The Foreign Service Journal, November 2019

92 NOVEMBER 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FCS VP VOICE | BY JAY CARREIRO AFSA NEWS Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA USAID VP. Contact: The Commercial Service at 40? Actually, It’s Been a Bit Longer… The Foreign Service Act of 1980, which established the framework for the Foreign Service as we know it today, is about to reach its 40th anniversary. However, the roots of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, as we are officially known, stretch back much further and deeper than you may realize. Obviously, commerce and trade have always been impor- tant elements of U.S. foreign policy, but formal, federal acknowledgment of its vital role to security and prosperity did not really happen until the late 1800s. Back then, the Foreign Service did not exist in the way we know it today. For one thing, the diplomatic and con- sular services were separate. And it was not until 1897—with the creation of a new Bureau of Foreign Commerce within the State Department—that a commercial track for our diplomatic efforts abroad was officially established. After a short time at the State Department, the bureau was moved to the newly cre- ated Department of Com- merce and Labor in 1903. A few years later, it was renamed the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce. The name was an important nod to our domestic colleagues, as Export Assistance Centers had already been operating in several states. Select civil servants from the bureau, known then as trade commissioners, were sent to key markets around the world to promote U.S. commercial interests. How- ever, trade commissioners were not considered diplo- mats, and consequently were not afforded diplomatic status in their host countries. This arrangement seemed to work, at least until 1924 when the Rogers Act brought together the diplomatic and consular services as a single Foreign Service under the U.S. State Department. To address the issue of U.S. trade commissioners working abroad without diplomatic status, and to clarify the commercial role in diplomacy, Congress passed the Foreign and Domestic Commerce Act of 1927. The act created the Foreign Commerce Service (not a typo) to promote for- eign and domestic commerce, just as the name implied. The act also formally granted diplomatic status to trade commissioners, who were renamed commer- cial attachés. However, the commercial attachés were still technically civil servants because they were not com- missioned Foreign Service officers under the Rogers Act. So in 1939, all non-State Department foreign services were consolidated under the State Department umbrella. The Export Assistance Cen- ters, however, remained with the Commerce Department. This new arrangement lasted for 40 years. But as time and attitudes shifted, commercial matters once again came to the fore, and Congress decided a new direction was needed. In 1979, the Trade Agreements Act finally transferred overseas commercial programs from the Department of State to the Department of Com- merce, where they remain to this day. In 1980 the Foreign Com- mercial Service was officially created, and the Foreign Ser- vice Act of 1980 established the system that all foreign services, regardless of agency, live under today. In 1981, in a final bit of important housekeeping, the Foreign Commercial Service was renamed the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, harkening back to the old Bureau of Foreign and Domes- tic Commerce. As was the case then, the name empha- sizes the unique and essential connection of our domestic and overseas operations. Today, we have colleagues posted in more than 75 mar- kets throughout the world, collectively representing more than 92 percent of world- wide GDP. Additionally, our domestic colleagues work to help U.S. exporters every day frommore than 100 locations throughout the United States. Working together, we help U.S. companies reach new markets and new heights. So, a happy 40th to the modern Commercial Service, and many happy returns! n AFSAGoverning Board Meeting, Sept. 18, 2019 USAID Standing Committee: Jason Singer asked for approval to remove three people and add three people to the USAID Standing Committee. The request was approved. Awards Committee: John Naland moved that 10 individuals each be recognized for their achievements in the study and utilization of difficult languages in 2019 by awarding each individual a $1,000 Matilda Sinclaire award. Tamir Waser asked to have FSI language names appropriately used in award descriptions. The motion passed. AFSA-PAC: Mary Daly moved to elect Virginia Bennett to serve as AFSA-PAC Treasurer, John Naland to serve as AFSA-PAC Assistant Treasurer and Kalpna Srimal to serve as AFSA-PAC Keeper of Records. The motion passed. New Associate Members: Jeffery Austin of the Member- ship Committee moved that four people be approved as new associate members of the American Foreign Service Association. The motion passed. n