MFAN Partner the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition hosted its annual Washington conference last week with a day-long forum that focused on the economic link between development and U.S. leadership and growth. “Investing in the Future: A Smart Power Approach to Global Leadership” brought together high-ranking government officials like Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, General James Cartwright, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, among others to discuss how employing our smart power tools—diplomacy and development—can enhance our economic prosperity at home while bolstering our image abroad.
Secretary Clinton kicked things off with a keynote that focused on what she referred to as State and USAID’s “commercial diplomacy.” Clinton began by recommending that the U.S. take stock of what we can do to renew America’s economic strength, create jobs, and invest for the future, adding that our prescriptions must be evidence-based and not ideological. She remarked, “To compete overseas we must out innovate, out educate, and out build the rest of the world,” doubling down on what we do well and adding new tools and techniques to compete effectively in the 21st century. Clinton then cited five examples of efforts across the U.S. government to foster economic growth at home. Here, she made a forceful case for passing the pending free trade agreements with Korea, Panama, and Colombia, noting that while trade is a polarizing issue, done right it creates American jobs. She argued passing these deals is critical to economic recovery especially because these nations are in strategically vital areas.
As her last point, Clinton argued that supporting foreign aid and development work to build up tomorrow’s trading partners and create opportunities for countless U.S. businesses. USAID, MCC, and State address problems that U.S. businesses face by fighting corruption, strengthening the rule of law, overcoming commercial codes and cutting red tape, and helping to build infrastructure. Clinton then took a moment to announce she will be appointing State’s first-ever chief economist. She ended with a call to action, saying the community should share its success stories and reminded everyone that leadership is an achievement not a birthright. Watch Clinton’s full remarks below.
In another event entitled “Investing in the Future: A Town Hall on International Development,” former Rep. Mark Green, USGLC Senior Director, moderated a panel which included: Raj Shah, USAID Administrator; Daniel Yohannes, MCC CEO; Leocadia Zak, Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; and Elizabeth Littlefield, President and CEO of Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Generally, all four panelists highlighted the ways in which the development work of each agency is contributing to American growth through new business opportunities and especially by creating improved investment conditions in developing countries. In response to Green’s question about how development positively impacts the domestic economy, Zak highlighted the dual mission of USTDA and noted the strong return on investment: $47 in exports to every $1 of investment. She also noted the growth of the technology sector in the developing world and the opportunity this presents to U.S. companies. Along that vein, Shah pointed to the famine gripping East Africa and argued it is in U.S. business interests to bring technology to the region that can prevent famine and promote stability. Shah noted that USAID specifically is making significant headway in partnering with private entities to create market incentives for local farmers to produce and sell their crops and to help families move out of poverty.
During audience QA, the panel addressed questions regarding smart power in Sub-Saharan Africa, the role of women in development, how to ensure U.S. companies don’t damage local economies, and the outlook for the Partnership for Growth initiative. Shah touched on the President’s Sub-Saharan Africa policy which prioritizes good governance as well as the role of science, technology, and innovation in helping spur growth. Yohannes noted the importance of treating host countries as partners while Littlefield commented that diplomatic relations with North Africa have been enhanced through business-to-business interactions. Together, Shah and Yohannes reiterated their core focus of empowering women in the development process, demonstrating how Feed the Future targets women farmers. Finally, regarding the Partnership for Growth, Zak and Yohannes emphasized the importance of listening to needs as articulated by host countries and in evaluating feedback in real time. Watch the town hall below and stay tuned for more coverage of USGLC’s conference.