The State Department Means Business

February 28, 2014
Assistant Secretary Rivkin Delivers Remarks at a Town Hall

Some have commented how unusual, almost unprecedented, it was for me, a non-career ambassador, to come to Washington to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs.  My response is that I must be the luckiest non-career ambassador ever because I am in exactly the right place at exactly the right time!

Secretary of State John Kerry has declared that, “Now more than ever, economic policy is foreign policy.”   The Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB) will make 2014 a year of intensified economic engagement for enhanced prosperity and security at home and abroad. 

As the bureau charged with managing economic and business issues abroad, EB is in the forefront of this renewed economic focus, which will create more opportunities for U.S. firms overseas, more foreign direct investment in America, and ultimately more jobs for Americans.  I am pleased to be part of Secretary Kerry’s economic team, which includes Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Catherine Ann Novelli and Senior Advisor David Thorne.

In my prior life as a businessman, I headed creative and entrepreneurial companies.  As Ambassador to France, I headed a team of over 40 U.S. Government agencies, and through a whole-of-government approach, advanced critical U.S. goals in France.  This same whole-of-government approach is essential to place economics at the core of U.S. foreign policy. 

Working with the Department of Commerce, we will continue to advocate tirelessly for American companies through our embassies abroad. The State Department plays a key role in promoting innovation, supporting entrepreneurship, enforcing intellectual property rights, and negotiating trade and air transport agreements.

With our partners around the world, our diplomacy helps maintain a free, accessible and open global internet, and implements targeted sanctions against those who threaten peace and security. Take a closer look at our current trade agenda, as just one example of our proactive approach.  After making hard-won progress in the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks at the end of last year, the Office of the United States Trade Representative is leading the U.S. effort advancing major negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

EB will be supporting those efforts to liberalize trade and raise standards for some of the world's most dynamic markets, leveling the playing field for American companies and workers while reflecting strong values on labor and the environment, bringing prosperity and greater stability to vast areas and millions of people.

It was 70 years ago this year that the beaches of Normandy served as the dramatic site of the beginning of the end of the most destructive war in the history of man. Soon after, the United States helped Europe recover from the devastation, while in the Asian theater, the United States oversaw a gradual reintegration of Japan into the global economy.

Today, the United States again has the opportunity to demonstrate the transformational power of economic diplomacy not just for our country, but our neighbors and allies alike.  Secretary Kerry and all those who serve under him at home and abroad are rededicating themselves to elevating economics in all that we do -- and I am honored to be part of the effort to make Secretary Kerry’s vision a reality and to  demonstrate clearly that State means business!

About the Author: Charles H. Rivkin serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs.

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