The Foreign Service Journal, September 2022

AFSA NEWS 60 SEPTEMBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Diplomats at Work Event Strengthening the U.S. Economy Through the Foreign Commercial Service Foreign Commercial Service Officer Yamilee Bastien was AFSA’s guest at a virtual Diplomats at Work event on June 16. She discussed the vital role commercial officers play in strengthening the U.S. economy—namely, through creating American jobs and ensuring U.S. industry remains competitive in the global market. The FCS, Bastien explained, is primarily tasked with promoting the export of American products and services abroad and attract- ing inbound investments to the United States. “We help about 30,000 U.S. companies per year,” said Bastien. “Many are small and medium companies, and it really is rewarding to see them expand into foreign markets, sometimes for the first time.” The FCS wields its approxi- mately 225 commercial offi- cers—who spend the majority of their careers overseas—to manage a presence at U.S. embassies and consulates in trade hubs located in more than 80 countries. When a U.S. field office refers a company to an overseas FCS office, Bas- tien explained, FCS officers and locally engaged staff at that post assess whether the company’s product or service holds potential in the local market. If it does, the office works to match the company with local buyers, distributors or representa- tives, depending on the desired client profile. Bastien noted that an FCS officer’s portfolio is distinct from but complementary to the work of economic officers. “The [embassy’s] economic section tends to focus on macro-level trends and policy-level implications of those trends,” she said. “With Commerce, we’re looking more at the impact on individual businesses and helping specific companies succeed in that market.” Nevertheless, she said, both types of officers regu- larly coordinate with others engaged in commercial, economic and trade issues, including with officers from the Foreign Agricultural Service, Customs and Border Protection, and USAID. Among the projects she has most enjoyed during her career, Bastien mentioned the Science Without Borders education program in Brazil. In 2012 her team brought a large delegation of 65 U.S. colleges and universities to Brasilia to participate in an education fair, led by the under secretary for interna- tional trade and showcasing the benefits of U.S. education and cultural exchanges. Previously, Bastien said, many promising Brazilian students could not pursue educational opportunities because of limited personal finances, but the Brazilian government, along with the private sector and interna- tional partners, expanded educational opportunities for 100,000 students. The trade mission pledged to boost the number of Brazilians study- ing in the U.S., whose tuition costs would be covered by the Science Without Borders program. “You might not necessar- ily see [change] from today to tomorrow, but in the long term, that has a very posi- tive impact,” Bastien said. “An [educational] experience can open your eyes to what’s possible and inspire a whole generation to aim big. That made this a meaningful proj- ect for me.” Yamilee Bastien currently works as a commercial offi- cer at FCS’ export assistance center in Miami. She joined the Foreign Service more than 15 years ago and has served in Colombia, Argen- tina and Brazil. She is the first FCS officer to be fea- tured in this speaker series. Diplomats at Work tells the stories of the Foreign Service, introducing the important and varied work of diplomats to new audiences as part of AFSA’s outreach efforts. A recording of this event is available at AFSAtube. n Bastien (left) embarks on the Embassy on the Road program to conduct outreach with the business community in Córdoba, Argentina, in 2017 with Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Cooney (right) and Political Officer Robert Alter. COURTESYOFYAMILEEBASTIEN