American leadership abroad demands the active engagement of nearly every sector of our society, economy, and culture, as well as every level of government. With the diplomatic and development landscape ever evolving, the State Department is adapting our capabilities to engage beyond the national level.
Deepening our engagement with state and locally elected officials is at the core of this approach, so I was grateful for the opportunity to engage with more than 40 governors, on global affairs during their recent visit to Washington, DC, for the 2016 National Governors Association Winter Meeting. President Obama also addressed the group at the White House, underscoring our commitment -- at even the highest levels of government -- to communicating with and collaborating with local leaders on a broad range of priorities important to U.S. states, cities, and communities.
Conducting community diplomacy through strategic dialogues with governors, mayors, and other subnational leaders isn’t a new approach for us. In fact, the State Department has been liaising and partnering with local leaders on the impact of global issues to their communities and cities for many years. However, this ongoing strategic outreach bore much fruit, particularly in the last year on climate change and trade.
For example, last fall the State Department collaborated with governors at the inaugural Summit of North American Governors and Premiers in Colorado Springs. Co-sponsored by the National Governors Association, the Council of the Federation of Canada, and the National Conference of Governors of Mexico, this Summit advanced cooperation by North American subnational leaders on economic development and trade in a combined market that generates a gross domestic product of nearly $20 trillion per year with a population of more than 475 million. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Summit host, noted that the forum provided “an invaluable opportunity to discuss job creation and develop new economic opportunities that will benefit” the United States, Canada and Mexico in the future.
To advance trade promotion, the State Department provided support to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on his trade mission to Cuba last year. This was the first visit to Cuba led by a sitting governor after President Obama announced the United States’ new approach to Cuba. Joined by New York business leaders representing JetBlue, MasterCard, and Pfizer, among others, Governor Cuomo ensured that New York companies were at the forefront as doors opened to the Cuban market. “These industry leaders will serve as ambassadors for all that New York State has to offer and will help form the foundation for a strong economic relationship between New York and Cuba as legal restrictions on trade are eased in the future,” stated Governor Cuomo.
I also had the opportunity to cooperate with governors at the UN Climate Summit (COP21) in Paris last year. Local leaders are on the front lines of climate change -- building low carbon economies of the future and adapting to the impacts of climate change. California Governor Jerry Brown, Jr., a leader on climate policy, was instrumental in the signing last year of the Under 2 MOU by 127 subnational governments, representing 27 countries on six continents. Together, these governments represent more than 729 million people and $20.4 trillion GDP, equivalent to more than a quarter of the global economy. The Under 2 MOU originated from a partnership between California and Baden-Württemberg out of the desire to bring together ambitious states and regions willing to make a number of key commitments towards emissions reduction and to help galvanize action at COP 21.
The State Department is committed to collaborating with subnational leaders to find innovative solutions to the pressing global challenges of the 21st century. In an era of diffuse and networked power it is critical that diplomats and development professionals develop and maintain strong partnerships.