Economic Diplomacy in Russia

February 5, 2014
Russian and U.S. Flags Fly at Moscow Vnukovo Airport on May 7, 2013

U.S. businesses are expanding into almost every corner of the globe, seizing investment opportunities wherever they exist.  An important part of my job, and of the State Department as a whole, is to advance economic diplomacy, advocate for U.S. businesses, and help grow jobs and prosperity in the United States.  Staying connected with these companies is essential for us to make and execute the right policies.  When we make foreign policy, we rely on knowing what businesses are seeing on the ground, both the obstacles and the successes.

It’s for exactly that reason that my first meeting on a recent trip to Moscow was with the American Chamber of Commerce.  The six U.S. companies I met with told me about how much they have profited from being in the Russian market.  They told me how important it was to build relationships, and that being in the country long enough to develop those ties was vital.

I’ve heard many, many similar success stories over the course of my travels, and it isn’t hard to see why businesses are branching out.  When an investment goes right, it’s a win for everybody.  Companies reap greater profits, the host country benefits from the added economic activity, and the U.S. enjoys a boost to economic growth.  It’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of the profits from foreign direct investment get repatriated to the country where a company is headquartered.

Our State Department and Commerce Department officers stationed in Moscow and at three consulates in Russia are there to help new businesses get into the market. The Advocacy Center in Washington can help U.S. businesses, including small and mid-sized enterprises, connect with our experts stationed in Russia and around the world.  We also have a business tab on the websites of every U.S. mission overseas, where companies can find information about how to do business in other countries, as well as get more information on the services our missions can provide.

Through visits like mine and through daily contact with our Embassies and Consulates abroad, we stay in close touch with our companies overseas.  We work to help individual businesses overcome obstacles, but we also work on broader policies to promote investment writ large.  We have bilateral investment treaties with 48 countries, to pave the way for U.S. businesses to invest and thrive.  We’re negotiating more big agreements, including with Europe and with Pacific countries, so we can further strengthen our economic ties. And we are in active discussions with the Russians on how to strengthen investor protections.

Innovation is another key to economic growth and high quality, new jobs for the 21st century.  Global innovation promotes economic growth, prosperity, and stability in countries around the world.  We promote a more expansive, dynamic, and globally-oriented economic relationship between the United States and Russia, and encourage trade and investment between companies from both nations.  Under the auspices of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission Innovation Working Group, we are connecting Russian regions and U.S. states that have never worked together, in an effort to foster technology collaboration, business connections, investment opportunities, and new trade relationships.

It’s more than the enormous economic benefits that drives our commitment.  Investment connects the world.  When economies get more intertwined, countries are more likely to work out their differences, and less likely to go to war.  My conversation with U.S. businesses in Moscow wasn’t unique, but it was important.  Similar exchanges happen every day between U.S. officials and company representatives abroad.  We constantly encourage business to seek out their local Embassy or Consulate so they can voice their concerns, seek assistance, and inform our policymaking as we go forward.  By working together, we can make everyone better off.

About the Author: William E. Craft, Jr. serves as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs.

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