June 17 marked the beginning of the 79th Annual Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors. Mayors from across the country convened in Baltimore, Maryland for a five day meeting to share best practices and learn how to save their cities money, create jobs, and promote sustainable development as well as to discuss working internationally. This interaction of mayors during the conference provided a unique opportunity for the Department of State to facilitate a dialogue among a diverse set of local leaders eager to engage their foreign counterparts in informational exchanges regarding trade, investment, best practices, governance, and capacity building. To take full advantage of this opportunity, my office hosted and participated in a variety of events designed to enhance the international activities of U.S. mayors.
Department of State senior officials briefed both Mayor Edwin M. Lee of San Francisco and Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland. Mayor Lee and Mayor Quan both have significant interaction with their foreign counterparts on a wide range of issues including trade, education, and cultural exchanges. Mayor Lee will be hosting the APEC Senior Official's Meeting and the Women and the Economy Summit (WES) in San Francisco in September, and Mayor Quan serves as Chair for the U.S. Conference of Mayor's International Affairs Committee. This briefing was structured to educate both leaders on resources and methods available to them to facilitate and further develop these interactions. The briefing included remarks by Deputy Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Christopher Beede regarding the President's National Export Initiative (NEI) and by Deputy Director of the Bureau for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Robert Koepcke on Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). In addition, Senior Advisor for the Office of the Global Women's Business Initiative Shelly Porges spoke about APEC's Women and the Economy Summit.
On June 18, I participated in the U.S. Conference of Mayor's International Committee meeting. During the meeting, a resolution “Supporting Enhanced U.S. Mayors-International Partnerships” was approved in an effort to strengthen cooperation between cities and the Department of State, promote U.S. exports, and increase foreign investment in U.S. cities.
Additionally, my office hosted a “Smart Partnership Dialogue” on Tuesday, June 21, with the National Conference of Black Mayors in order to brief the mayors on a number of policy topics relevant to development, investment, and governance exchanges being conducted by their cities throughout the world. The full day of briefings included presentations on trade, Africa, Sister Cities, Colombia, CARICOM, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti and Senegal by their respective bureaus within the State Department. The session concluded with remarks from Under Secretary for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats and Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield.
Sub-national leaders at home and abroad share many of the same challenges as they face tight budgets, high unemployment, and infrastructure challenges; thus, creating partnerships across nations at the local level, offers a chance for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (S/SRGIA) to promote knowledge sharing that benefits all parties.