The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2019
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2019 7 s we at AFSA were pulling together this special double edition of The Foreign Service Journal highlighting eco- nomic diplomacy, The Washington Post devoted its Nov. 23 editorial to “the basic understanding that has worked to America’s advantage since World War II,” under leadership from both politi- cal parties: “Those leaders all accepted that, with less than 5 percent of global population but more than 20 percent of the global economy, the United States, more than any other nation, depends on and benefits from predictable rules. It needs a world where business execu- tives can go forth and come home with- out fear of kidnapping, where ships can ply the ocean without armed escorts, where contracts are honored and dis- putes fairly adjudicated.” Elements of this editorial could have been lifted directly from my work requirements as a U.S. Foreign Service officer over the decades. One of my overarching goals as ambassador to Panama was ensuring that the Panama Canal remains open to world com- merce, so that ships can ply the oceans. I also devoted considerable time and country team energy to resolving the kidnapping of an American busi- ness executive in a way that made the prospect of holding another American citizen for ransom very unattractive. And, as a first-tour economic officer in Panama, I helped establish the rules to protect intellectual property and then saw the fruits of that effort—including Panamanian owner- ship of the resulting legal framework, which protected their intellectual prop- erty as well as ours—20 years later when I returned as ambassador. I suspect that many members of the Foreign Service can say the same thing—that, whatever your cone or specialty, your work on behalf of our country has established rules, removed obstacles and opened markets so American businesses can compete on a reasonably level playing field and thrive around the world. I was delighted to see the related cable that went out in early November to all diplomatic and consular posts—18 STATE 112364, “Boosting Commer- cial Diplomacy Around the World.” The ALDAC, which makes clear that Secretary Pompeo has made commer- cial diplomacy a foreign policy priority, provides practical tips to strengthen our ability as a country to support U.S. busi- ness interests (see excerpt on p. 33) . If I were looking today for a way to tie my work requirements statement to a key U.S. foreign policy priority, I would see what I could do under the rubric of the policy guidance provided in that cable: “Promoting broad-based, responsible, and sustainable economic growth helps to stabilize regions and creates new and growing markets for U.S. companies. A transparent and level playing field for U.S. investment in these countries coun- ters real and growing challenges such as China’s Belt and Road initiative.” When members of Congress visit your post, I urge you to be prepared to tell them what you and your colleagues are doing to help American companies compete—and win. If you find, as I have so often found, that the soft power you have to work with comes in significant measure from the positive impression made by American companies—maybe because they are known for treating their workers fairly and promoting on merit, maybe because they inspire awe with their problem solving and project management—be sure to mention that to visiting CODELS as well. When American businesses thrive overseas, it not only means greater prosperity at home, it also often directly boosts American global leadership by reminding people abroad what they most admire about our country. We know how to get things done. Ambassador Barbara Stephenson is the president of the American Foreign Service Association. Economic Diplomacy Works BY BARBARA STEPHENSON A PRESIDENT’S VIEWS AFSA’s ongoing work with congressional champions stands directly on the shoulders of the work you, members of the Foreign Service, do all around the world.