Remarks for the Benjamin Joy Awards

Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
Washington, DC
September 29, 2016

As prepared

Thank you, Ziad. Thank you for the hard work and leadership you put into making this happen.

Colleagues and friends from the Departments of Commerce and State; members of the diplomatic community; and members of the business community, including Gates Air’s Jeff Hill whose company benefitted from the Embassy’s unrelenting support; and last but not least, today’s awardees and nominees, including former Ambassador to Ethiopia Patricia Haslach, who just joined EB as our Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary.

Thank you for joining us today to honor the inauguration of the Benjamin Joy Award. Now, I know everyone is standing. And we have others to hear from today. So I’m going to say six words you won’t hear too often in government: I will keep my remarks short.

Assistant Secretary Arun Kumar – my co-creator of this award – and I are especially pleased to see you here. The idea grew from our recognition that the U.S. government interagency, with so many assets and dedicated, talented people at its disposal, can and should be a powerful tool for our foreign policy objectives.

At a time when our economic strength has become more synonymous with our geostrategic interests than ever, creating more ways for Commerce and State to align their strengths and work together could not be more important. As Secretary Kerry often says: “foreign policy is economic policy and economic policy is foreign policy.”

Separately and together, Commerce and State already do so much to strengthen our economic and commercial presence abroad. We promote our ethical and sustainable business principles as central to the American brand. We have given American companies a greater role as advocates for better investment climates in our dealings with foreign governments. And our embassies and Commercial Services provide robust support, advocacy and country-specific information to American companies looking to invest abroad.

As U.S. Ambassador to France, I had the opportunity to witness the effectiveness of interagency teamwork firsthand. Embassy France is one of our largest embassies in the world. It also has a big Foreign Commercial Service office. We all recognized the stakes: At the time, France was the world’s fifth largest economy and the second-largest trading nation in Western Europe.

We knew that if we maintained a close working interagency relationship and focused on mutual goals, U.S. companies and our whole country would benefit. The success of that teamwork was a major reason why, when I became Assistant Secretary, I made it a top priority to build a close and robust relationship with Commerce.

Another person who shared that view was Craig Allen who – as many of you know – worked for Commerce’s International Trade Administration for almost 30 years, most of that time in Asia. Few worked harder than he to forge links between our two agencies. So I was deeply honored when such a top notch diplomatic officer personally asked me to officiate at his swearing-in ceremony as Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam. He said it was primarily due to our mutual commitment to growing the State-Commerce relationship.

Craig, as many of you know, was the one of the masterminds of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service-State Partner Post Program. And today, we have 56 partnership posts in place. We have helped to break down the silos between our departments; and we are extending the support we give to U.S. companies worldwide.

Now, people may ask: what does that State-Commerce alliance look like abroad? Today’s awardees – led by Ambassador Haslach – illustrate that. They embody what is possible when we work together to advance our country’s economic and commercial interests. Despite many challenges, they prevailed.

Ziad will read the citation when we present the award. So I won’t read off all the names. But I will say, this team worked diligently for 19 months to help GatesAir sign a contract for Phase II of GatesAir’s Ethiopian Digital Television Project. They advocated for fairness and transparency in the Ethiopian government’s procurement process. And they drew on the full range of commercial diplomacy tools, including public and private advocacy, letters, case analysis, and coalition building. Ultimately, their sustained and close interagency teamwork carried the day – and GatesAir won the contract.

Let me also say that we reviewed 43 submissions for this award. They included successfully negotiating the adoption of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield framework, facilitating billion dollar deals, and helping recover hundreds of millions of dollars for U.S. companies.

There were so many deserving nominations it was difficult to choose only one winner. But the panel selected two runners-up, Embassy Jakarta and Embassy New Delhi. I want to take a moment to recognize their achievements.

U.S. Embassy Jakarta’s Commercial and Economic Sections have developed working group programs to increase aviation safety and fulfill U.S. and Indonesian clean-energy goals. With memorandums of understanding negotiated and signed with the Ministers of Energy and Aviation, the Embassy created a Power Working Group (PWG) that includes 70 companies and 10 U.S. government agencies. Under Indonesia’s program to expand power generation by 35,000 MW, the first project to reach financial closure was a U.S. firm’s wind power plant and the first project to begin operations used GE turbines.

U.S. Mission India’s economic and commercial team helped expand the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue last year. It has now become the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, elevating commercial issues and economics in our most senior level bilateral discussions. Additionally, the team succeeded in facilitating a long-standing high-value deal for a U.S. firm to sell transportation equipment to the Indian Government and a $3.3 billion Boeing sale of Apache and Chinook helicopters to the Indian military.

So, congratulations to Embassy Addis Ababa, the two runners-up, and all the nominees on your impressive achievements.

It is now my great pleasure to introduce Arun Kumar with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working for three years. Arun and I came up with this idea at our very first meeting as Assistant Secretaries. We wanted to find a concrete way to highlight the unity between our two departments – and that became the Benjamin Joy Award. I’m so grateful to Arun for his collaboration as well as coming up with the name for the award!

I’m also pleased to announce that, after the ceremony, Arun and I will be signing a new five year State-Commerce agreement that will continue the Partner Program’s outstanding interagency collaboration.

It was always our hope that this award, by highlighting our best joint efforts, would encourage many more. Judging by the 43 nominations we saw this year, we have every reason to believe this alliance can only grow stronger.

So, thank you everyone once again for being here; congratulations to the awardees; and without further ado, let me present, my colleague and my good friend, Assistant Secretary Arun Kumar.