CAS 130-Tra A new role for diplomacy
By Ronald Sanders
Story Created: Aug 9, 2010 at 11:58 PM ECT
Story Updated: Aug 10, 2010 at 2:35 AM ECT
THE British government recently launched an initiative to make its ambassadors frontline persons in pushing British business abroad. There are lessons in this move for small states, including those in the Caribbean, and governments should be taking note to revamp the outmoded structures through which they conduct their foreign affairs.
Over the last decade, the world has gone through cataclysmic changes which have had — and are still having — adverse effects on small countries. Among these are climate change, the spread of HIV/AIDS, the fallout from the global financial crisis that started in October 2008, the rise of the ideology of trade liberalisation leading to unfair terms of trade for small countries, and heavy constraints on financial services imposed by wealthy nations in the name of the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing.
Small states don't have economic clout or military capacity with which to advance their interests or counter the constraints that are imposed on them. They rely entirely on the capacity and forcefulness of their diplomacy. (1)
As part of the British initiative, the foreign and Commonwealth secretary, William Hague, has said that he intends to appoint businessmen to key ambassadorial posts.
Not enough emphasis was placed by Caribbean governments on the commercial aspect of embassies — the business of actually promoting trade and investment. Very few persons working in Caribbean diplomatic missions have any experience in business at any level, and they therefore lack the knowledge and experience to understand what conditions attract businesspeople.
Diplomatic training — such as it exists in the Caribbean — is also still too focused on traditional diplomacy. There is a gaping hole in commercial diplomacy — the business of promotion, marketing and negotiation. (2)