The Foreign Service Journal, April 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2018 75 Commercial Service Promotes Economic Security What U.S. companies want, above all, is a transparent and level playing field on which to compete. The concept of economic security lies at the heart of the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy. Economic security appears to be at the heart of China’s strategy, as well—not only in Asia, but also increasingly in Africa and Latin America. According to New York Univer- sity Stern School Professor Pankaj Ghemawat, the U.S. share of Africa’s infrastruc- ture market is 1 percent, while China’s is 38 percent. But China is not alone. According to the Wall Street Journal , 40 percent of all arms sales in Latin America between 2001 and 2013 were from one country: Rus- sia. And according to CNN Money, Brazilian construc- tion giant Odebrecht paid an estimated $800 million in bribes to win public sector contracts throughout Latin America between 2001 and 2015. The ensuing scandal has ensnared several Latin American former presidents. Howmight the Trump administration counter such examples to advance U.S. eco- nomic interests? Fortunately, the tools already exist. But they need to be strengthened. U.S. companies tell us consistently that what they want, above all, is a transpar- ent and level playing field on which to compete. If that doesn’t exist, they don’t want to waste money bid- ding. This is why State and USAID efforts to institute and improve good governance and rule of law are critical. But when a U.S. company is interested in pursuing a deal—whether it is to widen the Panama Canal or to sell fighter jets to a NATO ally— the Commercial Service’s Advocacy Center takes the lead for coordinating all U.S. government interagency sup- port. Here’s how it often works: U.S. companies first work with the Commercial Service to find a trustworthy local agent on the ground in-coun- try. That agent identifies pub- lic tender opportunities. The American company will then try to influence the require- ments and scope of work. If the company would like the U.S. government to advocate on their behalf with the host country government, their request must be formally approved through the Advocacy Cen- ter. Once the Advocacy Cen- ter clears a U.S. company for assistance, it works with the Commercial Service team at post to go to bat directly for the sale, in conjunction with the rest of the embassy country team. U.S. advocacy for com- panies emphasizes not only the advantages of buying American, but the benefits of a clean procurement process. If there’s corruption, we turn advocacy cases into market access cases and put foreign governments on notice that we care about a level playing field for U.S. companies. This process works— which makes it hard to explain why the administra- tion has called for closing 35 Commercial Service posts overseas instead of expand- ing our footprint to help more U.S. companies win these contracts. Advocacy casework has grown by 300 percent in the last six years and resulted in $42 billion in U.S. export sales to foreign governments last year. If the administra- tion is truly interested in pursuing economic security for all Americans, it should work to expand the work the Commercial Service does. n Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA FCS VP. Contact: | (202) 482-9088 FCS VP VOICE | BY DANIEL CROCKER AFSA NEWS AFSA at HBCU Conference AFSA staffmember Christine Miele talks with attendees at the State Department’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference. Miele explains AFSA’s role in promoting and protecting the Foreign Service on Feb. 16. AFSA/THEOHORN