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Message from Ambassador Charles Ray

Ambassador Charles Ray

This year the United States will celebrate 236 years of independence.  Over these two centuries and more, Americans have daily struggled with the paradox of national independence in a world of nations that are inescapably interdependent.  From 1776 until today, Americans have built alliances for national defense and developed trade relationships to build our nation’s economy.  No matter how much we Americans cherish our independence, we know that our prosperity depends on an increasingly interconnected global economy.

Zimbabweans have learned the same lesson.  Even during the days of the Zim dollar and high tariff barriers, Zimbabwe could not completely insulate itself from external economic forces.  Today, with a more open trade regime and the multi-currency arrangement, Zimbabweans are more immediately affected than ever before by the ups and downs of the world’s economy.

Even though the U.S. economy is more than 1,000 times larger than Zimbabwe’s, citizens of both countries must each day face the reality of economic interdependence.  Recent lowering of expectations for economic growth in Europe, for example, has reduced confidence in the U.S.  That makes it harder for Americans to find jobs.  Similarly, reduced global demand for cotton has caused the market price to slump, and that is bad news for cotton growers in Zimbabwe.  And in both of our countries, individual entrepreneurs drive the economy forward by meeting the demands of a global market through competition and innovation.

The reality of interdependence creates a challenge for national leaders across the globe.  Their responses to that challenge vary according to their individual outlook, the expectations of their people, and the nature of their ties to other countries.  President Obama’s view is unequivocal: the U.S. will respond to global economic turmoil with more engagement, not less.  A central goal of American foreign policy is to promote international trade, encourage cross-border investment, and help build a global economy that is open, free, transparent, and fair.

As a sign of U.S. commitment to collaboration on shared economic interests, our embassies and consulates around the world have marked June 14 on their calendars as Global Economic Statecraft Day.  We use this occasion to remind ourselves and our international partners that economic forces shape our foreign-policy choices as never before.  Thousands of American diplomats on six continents are working to re-shape U.S. foreign policy for a world where more than ever the hallmark of success is economic strength built on interdependence.

America is open for business.  We are doing everything we can to promote U.S. business abroad, encourage foreign investment that creates jobs in the U.S., and welcome visitors to our country.   With the National Export Initiative, President Obama set a goal of doubling America’s exports over five years.  We expect to hit that target ahead of schedule, thanks in large measure to our new free trade agreements coupled with the drive of the American business community.

With rapid growth in Zimbabwe’s economy for three successive years, my Embassy has seen an accelerated pace of inquiries from U.S. businesses interested in exploring new opportunities.  In the October 2011 at the “Doing Business in Zimbabwe” forum in Washington, DC, I made a point of saying, “Zimbabwe is open for business” and encouraged U.S. companies to take a closer look.  From 2002 through 2011, the annual average nominal value of Zimbabwe’s exports to the U.S. was $75 million, and annual imports from the U.S. averaged $64 million. Trade indicators show us that there is significant scope for growth in this bilateral trade.

This certainly counts as statecraft, but we know that the progress we make depends less on the state than on the private sector.  In an interdependent global economy, successful economic statecraft promotes competition and efficiency that lowers costs and expands opportunity.  That’s because more trade and more investment means more jobs and more widely shared prosperity, in America and in Zimbabwe.

June 13, 2012