Remarks at the Benjamin Joy Award Ceremony
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
The Benjamin Joy Award was created in 2016 to recognize the benefits to American businesses and to America’s foreign policy when the U.S. government works together to advance commercial diplomacy and help U.S. firms, bringing to the effort all of our interagency tools.
“As Secretary Pompeo has said: “[W]e use American power, economic might, and influence as a tool of policy to help America achieve its interests and promote our values around the world. And if we do that right, it in turn cycles back to prosperity at home. We build relationships that create jobs and sustain American businesses and spur economic growth here at home.” That’s a good description of what State and Commerce do together at our embassies and consulates.
At a time when U.S. economic security is synonymous with national security, creating more ways for Commerce and State to align our strengths and work together could not be more important.
We promote our ethical and sustainable business principles as central to the American brand. We advocate for better business climates, including strong intellectual property protection, in our dealings with foreign governments.
We develop and promote sound economic policies to address new challenges in rapidly evolving sectors like cross-border data flows and information technology.
I am proud of the 1,500 economic officers who serve at over 200 U.S. embassies and consulates overseas – many of them in emerging markets and even hardship zones. They provide on-the-ground, in-country expertise to American companies seeking to do business overseas.
At 60 of the posts where there is no U.S. Department of Commerce presence, State officers provide the full suite of commercial services to U.S. companies through our joint State-Commerce Partner Post program, in cooperation with nearby FCS posts.
Today’s winner, Embassy Vientiane in Laos, just joined as a Partner Post last year. The State-Commerce team’s accomplishments in just a year are a testament to what is possible when we work together to advance our country’s economic and commercial interests.
In addition to hosting a Secretary of Commerce for the first time, the dedicated team drew on a full range of tools to enhance our commercial relationship. The Embassy launched a Digital Forum this year to shape the Lao government policy that will enable U.S. technology companies to thrive in Laos’ emerging digital economy. The team partnered with the U.S. auto industry to encourage Laos to adopt standards and regulations that remove trade barriers.
Embassy Vientiane is advocating for Boeing as it seeks to help a local Lao conglomerate establish a new regional airline in Laos. If successful, Boeing hopes to sell or lease up to twenty-five 737-MAXs in the next five years in Laos, a potential multibillion-dollar deal. U.S. Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter has been a critical supporter of this excellent commercial work and traveled to Bangkok to meet with small- and medium-sized U.S. companies, resulting in negotiations for a U.S.-branded resort in Laos. A special thank you to Ambassador Bitter for her leadership in economic diplomacy.
These impressive accomplishments will not only advance U.S. commercial interests in Laos and contribute to development in that country, but will enhance U.S. influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Last month, I visited four Indo-Pacific countries to underscore the Administration’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.
I would like to congratulate our runner-up for the Benjamin Joy Award, Embassy Warsaw for their outstanding work. It was a tough decision – we had 18 amazing nominees for this year’s award. Embassy Warsaw created an effective strategy to win commercial disputes, signed three significant LNG contacts, and concluded a contract for a U.S. company to build a $1.3 billion power plant.
Other achievements from our nominees range from defeating disruptive data localization mandates to big commercial advocacy wins to strengthening copyright protection that benefit U.S. firms. Our approach to economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific is to catalyze private sector investment and promote free and open environments.
Congratulations to all of our nominees for their outstanding work and especially to our winner Embassy Vientiane. And thank you to our teams in Washington for your hard work in preparing for today’s ceremony. A special thank you to our Commerce colleagues for hosting today’s ceremony.
I hope that the Benjamin Joy Award will continue to inspire excellent joint Commerce-State collaboration as we work together to help American businesses and create American jobs. Now I’ll turn to Ian Steff.