The Foreign Service Journal, March 2019

56 MARCH 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS ness,” allowing healthy eco- nomic practices to flourish. He cited his experience as U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2008 to 2012, when he saw Russian businesses that were able to use the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act “not just as a shield, but as a sword” as they fought against the corruption that is endemic in Russia. Amb. Jones, currently Bechtel’s president for regions and corporate relations, talked about how embassies—not just through their economic sections, but through other sections, as well—can increase the oppor- tunities for U.S. businesses like Bechtel to operate and expand overseas. The presence of U.S. busi- nesses in a foreign country is an indicator that the coun- try’s economy is healthy, he said: “You see trout in the stream, you know it’s a clean stream. You see American AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson served as moderator. (Previously scheduled panelists Dan Crocker and Chris Milligan were unable to participate due to the shutdown.) Amb. Stephenson offered opening remarks and then, in a question and answer format, led the panelists in a lively conversation on the critical role of economic and commercial diplomacy today. She asked each to share thoughts on economic diplo- macy best practices, the relationship between embas- sies and the private sector, and how the United States is affected by China’s increas- ing focus on diplomacy at a time when U.S. spending on core diplomatic functions has decreased significantly. Amb. Beyrle, currently chairman of the board of the U.S.-Russia Foundation, explained that when U.S. embassies focus on eco- nomic best practices, they affect the internal debates in host countries between the “forces of light and dark- I don’t think you can separate security from prosperity. [We have] Middle East watchers in key European capitals. I have no idea why we don’t have China watchers in a lot of these places. −FSO (ret.) Virginia Bennett FSO (ret.) Virginia Bennett speaks about competition from China. MACSONMCGUIGAN businesses in a tender, you know it’s going to be a clean tender. If an American busi- ness wins, you know it was a clean process. The opposite is also true. So, that’s part of our American soft power— that’s part of our total value package.” Ms. Bennett discussed her experience as deputy chief of mission in Athens, where the mission was deeply engaged in helping to stabilize Greek participation in the Eurozone, America’s largest bilateral trading partner. Promoting improvements to the health of the Greek banking system and neces- sary structural economic reforms was urgent and virtually all-consuming for the small economic section team and beyond. During the same time- frame, however, China was consolidating and finalizing a state-owned corporation’s majority investment in the port of Piraeus, from which they gained control of criti- cal shipping routes up into Europe that will challenge the U.S. ability to compete for decades to come. Bennett observed that, in retrospect, that development was the far greater strategic threat to U.S. interests over the long term. After the session, the panelists joined participants at a reception, where they answered questions and con- tinued the discussion. n I am such a believer that a big part of where our soft power comes from is the admiration that the host country has for what they see in American companies. −Amb. Barbara Stephenson AFSA President Ambassador Barbara Stephenson moderates the discussion. MACSONMCGUIGAN