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Secretary Pritzker Honors Foreign Policy Magazine Diplomat of the Year Christine Lagarde


Wednesday, October 29, 2014
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Secretary Pritzker Also Discusses Vision of Commercial Diplomacy

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker tonight delivered remarks on the importance of commercial diplomacy during a dinner hosted by Foreign Policy Magazine honoring Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Ms. Lagarde received Foreign Policy Magazine’s “Diplomat of the Year” award for her efforts to drive sustainable economic growth globally.

During the introductory speech, Secretary Pritzker discussed the importance of leveraging business leaders to help achieve U.S. policy objectives around the world and explained why commercial diplomacy is one of her top priorities as Secretary of Commerce. Secretary Pritzker also highlighted the Commerce Department’s role on the global stage and spoke about the recent trade missions to Japan, South Korea, and the President’s Export Council trip to Poland, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, David Rothkopf, for your gracious welcome. Thank you for your stellar work at Foreign Policy as well as your service under President Clinton as the Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce at the International Trade Administration. 

It is a true privilege to be in this room tonight with so many talented experts in foreign affairs, distinguished diplomats, private sector representatives, and journalists who are covering, analyzing, and influencing events throughout the world.

What a wonderful honor it is to join all of you this evening to celebrate an extraordinary leader, the recipient of your third annual Diplomat of the Year award: Christine Lagarde.

Christine has been a passionate, persistent, and effective public servant for decades — from her time as France’s Minister of Trade to her current post as the head of the International Monetary Fund.

Indeed, Foreign Policy has chosen to honor Christine tonight because of her work on and dedication to sustainable economic growth. You could hardly have made a better choice.

Among influential women on the global stage, Christine is an icon. I have long respected her intellectual capacity; her tenacity and toughness; her grace and style. I have admired and watched her throughout my entire career. And nothing is more humbling to me than to be here tonight honoring this extraordinary leader.

Christine believes – as I do – that boosting economic growth, advancing shared prosperity, and strengthening ties of trade and commerce can lead to better relationships among nations.

Christine recognizes – as I do – that closer economic partnerships can lead to more effective solutions to global problems and a more peaceful and secure planet.

Christine knows – as all of us in this room do – that effective economic diplomacy can truly sow the seeds of political progress and stability.

This is hard, painstaking work. As I have learned during my year and a half in office, addressing our common economic challenges demands the participation of a broad coalition of stakeholders. We need governments; we need NGOs; but we also need our business community. 

President Obama recognizes this essential fact and has asked me to build a stronger bridge to our private sector. He understands that our businesses have a critical role to play in fostering economic growth here at home and strengthening our relationships around the world. 

That is why the Commerce Department is focused on expanding our collaboration and cooperation with the business community – and why our partnership with industry is the single most critical ingredient in our vision for commercial diplomacy.

The term “commercial diplomacy” is used frequently, but too often, it has been a concept without content – used to describe a broad array of loosely-related government activities, sometimes involving the business community and sometimes not. 

President Obama, Vice President Biden, and I all share a commitment to developing a commercial diplomacy strategy that better deploys one of our greatest diplomatic resources – the business community – as our partner in capitals and ministries abroad.

I am proud to say this has become a top priority for the Department of Commerce.  

The case for a more expansive vision of commercial diplomacy flows from two basic facts.

First, American businesses represent the gold standard in the global economy – driving sectors ranging from technology to financial services to consumer goods to many more. 

While we continue to confront military, diplomatic, and economic challenges, our nation’s collective commercial strength is without question.  

Second, almost irrespective of the country, foreign governments are clamoring for American products and services, and for American companies to make long-term investments in their markets and communities.

I hear it almost everywhere that I travel: whether a close ally or a more challenged relationship, foreign leaders want more American business engagement in their countries.

But, for purposes of commercial diplomacy, perhaps the most salient observation from my trips around the world is the overlapping of interests between businesses and governments: foreign governments want to foster growth at home and create opportunities for their people; foreign companies and customers want U.S. goods and services; and both appreciate the business ethics that American firms generally bring to the table.

