Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I do love these US Dept of State "Remarks to Global Business Conference"

I have no idea why these remarks ended up in a State Dept email distribution I got today, as they date back to a year ago, but they are fascinating anyway: a speech given by Thomas Nides, Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, to something referred to only as "Global Business Conference." That's not very specific, but I think you'll agree the remarks tell us a lot about the audience and the speaker (and governance, and the revolving door between business and government, and the role of law and the rule of law, and the stories we tell ourselves about those things, and etc etc). Excerpts of note:
...as Deputy Secretary of State and as a recovering businessman myself, I am delighted to welcome so many of my friends from my past and present lives all in one room.  
...First, why do we, as diplomats, care about economics? The simple answer is that good diplomacy is good economics, and good economics is good for diplomacy.
A reminder: what's good for GM is good for America. 
America's global leadership and our economic strength at home are fundamentally a package deal, and we need to shore up both of them. We live in an era where the size of a country's economy is every bit as important to exercising global leadership as its size of its military.
Was that ever not the case? It takes big money to build a big army and supply it with big guns.
The reach of our corporations extend far beyond where even our most aggressive diplomats and development workers hope to go. And, closer to home, America's people are hungry for economic recovery. In a global economy, there's no such thing as a purely domestic recovery. That means the State Department, which manages our relationships around the world, is essential to exercising our economic influence, keeping America prosperous, and creating jobs here at home. 
Second, why did we invite you? Because we believe that building sustainable global growth and creating jobs at home is fundamentally a joint venture. The private sector innovates and allocates capital, and delivers remarkable products and services. And the government opens new markets and ensures the rules are fair. At a time when competition is fierce and jobs are still too far scarce, we in diplomacy and business have to bring our partnership to the next level
You innovate, we make things fair, everybody's happy, to a whole nother level indeed. So, who got invited, who is in the room? Why, it's "Business leaders from across American industry, from large companies to small ones ... as well as organizations working to promote American business and fair competition, including my old friend, Tom Donohue." Don't know who that is? Read Matt Stoller's take from several years ago, it's important. And with whom will these business leaders be networking in the halls between remarks lauding their innovation and sheer excellence in creating jobs in America? "Vice President Biden, Commerce Secretary Bryson, our Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk, and the heads of Ex-Im, TDA, and OPIC and Secretary Clinton." And yet there's more, so much more to come.
Which brings me to my third question: What do we, as the State Department, bring to the table? I would submit that the answer is: a huge amount. We are the face of the United States in over 190 countries and at 274 posts around the world. We fight for your rights.
I know you want to add "to party" and I think overall, you'd be right to add it there.
...Over the past 60 years, we have helped establish the rules and institutions to safeguard healthy economic competition and spur unprecedented global growth.
Yikes. Just, yikes. But then there is this absolute gem:
...We have over 1,000 State Department economic officers around the world who wake up each day and ask themselves how they can help American companies large and small compete, connect, and win. From bilateral trade and investment treaties to open skies agreements, we open markets for your companies. We advocate on behalf of U.S. companies exporting to just about every country in the world. We make it a priority to help American companies take part in the growth unfolding across the developing world.  
...And whenever we have seen barriers to open and free and fair and transparent competition, our embassies around the world push back. We push back against unfair barriers to investment. We push back to protect intellectual property, to protest discrimination against our companies, and to guarantee that all companies get a fair shake, whether the owners sit in corporate boardrooms or government ministries. When American businesses are not fairly treated, that's not just an economic issue; it's also a diplomatic issue. 
And let me be clear. We just don't seek a fair shake for American companies; we seek a fair shake for all companies. ... We know that when the competition is open and free and transparent and fair to all people, American companies have what it takes to compete. And we know the same values that help our companies will also help local entrepreneurs, foreign businesses, and ultimately everyone for one simple reason: They create economic growth that improves lives.
Yeah!  That's how winning is done!  Don't forget to visit your mother.  Really, I just had no idea that the State Department had a pep squad of 1,000 "economic officers" [what is that? ah, negotiators of fair competition, economics knowledge helpful but not required] all over the world who woke up every day asking themselves those questions and then answering them. That really is remarkable.
Fourth and finally, what do we hope to accomplish here together? We want to hear from you. We want to know your concerns, where you see opportunities, where you see gaps in our work. We also want you to know that you can turn to us for support. 
...We at the State Department want to help create the conditions that will empower American businesses to get out there and take the risks that will drive a recovery around the world. ... The idea that business, on the one hand, and government, on the other hand, can simply operate in parallel worlds just doesn't cut it. We have to work together. That's what this conference is all about, and that's why I'm glad you're here. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Then he introduces Ron Kirk. I always do enjoy a speech like this, even if I am a year late to the party. Number of times he used the word fair: 11.  The word compete or competition: 8. The word help: 8. The word jobs: 6. The word business: 17. The word lobby: 0.

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