The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2019

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2019 61 USAID’s Economic Diplomacy Makes a Difference for U.S. Economic Growth Economic diplomacy overseas makes a difference for U.S. businesses at home by increasing access to markets and thereby increasing sales, leading to business growth and more U.S. jobs. Over the past 10 years, almost two-thirds of the growth in U.S. goods exports was to major USAID partner coun- tries. This powerful statistic, from a May 2018 USAID publication,“Shared Inter- est: How USAID Enhances U.S. Economic Growth,” emphasizes the importance of USAID’s work in raising up the economic prospects of the United States, as well as promoting peace and stability. This month’s Foreign Ser- vice Journal aims to show how economic diplomacy works. Every Foreign Service officer, past and present, should read this issue—and then give it to a friend or family member to read. The state of the U.S. economy is an important issue for Americans, who are worried about China’s expan- sion and growing economic influence around the world, and what that means for U.S. businesses and U.S. citizens. Economic diplomacy over- seas makes a difference for U.S. businesses at home by increasing access to markets and thereby increasing sales, leading to business growth and more U.S. jobs. During the 10 years referenced in “Shared Interest,” the growth of U.S. exports of goods and ser- vices to Asia and the Pacific produced some 3.4 million American jobs. In Brazil, export growth during the same period added 137,000 U.S. jobs. Increased exports to a more distant and less well- known country, Indonesia, resulted in more than 20,000 U.S. jobs. Why do USAID’s programs and Foreign Service officers make such a difference to U.S. businesses and their exports? Don’t U.S. businesses have the staff and business acu- men to identify opportunities and conclude business deals in other countries without USAID’s assistance? As businesses will them- selves tell you: without the opportunity and the frame- work to do business, the risks frequently outweigh the opportunities. This is espe- cially true in the case of many of USAID’s partner countries. USAID’s partner countries face a number of challenges in the areas of customs regimes, financial markets, infrastructure and gover- nance, all of which combine to create a business environ- ment that U.S. companies see as too risky. USAID’s work makes a difference for U.S. businesses as they navigate these markets. In 2008 USAID pub- lished its economic growth strategy,“Securing the Future.” This strategy is complemented by focused guides on trade, developing a business-enabling environ- ment, infrastructure, access to finance and more. USAID has also developed strategies and guidance on undertaking partnerships and alliances overseas. Taken together, these guides give USAID FSOs, especially those working on economic diplomacy, the skills and competencies to succeed in building the trust, respect and mutual understanding that lead to needed changes in the business environment of our partner countries and to the kinds of results reported in “Shared Interests.” Like this issue of The Foreign Service Journal, “Shared Interests” points to many USAID success stories in economic development. A USAID guarantee for a loan fromJP Morgan Chase to an African financial institution is both financing agribusi- nesses across East Africa and supporting JP Morgan Chase’s business investment. In India, a project directly assisted by USAID to build 46 megawatts of solar rooftop systems was awarded to the U.S. company Azure Power (so much for China always win- ning infrastructure contracts). “Shared Interests” notes that in 2015 U.S. exports of power generation infrastructure to USAID-assisted countries totaled $3.6 billion. This is not to say that USAID’s programs alone account for the almost two- thirds growth in U.S. goods exports to major USAID part- ner countries. USAID works collaboratively with Foreign Service officers in other parts of the U.S. government, as well as other donors, non- governmental organizations, the private sector and the countries themselves. There is no denying that doing business in the coun- tries where USAID works is riskier than doing business with, say, European countries. But as “Shared Interests” doc- uments, the value-added sup- port that USAID’s economic diplomats provide in these tricky business environments makes all the difference. The agency’s “expert advice and support, tailored to country situations,” the report concludes,“can bring huge economic dividends.” Given the proven, positive effects our work has on the U.S. economy, how could we even consider reducing our commitment to keeping our USAID Foreign Service officers in the field? n USAID VP VOICE | BY JEFFREY LEVINE AFSA NEWS Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA USAID VP. Contact: | (202) 712-5267