The Foreign Service Journal, November 2018

72 NOVEMBER 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Working in Concert with State to Advance Economic Security In the best-run U.S. embassies, commercial officers work closely with their State economic officer counterparts to advise the U.S. ambassador on all business-related matters. The Department of Com- merce has a small career For- eign Service, with roughly 250 Foreign Service officers and 750 local trade professionals based in the 76 countries that account for 90 percent of U.S. export sales. In contributing to U.S. economic security, these commercial officers have two advantages. First, they are tied at the hip to 275 com- mercial trade specialists in 106 U.S. cities, who work with more than 30,000 American companies to help them grow through exporting. Second, they are laser- focused on solving problems for these U.S. companies and measure themselves based on the companies’ results. Their business model, whether it is helping a company find a trustworthy local partner or knocking down a market bar- rier for them, is client-driven and measurable. It is, in a word, transactional. In the best-run U.S. embas- sies, commercial officers work closely with their State economic officer counterparts to advise the U.S. ambas- sador on all business-related matters. There is substan- tial overlap in the roles that economic officers and com- mercial officers play. If a U.S. company wants assistance with a private-sector outcome in a country or is seeking help to win a foreign government contract, the commercial officer takes the lead. Other U.S. government agencies assist on an ad hoc basis—the defense attaché, for instance, might help win foreign defense sales. In other circumstances, such as when a U.S. com- pany faces an unfair trade or investment barrier, U.S. national interests are best served by commercial and economic officers working in concert. The reason is simple. Economic officers take the lead on longer-term, transfor- mational issues that matter immensely to the general economic health and stability of a country. If there is cor- ruption in the court system, and intellectual property and copyrights can’t be protected, then investment and job growth will suffer. Commercial officers tend to be client-centric and want to solve problems immedi- ately. They tend to accept the overall business climate as it is and work to make the best of it for each American company. Economic officers want to change that climate for the better, which takes more time. And it can be more challenging to measure long- term progress. Having both perspectives on one team can bring about a better solution. U.S. ambassadors need both skill sets on their coun- try teams. At its best, this teamwork delivers incredible dividends, both in the short 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 term for U.S. company relief and in the long term for an improved investment climate that creates sustainable and broad-based economic growth. This growth creates more markets for U.S. exports, which, in turn, creates more jobs in the United States. The administration and Congress should insist on having strong commercial and economic teams in place around the world. They should set expectations high for tackling unfair trade, at both the transactional and trans- formational level. And they should insist that commercial and economic officers work together closely. Even in coun- tries where we already have trade agreements, that is the single most cost-effective way to ensure that export-driven growth continues to create U.S. jobs. n NEWS BRIEF 16 , 9 1 4 ! In September, AFSA hit a newmilestone when we signed up member number 16,914. This newmem- ber brought AFSA to its highest level of member- ship ever, going back to our founding in 1924. At a time when the Foreign Service has shrunk by more than 3 percent as a result of restricted promotions, frozen entry-level hiring and an exodus of senior leaders, we are grateful that our members—the Foreign Service—have demon- strated their support for AFSA and our work.We are the voice of the Foreign Service, and each new member makes that voice stronger. We will continue to listen to you—through structured conversations, surveys, interactions and happy hours and other AFSA events—to ensure that we understand your aspirations and concerns and will continue to be an effective advocate for a strong professional career Foreign Service. n