At the same time, American companies want to grow, increase profits, and enter new markets on fair terms; and the U.S. government wants to foster prosperity at home and strengthen a rules-based economic order abroad.

This convergence of interests creates an opportunity for private sector leaders to serve as emissaries and advocates – side-by-side with government officials – on behalf of policy initiatives that serve the interests of all parties. In other words, together, we can more credibly make the point that if a government changes policy X, companies will bring investment Y. 

For years, our department has helped—and will continue to help—the private sector achieve its commercial objectives abroad. But we are now asking the U.S. business community to do more; when and where interests align, we are asking business leaders to support our nation’s strategic policy priorities worldwide.

The fact is that we can and should use the talents and expertise of our leading business figures more effectively.

Let me give you a few examples of how we have started to put this vision into action.

A month ago, I visited Ukraine at the request of President Obama. I did not bring business executives with me, but I did bring a direct message from our business community to President Poroshenko.

If Ukraine embraces reform, by improving the country’s business climate; strengthening its economy; stabilizing its financial system; fighting corruption; and expanding opportunity – American companies will come. They will invest in there; they will sell products there; they will hire there. 

Certainly, President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, and their government face a massive array of challenges right now, but they know that the road to long-term, sustainable political stability is paved with economic reform. 

What I made crystal clear is that IF Ukraine takes the hard steps that, say, Poland took over two decades ago, American businesses will be there. 

In the days after our visit, and after a strong push from President Obama and me, Ukraine’s parliament adopted significant anti-corruption legislation. The legislation is necessary but not sufficient. 

If we see actual reform taking place, I have committed to hold a U.S.-Ukraine Business Summit here in Washington. We would bring American businesses together with Ukrainian businesses and government officials; we would help give the government an opportunity to trumpet the fact that it is a new day in Ukraine. 

If we see reforms taking place beyond that, I have committed to have my department lead a trade delegation to Ukraine. That opportunity is clearly not ripe today, but it could be down the road. 

These are the first possible steps along a spectrum of greater potential American commercial engagement in Ukraine—but the underlying point is that the promise of commerce has the power to change policy.   

We shall see.

Our vision of commercial diplomacy is not limited to markets as difficult and complicated as Ukraine. In fact, I was just in South Korea with 20 American firms last week and had a wonderful meeting with President Park.

One of President Park’s priorities is to promote what she calls Korea’s “creative economy.” In our meeting, we talked about how the United States and Korea can work together to promote and empower young entrepreneurs.

President Park clearly knows – just like President Obama and I do – that America’s spirit of entrepreneurship and our innovation ecosystems are among our country’s most powerful exports.

She and I discussed the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship – also known as PAGE – a new collaboration that I chair between the U.S. government and 11 of America’s most prominent entrepreneurs, including the founders of LinkedIn, AOL, Tory Burch, and Chobani Yogurt, among others.

We agreed to have one or more of these celebrated business leaders collaborate with the Korean government on creating conditions that foster the development of a more “creative economy.” 

Again, interests align. President Park wants more entrepreneurs to create jobs and growth; the U.S. government supports policies that foster economic openness and inclusion; and our business leaders have the expertise and credibility to describe the benefits that can flow from making tough policy decisions. 

Of course, this emphasis on commercial diplomacy cannot, and will not, replace our diplomatic or strategic responsibilities. Rather, it is complementary – another vital tool in our foreign policy toolkit.

With the global landscape shifting – through globalization, rapid technological change, increased connectivity, and the rise of emerging economies – the United States must tap into every resource at our disposal.

And, with our vision of commercial diplomacy, I believe the United States is embracing a more multi-dimensional approach to our leadership around the world.

Thank you to Foreign Policy for hosting this wonderful event and for honoring my friend, Christine Lagarde. It is a true privilege for me to congratulate you on being heralded as Diplomat of the Year.

Christine, the world needs more leaders like you, with vision and tenacity, who have delivered results globally. Thank you for your work, for your wisdom and for your dedication to achieving sustainable economic growth and increased prosperity for billions throughout the world.