Matt Rooney serves as Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Policy and Summit Coordination in the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
It was a perfect Southern California day -- perfect to give something back. About 50 of the senior-most officials working in Washington and at U.S. Embassies in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America to promote U.S. economic interests in the Western Hemisphere met last week in San Diego to study the latest trends in the region and coordinate the U.S. approach to our partner governments and the public. We had all watched the news of the recent wildfires in the San Diego area with concern, and we were delighted when the City of Escondido invited us to help with the recovery effort by filling sandbags for low-income homeowners threatened by mudslides.
Our conference was designed to focus on the rising importance of Asia and its impact on the Western Hemisphere, as well as the policy challenges of creating a financial and regulatory framework that helps ensure that the benefits of trade and growth are broadly shared in society. We were honored by leading speakers from academia, think tanks, the private sector and the U.S. and foreign governments. We studied the powerful impact that Asia's vigorous growth is having on the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the prospects for trans-Pacific ties to drive innovation and growth for the coming century. We learned the latest scholarship on how successful economies like Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico and Peru have translated economic growth into sustainable poverty reduction. Leading entrepreneurs explained how the "triple bottom line" approach -- combining profitability with environmental stewardship and social equity -- adds shareholder value while improving the long-term environment for business. We all went back to our posts of assignment with a much sharper focus on how the interests of the United States are bound up in the economic success of our neighbors.
Our work completed, a group of the conference attendees took Saturday morning to go to Escondido and take a direct hand in making America safer. Foreign Service Officers spend most of their careers abroad making America more prosperous and more secure, so it was satisfying to literally get our hands dirty helping out at home. And thinking that we helped save two homes -- two families whose homes survived the fires, only to find themselves exposed to the danger of mudslide after two weeks of heavy rain soaking in to the deforested hillsides -- gave us all a renewed sense of commitment to America.