Corporate Diplomacy - The US Safety Net
by Alan J Simpson
Washington, DC Feb. 17th, 2007 ---- America has been slow to embrace the culture of Corporate Diplomacy, the philosophy sweeping Europe. Here more than half of the world's Trans National Corporations are realizing that they hold the power and responsibility for diplomacy in their many markets, production regions, and distribution channels. No longer can their global assets and markets be left in the hands of amateur politicians, who serve in office often for only a couple of years.
They have found that most politicians learn on the job, and during this painful learning process economic damage will result. This economic damage can severely disrupt their enterprise. They have learned that the corporation needs to isolate and insulate itself from the policies, statements and actions of political administrations. In the past these disruptions have been of short duration, especially for the United States. Not so in the Bush Administration which has destroyed goodwill built up over two centuries. Today "Made in America" conjures up death, destruction, false promises and lies. The world has gone from loving America to hating it.
Again that has happened before, but today it is worse than ever, and includes the people as well as the Government.
Fortunately the global trading corporations are learning how to adopt a neutral, even local face, without the "Ugly American" boss ramming his beliefs down the throats of employees and customers. A lesson politicians in Washington, DC could learn from. The global energy multi-nationals are a good example. They deal every day with Iran, Venezuela and Russia. They have to neutralize all the rhetoric from politicians, who whilst grandstanding for the "Folks back home" can do untold damage and loss of income for the same "Folks back home".
The dismal failure of Public Diplomacy in the United States can be repaired and reversed by a policy of Corporate Diplomacy, provided it is not run as another flawed program by the Department of State, Defense, or CIA. Nobody in their right mind would believe anything from these offices of the Bush Administration. Karen Hughes made a good Director of Communications, beating the crap out of anyone who strayed off message. Trying to change her stripes for spots and managing Public Diplomacy makes for good material for the Comedy Channel, but does absolutely nothing for the good of the United States.
Corporate Diplomacy on the other hand can create a global make-over of the perceptions and image of people, products and philosophies of nations and cities. Rolls Royce portrays quality and all that is best from Britain. Boeing is trusted with the lives of millions of people a day. Even terrorists want Nike shoes, watch Hollywood movies, and depend on American technology to get their message of hate across the Internet, through Cisco routers, from their Intel equipped PC.
At the height of the Cold War all countries continued to trade with each other. The salesmen were the best Ambassadors, and learned the contacts that allowed the transition of Poland, East Germany, Romania and the other Iron Curtain countries to become part of the Europe and even NATO.
But Corporate Diplomacy skills stretch much further than on overseas assignments, for every day corporate executives have to deal at local, regional, State and national level. They have to deal with a growing number of NGO's, United Nations Agencies, and the global financial organizations. They have to put their case forward to boards, councils, courts and hearings around the world for environmental, trade and financial matters. They used to depend on the local Embassy or Consulate, but today these budgets have been decimated, and the staffing of Embassies, for trade and Public Diplomacy is at an all time low. Consider that in Baghdad the huge US Embassy has over 1000 people, with only 33 who can speak Arabic. Try getting corporate assistance with local negotiations.
The traditional Public Diplomacy channels for America, and to a lesser extent Europe have failed miserably and that is costing us billions of dollars, or euros a year. Let Capitalism show the way out.