The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2019

28 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL I nternational economics is once again at the forefront of foreign policy. Accounts of serious trade disputes, a U.S. effort to derail a new gas pipeline from Russia to Europe, stiff new economic sanctions on Iran and concern about imports of automobiles fill the front pages of American dailies. It sometimes feels like the 1980s all over again. But this time, the much higher public salience of foreign policy issues amid sharp polarization, accelerating climate change, the growing role of China in the international order and radical changes in communications technology (including social media) put the old issues in a new perspective and chal- lenge old ways of doing business. It is a good time, therefore, to consider how the Foreign Ser- vice should recruit, train and nurture a strong cadre of economic officers for the decades ahead. Economic Officer vs. International Economist The key distinction between a Foreign Service officer in the economic career track and an international economist is this: The core responsibilities of economic officers are not solely, or even principally, about studying economic develop- ments. While these FSOs must understand what is happening economically in whatever area of the world (or multilateral or plurilateral organization) they are assigned, that is not enough. The FSOs should also be in a position to fashion and carry out strategies to advance the national interest and build relation- ships to maintain U.S. economic interests. Outcomes matter in diplomacy. To my mind (and this may be a heretical thought) economic officers must be, first of all, accomplished political officers, EconomicOfficers for theFuture Charles Ries, a Foreign Service officer from 1977 to 2008, served as ambassador to Greece; principal deputy assistant secretary for European affairs; coordinator for economic transition in Iraq; Minister- Counselor for economic affairs in London and at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels; and in other domes- tic positions in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs and the Office of the Under Secretary for Economic and Agricultural Affairs. He is currently vice president, international, at the nonprofit RAND Corporation. New appreciation for the centrality of economics in foreign policy makes it an ideal time to throw light on the making of an economic officer. BY CHARL ES R I ES ECONOMIC DIPLOMACYWORKS FOCUS