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Thomas R. Nides

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Making Foreign Policy Work for American Business

Posted: 10/16/2012 9:49 am

What do fish farms in Oman, grapefruits from Florida, and Chinese movie theaters have in common? They are all part of an ambitious strategy to create American jobs and to accelerate economic growth at home and around the world.

A year ago, Secretary Clinton launched the State Department's Economic Statecraft agenda, a renewed effort to place economics at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. Twelve months later, our diplomats have turned her words into reality -- working harder than ever to champion American business, level the playing field, and deploy economics to address strategic challenges.

With 70 percent of the world's growth powered by emerging and developing markets, our economic renewal depends on capturing opportunities abroad. With our colleagues from across the government, we have made it simpler for American companies to use our embassies and consulates to identify and win business overseas. Here are a few examples that demonstrate how the State Department is expanding economic opportunity:

• Our ambassadors are sharing opportunities through Direct Line web chats with American companies -- a call with our Ambassador to Oman helped an American company find a business deal in Oman's aquaculture industry the following week.

• Businesses can now find country-specific commercial information on every U.S. embassy website -- since the site posted in June, inquiries from American businesses into our embassy in Namibia have increased ten-fold.

• We have accelerated visa processing and tourism promotion to help bring 62 million tourists to the U.S. this year. In Brazil, we cut wait times from 140 to 2 days, even as volume grew by 37% percent. These numbers translate into more American jobs -- every 65 tourists create an American job.

• Through a series of conferences hosted by Secretary Clinton, we have introduced foreign governments to U.S. businesses to help American companies capitalize on global growth. In September, we convened a conference to help U.S. firms compete for trillions of dollars of infrastructure projects in developing nations.

Discriminatory policies overseas destroy American jobs and slow economic growth. Our diplomats work to keep markets open, free and fair, and help protect our companies in a challenging global marketplace. For example:

• We successfully lobbied against European marketing standards that could have decimated sales of Florida and California grapefruits to the European Union.

• Our embassy in Pakistan worked to stop government regulations that would have hindered U.S. export of raw materials for life-saving drugs.

• We negotiated significant increases in the number of American films that can be shown in China each year, obtaining agreement that eventually there will be no limits.

Finally, our diplomats are updating the tools of diplomacy to reflect a world where countries deal increasingly in economic power. Some examples include:

• In the Middle East, an emphasis on economics and business will help stabilize fragile economies and build relationships with new democratic actors. We are creating enterprise funds in Tunisia and Egypt that will make catalytic investments to support job creation and strengthen the private sector. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation has committed over $2 billion to help U.S. businesses finance deals in the region. And, in September, I led a business delegation to Egypt (the largest in history!) to discuss jobs, investment and the reforms required to drive both. These initiatives are not development aid; they are about mobilizing private sector talent to spur trade and investment and support reform and stability in transitioning states.

• In Africa, we are helping U.S. firms find profitable opportunities that accelerate development. We have led energy trade delegations, convened export conferences, and organized matchmaking events to help American companies benefit from African growth. In Ghana, for example, our ambassador helped a family-owned New Jersey company win a major municipal water and sanitation project.

• In Asia, our economic leadership helps us achieve our political and security priorities. That is why Secretary Clinton became the first Secretary of State to lead a CEO delegation to the U.S.- ASEAN Business Forum last July, and why we have led business delegations to Burma to help draw the country from isolation. And it is why we are negotiating a ground-breaking Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that will set a new gold standard for free trade and link our economy with nations from Vietnam to Peru, creating a free trade community that brings prosperity and jobs.

Sixty-five years ago, Harry Truman said, "our relations, foreign and economic, are inseparable." Today, we are turning our CEOs into informal ambassadors and our diplomats into "jobs officers." We are using our economic strength and the power of markets to solve America's strategic challenges and working overtime to ensure our diplomacy abroad drives our recovery at home. Economic Statecraft will help to keep America strong abroad and strong at home. It's a sound investment in America's national security -- and in our bottom line.

 
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