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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks to American Chamber of Commerce in Russia

Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
Vladivostok, Russia
September 8, 2012


Thank you Andrew for that warm introduction and for extending the invitation to participate in this important and timely panel discussion. I am delighted to be back in Vladivostok.

Last month, I completed a 10-day tour of Russia, where I visited Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok. As the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, I lead the Department of State's efforts to collaborate with state and local leaders and their counterparts abroad. While in Russia, I met with representatives of the federal and local authorities, as well as leaders of Russia's business and academic communities, to discuss and further the development of a U.S.-Russia subnational engagement effort.

I am happy to say that I am here today at the APEC Summit to witness Secretary Clinton and Minister Lavrov sign a Joint Statement on Strengthening U.S.-Russian Interregional Cooperation. The joint statement breaks new territory by encouraging greater collaboration among all levels of government from both our countries on trade and investment, education, and sharing best practices. This U.S.-Russia initiative is designed to stimulate economic growth by harnessing the knowledge and skills of local leaders. For example, regional and local government officials will host trade delegations, introduce business leaders to new markets, and discuss investment opportunities with CEOs. As Secretary Clinton stated during the press conference today, “when it comes to the economy, local partnerships can have a global impact.”

While in Russia last month, I met with Moscow Oblast Governor Sergei Shoigu, Leningrad Oblast Governor Aleksander Drozdenko, the Vice Governor of Primorsky Krai Oblast, and the Mayors of Moscow City, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, and Artem City. Our delegation had positive meetings in every city and oblast we visited. The Russian local leaders with whom we met expressed uniform enthusiasm for closer ties with U.S. local entities. It is very clear that there is tremendous opportunity for U.S. business in Russia.

The formalization of U.S.-Russian interregional cooperation presents exciting areas for development. The Joint Statement outlines areas for the development of mutually benefical cooperation to increase business contacts and investment, to implement projects aimed at the development of infrastructure, and the establishment of sister-city relations, among others.

We are enthusiastic about the interregional partnerships that will be fostered by the U.S.-Russia Joint Statement. We are dedicated to assisting local governments with finding partners for projects and overall collaboration. Region-to-region dialogue is the foundation for increasing U.S. exports and supporting job creation in the United States. In addition, interregional cooperation will serve to increase an awareness among Russians that working with a partner like the United States provides important benefits.

Secretary Clinton says it often and I want to say again here today, the United States is a Pacific Nation and we intend to stay engaged with the region and help shape its future. The economic dimension of our relationship is growing increasingly important, both nationally and subnationally, and indeed to the region and the world.

These partnerships are already beneficial for the countries involved, and I thank all of you for working to strengthen economic ties. But I am here to talk about how we can do more. I believe that the opportunities and potential for greater investment, trade, growth, and job creation is only now being tapped. More to the point, the people in this room are on the tip of the spear when it comes to growing and expanding these trends.

You understand that doing business in foreign countries requires support and a structure for building relationships with governments at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as with the private sector. Let me underscore just how instrumental business organizations like the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia and the U.S.-APEC Business Coalition are in maintaining relationships among the private sector and encouraging governments to collaborate.

I also would like to note that economic issues have become central in our relationships with with other countries. And , increasingly, a goal of U.S. foreign policy is to drive economic growth; drive it for ourselves, of course, but drive it regionally and globally. We call that Economic Statecraft.

Now, of course, a country’s economic strength in turn shapes its foreign policy, and, more broadly, its role in the world. If our economies are prosperous and dynamic, we are able to invest more resources in our own people. We are also able to be good stewards of the global economy, and the whole idea of a global economic order based on the rule of law and transparency and fair and open competition advances.

For the United States, the APEC Summit, and private sector gatherings like this one, are at the center of these efforts in the region. Moreover, everyone in this room understands the complex entanglement of all the different issues that the private sector faces. What happens to one of us affects every other country in the region, and coming together to build bridges and expand relationships is a key pillar in strengthening the economic ties of all Asia-Pacific countries. A vibrant private sector and strong economic ties with our partners are good for business, but also good for our people.

We’re updating America’s foreign policy priorities to ensure that what we prioritize reflects the growing importance of economic power and economic cooperation.

America is open for business.

America is open for business. We are doing everything we can to promote growth of U.S. business abroad, to encourage foreign businesses to invest and create jobs here, and to welcome visitors to our country.

With the National Export Initiative, President Obama set a goal of doubling America’s exports over five years. We expect to hit that target ahead of schedule, thanks in large measure to our new free trade agreements; the hard work of our people; and, of course, the American business community.

Through SelectUSA, we are encouraging companies from other countries to consider the U.S. market when looking to expand into other economies.

Through the new travel and tourism initiative, we are improving the visa process and making it easier for people from around the world to come to the United States.

We also recognize that businesses face a host of new, behind-the-border barriers, such as IP theft and requirements that force companies to transfer technology and source supplies locally. These barriers hurt companies and customers from the United States and from around the world. That’s why the United States is making it a central diplomatic priority to level the playing field by promoting an open, free, transparent and fair economic system around the world.

Economics are at the forefront of determining our foreign policy priorities.

We are updating America’s foreign policy priorities to ensure that what we prioritize reflects the growing importance of economic power and economic cooperation.

We are collaborating around the globe on shared economic interests and we are addressing new challenges at the nexus of markets and diplomacy, such as commodity security and state capitalism.

We are developing economic solutions for our toughest strategic challenges.

Mindful that many of our greatest security challenges depend substantially on economic variables, we are increasingly turning to economic solutions to promote the security of the United States and our allies and partners. Examples include trade and economic tools we have used to support transitions in the Middle East and North Africa, and our diplomatic work to attract private investment to create a New Silk Road in Central Asia.

Fusing economics and foreign policy in this way is at the core of what Secretary Clinton describes as “smart power.”

Our people are America’s economic front line.

We are working to equip all of our talent — whether Foreign Service, civil service, and locally engaged staff, based in Washington or in the field — with the tools, training, and incentives needed to deliver on this agenda.

Our network of diplomats are working every day in almost every country in the world to promote these objectives and create American jobs. They are looking forward to interacting with you today – and every day.

I encourage you to seize the opportunities provided by the U.S. Russia interregional cooperation initiative. We realize that opportunity is not without challenges. We are here to support you. In the time remaining, I would like to hear from you. How can we help you take advantage of these opportunities? We stand ready to act as a bridge between Russian entities and U.S. businesses, governments, and universities.

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