Clinton Says US Diplomacy Abroad Creates Jobs at Home, Warns Against Cuts

Jul 12, 2011 11:53am

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a message for those on Capitol Hill who would like to cut the State Department’s budget: do so at the risk of American jobs and American leadership.

In a speech in Washington this morning Clinton argued that American investments and diplomacy abroad pay back dividends by creating jobs in the United States. She also warned that nothing short of America’s global primacy is at risk if those efforts are not properly resourced.

Already, she suggested, the U.S. may be slipping.

“After spending two and a half years as your secretary of state, traveling nearly 600,000 miles, I have reached one over-arching conclusion. Simply put, we need to up our game,” she said. “We need to double-down on what we do well and add new tools and techniques to compete effectively in the 21st century, to be strong at home and to lead abroad.”

American diplomats, Clinton said, are working in countries around the world to break down barriers for U.S. companies to compete in global markets and she suggested new markets in the developing world present a new opportunity for export.

She cited Open Skies agreements with countries that allow create new flight routes overseas from American cities, creating jobs near the airports. A new direct flight from Memphis to Amsterdam has had a $120 million impact on Tennessee’s economy and supports over 2,200 local jobs, she said.

“These agreements may not create headlines, but they do create jobs,” Clinton argued.

The setting for Clinton’s remarks betrayed her ultimate motive: to warn against further cuts to her budget. She spoke before the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, which lobbies for greater foreign affairs funding. The USGLC issued a report today supporting Clinton’s main thrust, that the work she and her diplomats engage in around the world creates jobs back home.

The Marshall Plan may have cost $110 billion in today’s dollars, but Clinton pointed out that the US now exports around $250 billion worth of products to the European Union each year.

To that end she urged Congress to pass three Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea before it leaves for summer recess.

“Passing these deals is critical to our economic recovery,” she said.

Clinton warned that American leadership in the world “is an achievement, not a birthright” and warned against cuts that might undermine the U.S. position in the world.

“Maintaining it requires resolve, and it requires resources,” she said.

Clinton also swung back at those who say the U.S. can’t afford such efforts in the current deficit crisis, and suggested other countries are poised to take advantage of the void if American companies don’t step up.

“The 1 percent of our budget we spend on all diplomacy and development is not what is driving our deficit. Not only can we afford to maintain a strong civilian presence, we cannot afford not to. The simple truth is, if we don't seize the opportunities available today, other countries will; other countries will fight for their companies while ours fend for themselves. Other countries will promote their own models and serve their own interests, instead of opening markets, reinforcing the rule of law and creating widespread inclusive growth. Other countries will create the jobs that should be created here, and even claim the mantle of global leadership,” she said.

Clinton has spoken about the return on investment for American engagement abroad in the past, and she’ll repeat them again soon. She’ll deliver a speech later this month in Hong Kong and another later this fall expanding on the nexus between economics and America’s strategic position.

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