The Foreign Service Journal, April 2020

60 APRIL 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FCS VP VOICE | BY JAY CARREIRO AFSA NEWS Contact: We’ve Seen This Movie Before Recently, I was reading through the International Trade Centre’s comprehen- sive Guide to Commercial Diplomacy . Any commercial offi- cer perusing its pages will instantly be familiar with the principles and objec- tives laid out in the guide, such as promoting trade and investment, gathering busi- ness intelligence, creating partnerships, and setting priorities and expectations for markets and clients. All good stuff. Here in Washington, how- ever, it’s budget season again (I’m writing this in mid-Feb- ruary). That means we have received the administration’s annual proposal to slash for- eign affairs and commercial diplomacy funding. It has now been four straight years that the administration has proposed significant cuts to our bud- get—this year to the tune of $55 million. That translates into shuttering 32 com- mercial posts abroad and 18 export assistance centers domestically. It’s the largest single cut ever proposed, as far as we can tell. So, what does this mean? Well, first, it means the administration is saying two very different things at once. On one hand, it’s saying (in public, anyway) that your government has to be strong on trade. It needs to be out there helping U.S. businesses compete internationally against foreign competition by knocking down trade barriers and opening foreign markets to U.S. goods and services. On the other hand, it is saying that this work that is so important to our eco- nomic security—the exports and foreign direct invest- ment that are so important to job creation and prosper- ity—really isn’t that impor- tant at all. At least, it isn’t important enough to spend any money on. That’s quite a conundrum. Indeed, the desire to cut funding to the Commercial Service has always been puz- zling, especially when you realize the outsized return on investment it generates for taxpayers. The Commercial Service has an operating budget of around $340 million. That’s the cost of less than three F-22 fighter jets. And what does that relatively tiny investment get you? It gets you jobs, eco- nomic growth and security, and leads to innovation. It’s a simple fact that companies that export, regardless of size, tend to be more innova- tive, resilient and successful than those that don’t. It’s not just the ITC saying this in a beautifully packaged report. Clearly, governments around the world believe this is the case. They support this conclusion in their own fund- ing priorities. Countries with much smaller economies, such as the United Kingdom and Germany, have more diplomats abroad dedicated to commercial work than the United States. And we would need sev- eral more pages to describe how much China invests in export promotion and com- mercial diplomacy. Fortunately, Congress has traditionally recognized the outsized role trade and investment plays in our economy and overall secu- rity. Hopefully, the adminis- tration will see that, too. n AFSA Seeks Volunteers for Elections Committee AFSA seeks candidates to fill vacancies on its Committee on Elections. The term runs from July 15, 2020, to July 14, 2022. Ideally, prospective committee members will live in the Washington, D.C., area for the duration of the term, because the position’s responsibilities, including various election-related events, are based here. The committee oversees the biannual AFSA Govern- ing Board election process and works with AFSA staff to ensure the integrity of the election and its results. Per the AFSA bylaws (Article VII, Section 1(b)), the committee must have at least five members and include representatives from all constituencies. Committee members may not serve as chair of any other AFSA committee and must agree to refrain from nominating or serving as a member of the AFSA Govern- ing Board for six months after their term of office. Interested candidates should contact Director of Programs and Member Engagement Christine Miele ( ) to receive a position description. State- ments of interest are due by May 13. Committee appointments will be made at the May 20 AFSA Governing Board meet- ing. n