaborated with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley on his historic trade mission to India in 2011. In preparation for the mission, our office, the U.S. Mission to India, including the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service, worked closely with Governor O’Malley’s Office, the Maryland Secretary of State’s Office, and Signe Pringle, Program Director of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, who is here with us today. The mission opened new doors between the State of Maryland and India to strengthen trade and investment.

Two Indian companies plan investments in Maryland and eight Maryland businesses signed deals with Indian partners, with a combined total of nearly $60 million in business deals for the state and several additional deals worth millions still on the horizon.

We continue to work with city and state leaders to help them replicate these successes.

The third focus of Jobs Diplomacy is leveling the playing field for all, so American companies can compete and succeed everywhere. The United States is committed to a global economic system that is open, free, transparent, and fair. And we’re working to institutionalize those norms in regional and global trade agreements and institutions. We’re pushing for reforms that allow more people in more places to participate in the formal economy – especially women.

We stand up for entire industries. For instance, our team in Australia helped beat back unwarranted legal actions against American pork producers, leading to a significant increase in exports last year.

And, we stand up for small companies, like the bedding producer in Washington State that faced a crisis when Canadian regulators hit its products with a higher tariff. After the State Department, working closely with the Canadian Embassy, intervened, the Canadian regulators realized they had made a mistake and reversed their decision.

Big or small, we’re standing up for an economic system that benefits everyone. The State Department is here to help. So when businesses confront unfair regulations, when they need help cutting through red tape, of if they just want advice on local customs, they can come to the State Department.

To make this even easier, in key markets across the world, our ambassadors are now holding monthly conference calls with the U.S. business community.

We’re standardizing commercial information on all of our embassy websites so U.S. companies can find the answers they need in one place. This will complement the newly launched BusinessUSA website, a virtual one-stop for the services and information companies need to help them grow, hire, and export.

In addition, the State Department has established the Direct Line program which provides a unique opportunity for American businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises, to engage directly via teleconference with U.S. ambassadors overseas. The program is open to American companies which are already in the country where the ambassador serves or which are interested in expanding their businesses into those countries.

So, these are all the ways in which Jobs Diplomacy is helping deliver results. And in the days and months ahead, we’re going to push even harder. We will not rest until the U.S. Government is the most effective champion of business and trade anywhere.

We look forward to working with you on your international needs.

And with that, I am happy to take your questions.



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