The Foreign Service Journal, February 2011

F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 25 F OCUS ON THE E CONOMIC /C OMMERCI AL F UNCT ION U.S. B USINESS I NTERESTS : A N FCS O FFICER ’ S V IEW iven the scale and speed of international business in our “Hot, Flat and Crowded” world (to quote the title of Thomas Friedman’s influential book), embassies are increasingly tasked with economic policy engagement and trade promotion in support of U.S. foreign policy interests. The focus on this portfolio is back in the spotlight again with President Barack Obama’s Na- tional Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by 2015 and support the millions of U.S. jobs sustained by overseas sales. Strong coordination between each diplomatic mission’s economic section (generally called ECON) and the Com- merce Department’s Commercial Service (“CS,” better known in embassies as FCS) is a sine qua non for success. While this article focuses on that relationship from an FCS perspective, let me also acknowledge that the embassy front office, the public diplomacy section, the Foreign Agricultural Service, the U.S. Agency for International De- velopment and the private sector also play important roles in achieving overall economic and trade objectives in the host country. Two Sides of the Same Coin? The DNA of economic and commercial officers differs significantly. Commercial officers eschew reporting and cable writing in favor of developing business-to- government and business-to-business transactions and contributing to the bottom line: increased U.S. exports and jobs. Economic officers develop niche expertise through analysis of macroeconomic developments, using strong writing skills and timely reporting to feed the policy process in Washington. Differences in the metrics each section uses also play a role. For example, FCS offices are accountable for a spe- cific number of export success transactions in their mar- kets, with implications for each post’s human and fiscal resource levels. In addition to supporting goals as defined by the chief of mission, senior commercial officers tend to be selective about where they spend their limited time and resources to ensure they meet their goals and support the National Export Initiative. Economic sections generally do not have such hard metrics, but the depth, breadth and timeliness of report- W ORKING WITH OTHER SECTIONS OF THE MISSION , ECON AND FCS CAN BE MORE THAN THE SUM OF THEIR PARTS . B Y M ICHAEL A. L ALLY G Michael A. Lally is currently commercial counselor in Ankara. Since entering the U.S. Commercial Service in 1993, he has served in Kiev, Almaty, Baku, Philadelphia and Mexico City. He wishes to thank governmental and private-sector colleagues who contributed advice and ideas to this article.