Economic Policy Excellence

From the moment he took office, Secretary Kerry made it clear that our economic interests and our foreign policy are indivisible from one another.

As he has often said: “economic policy is foreign policy.”

In the State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, supporting the interests of American business around the world is one of the many ways we work to fulfill his defining vision.

Each year the Department recognizes employees who have made outstanding contributions toward innovative and successful trade development, export promotion, and international economic initiatives abroad. This year’s winners of the Department’s most prestigious economic policy awards -- the Charles Cobb award for trade development, the Cordell Hull award for economic achievement by senior-level officers, and the Herbert Salzman award for excellence in international economic performance -- are prime examples of how our economic work is at the heart of what the State Department does.  

The winner of the Cobb award, Ambassador Tony Wayne, is a former Economic Bureau Assistant Secretary of State himself and has been a steadfast leader on economic issues throughout his career. 

As Ambassador to Mexico, he not only promoted U.S. exports, but also created new bilateral frameworks -- such as a high-level dialogue with Mexico -- to make sure that cooperation on trade policy issues continues for many years to come.

Foreign Service Officer Laura Stone, this year’s Hull winner, showed just how effective U.S. embassies can be in advocating for U.S. businesses.   

Working with her colleagues at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and in Washington, Laura spearheaded commercial advocacy for deals worth nearly $16 billion dollars of U.S. exports, including a major sale of U.S. aircraft to Vietnam Airlines. 

For that deal, she reached out to me directly to ask that I contact Vietnamese business leaders in support of the sale, something that I was more than happy to do -- for this or any other advocacy case.  These deals helped demonstrate that Vietnam is in fact “open for business” and helped make the case for Vietnam’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The runners-up for the Cobb and Hull awards, Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones and Foreign Service Officer Michael Koplovsky, showed what can be done even in very challenging posts such as Baghdad.  Ambassador Jones was honored for his work on commercial diplomacy; Michael Koplovsky led an interagency team to help avert the possibility of a catastrophic failure of Mosul Dam.  Embassy Baghdad’s trade promotion successes included doubling U.S. sales of rice to Iraq and facilitating a $500 million Export-Import Bank loan so that Iraq could buy new Boeing jets.

Brett Hamsik, a State Department Officer in the Western Hemisphere bureau, won the Salzman award for his creativity in establishing the Small Business Network of the Americas.  He negotiated bilateral agreements with six countries -- Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Uruguay -- which are having a real impact in promoting small business cooperation. 

As a result, for example, Chile is in the process of establishing 50 small business development centers and the other countries are financing an additional 120 centers as well.  This effort strengthens our economic partnerships and produces real results -- in 2014, the centers in the region helped 20,000 businesses create 16,000 new jobs. 

The Salzman runner-up, Marybeth Turner, was also recognized for her work as an Economic Officer in Vietnam, where she served as a tireless advocate for U.S. business, whether it was pushing back against rules that would have disadvantaged U.S. auto producers or dairy exporters, or working to preserve a freer and more open internet. I am also delighted to note that Marybeth is now working as part of my team in the Economic Bureau, where she continues to tackle economic challenges related to development.

Other nominees are doing equally impressive work. From Argentina to South Africa, Australia to Saudi Arabia, and even right here in Washington, these officers are promoting U.S. exports with foreign governments and making sure that U.S. companies overseas are treated fairly; explaining and advocating for the benefits of free trade and trade agreements; encouraging countries to improve their protection of intellectual property; fostering greater entrepreneurship; preserving a free and open internet; and much more. 

My congratulations to Ambassador Wayne, Ambassador Jones, Laura, Michael, Brett, Marybeth, and all of the other nominees.  It is work like theirs that advances State Department economic priorities -- and overall U.S. foreign policy -- both in Washington and around the world. 

About the Author: Charles H. Rivkin serves as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Economic And Business Affairs. Follow the Assistant Secretary on Twitter @AmbRivkin.

Left to right: Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Kurt Tong with Hull Award winner Laura Stone, Salzman Award winner Brett Hamsik, and son of the award's namesake Mr. Jeffrey Salzman [State Department Photo].
November 6, 2015

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