Promoting Professional Development and Thought Leadership Throughout the Department of Commerce

April 25, 2016

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Post by Penny Pritzker

During my nearly three years in office, I have visited nearly 40 countries and met with heads of state, economic ministers, and more than 2,000 business leaders. From these experiences, I have observed three important constants: First: people want economic freedom. Second: foreign governments want U.S. companies to invest in their countries. Third: foreign citizens want access to U.S. products and services. Fourth:  the voices of American private sector leaders – backed with long-term-capital and world-class products and services – carry immense weight around the world.  These constants form the backbone of our vision of commercial diplomacy.

Members of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service and headquarters staff gathered for a group photo at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC to commemorate the 2014 Global Markets Global Meeting

Members of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service and headquarters staff gathered for a group photo at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC to commemorate the 2014 Global Markets Global Meeting

Commercial diplomacy is, essentially, a public-private partnership – a recognition that the U.S. government and U.S. businesses have overlapping interests around the world, and that we are more likely to achieve our shared goals by working together. It is about better coordination between the public and private sectors, and it is about leveraging our business community’s knowledge and on-the-ground relationships to advance our common interests. America’s business leaders – serving as commercial diplomats – can speak directly and persuasively to the economic interests of foreign officials.  They can make the business case about how certain public policies might chill investment or otherwise hinder their development goals.

But this is not a traditional tool in America’s foreign policy toolkit. Because our vision of commercial diplomacy brings business leaders to the table as advocates and emissaries in concert with government officials, our Commerce Department officials need to develop new skills and take on new training opportunities in order to support this evolving notion of our partnership with the American business community.

To that end, we are pleased to announce the Commercial Diplomacy Institute (CDI), a vehicle to advance professional development and thought leadership in commercial diplomacy. CDI will consolidate, enhance, and rebrand the suite of training programs delivered by the International Trade Administration, home to our U.S. and foreign commercial service and our primary interface with U.S. business. Our vision is that the activities and programs of the Commercial Diplomacy Institute will play an integral role in educating, mentoring, and growing future generations of commercial diplomats, including business leaders, our commercial service officers, who are in more than 75 markets around the world, and our trade specialists located in over one hundred offices in every state in the country. Training programs will focus on how to equip them to engage foreign governments in support of our work to reduce trade barriers, increase American exports, and connect foreign citizens to our goods and services.

CDI programs will include training online and in the classroom, as well as internships with industry and fellowship opportunities with leading think-tanks. The institute will host a small group of eminent visiting faculty, who will serve as a resource to our policy teams. The programs of the Commercial Diplomacy Institute will grow and expand to meet the evolving needs of U.S. businesses, and ensure that the Commerce Department is central to the U.S. government’s efforts to deploy commercial and economic tools in pursuit of our foreign policy aims.

CDI will also convene our ‘Trade Talks’ lecture series, providing a forum for discussion and engagement with leaders in business, government and the private sector. Past speakers include Karan Bhatia, Vice President for Global Government affairs and Marco Annunziata, Chief Economist, from GE, Michael Burke, CEO of AECOM, former Indian Minister of State Dr. Shashi Tharoor, and Dr. Susan Lund of the McKinsey Global Institute who presented a new report on digital globalization and data flows.  Additional Trade Talks are available on YouTube.

According to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, digital flows now exert a larger impact on GDP growth than trade in goods. To help respond to the needs of U.S. businesses navigating the digital economy, last month, we announced the establishment of a digital attaché program. Training for attaches will be provided through the Commercial Diplomacy Institute.

As part of this pilot program, commercial service officers in selected markets around the world will focus on digital economy issues, helping U.S. companies navigate regulations and overcome barriers to trade. This initiative will drive policy and advocacy around the world on technology issues, ensure linkages between trade policy and trade promotion efforts, and provide front-line assistance for small and medium enterprises so they can take advantage of robust e-commerce channels.

This administration’s focus on commercial diplomacy stems from our recognition that in the 21st century, America’s unmatched commercial might is an essential pillar in our foreign policy toolkit. The Commerce Department has already brought America’s private sector to bear in fast-growing markets in Asia and Africa, distressed economies like Ukraine, and political hot spots like Tunisia. So, besides providing the development and training our workforce needs to be effective partners for U.S. business, the Commercial Diplomacy Institute will support and extend the Commerce Department’s capacity to help the U.S. government deepen commercial ties around the world, shape a well-functioning international economic order, and promote a future of peace and prosperity for communities across the globe.

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