Bloomberg News

Clinton Presses Diplomats to Promote U.S. Business Overseas

February 24, 2012

(Updates with Boeing CEO’s comments in seventh paragraph.)

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. needs more economists working in the diplomatic corps to help companies win business overseas and add jobs at home.

The State Department is training diplomats in economics, finance and markets to ensure they are focused on job creation in the U.S. and overseas, Clinton said today at a conference. Diplomats are being told to conduct “business outreach and advocacy” when overseas, she said.

“We’re changing the way we do business to better advance and support the way you do business,” Clinton told corporate leaders at a State Department luncheon. “We need to see the world like you do, crisscrossed not just by national borders but by global supply chains.”

The conference brought together representatives from more than 100 nations, leaders from companies such as Boeing Co. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Countries such as India, China and Brazil are already focused on economic goals, and the U.S. needs to catch up, she said.

Increasing diplomacy also will help level the playing field with nations that may use non-competitive practices, Clinton said. Focusing on trade is part of President Barack Obama’s initiative to double U.S. exports to $3.14 trillion by 2015, from $1.57 trillion in 2009.

‘Fallen Behind’

“We had fallen behind some other countries -- some of them our friends and allies -- when it came to using diplomacy to promote economic interests,’ Clinton said. ‘‘American companies haven’t always seen the federal government as an ally, and I know the State Department hasn’t always been the first call when they’re looking for help. We can and will do better.”

Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney called on Congress to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which he said has helped create 290,000 direct and indirect jobs at more than 3,600 U.S. companies. Renewing the bank’s lending powers has been “shamefully episodic and short term,” McNerney said.

U.S. exporters led by Boeing, the world’s biggest aerospace company, and Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment, are pushing to increase the bank’s lending limit, which is nearing its ceiling. The companies lobbied more than 100 lawmakers this month to push for a 40 percent increase in lending, to $140 billion. They said failure to act will cost jobs.

“Ex-Im reauthorization is vital for keeping competitive with foreign rivals,” McNerney, also Boeing’s chairman, said. “It’s certainly more than a Boeing issue.”

Clinton also named Heidi Rediker as the department’s first chief economist to work on programs to support U.S. companies.

--Editors: Steve Geimann, Daniel Enoch

To contact the reporter on this story: William McQuillen in Washington at bmcquillen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net


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