Clinton: Diplomacy key to job creation
Washington - American diplomacy abroad is critical to creating jobs and improving economic conditions at home, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday, urging Congress not to slash the Obama administration's foreign policy budget.
In a speech to the US Global Leadership Coalition, Clinton said the administration's foreign affairs spending represents just a tiny fraction - one percent - of the federal budget and is not what is driving the government's massive debt.
She said threatened cuts to foreign assistance and state department operations will undermine efforts to develop markets for American businesses overseas and hurt diplomats' promotion of US companies.
"The one percent of our budget we spend on all diplomacy and development is not what is driving our deficit," she told the group, which promotes US international engagement. "Not only can we afford to maintain a strong civilian presence, we cannot afford not to."
Clinton also urged congress to act quickly and approved three free-trade agreements - with South Korea, Colombia and Panama - before their summer recess. Combined, she said, they will add tens of billions of dollars in domestic economic growth each year.
"Passing these deals is critical to our economic recovery," she said. "It's time to put these trade deals to work on behalf of the American people.
President Barack Obama has requested $73.6bn for the state department in his $3.73 trillion budget for the next fiscal year that begins October 1, a decrease of 0.7% from state's allocation in the 2011 budget year.
When the proposal was submitted to congress in February, Clinton said it already represented "a lean budget for lean times" that had been scrubbed for every penny of savings possible without damaging key national security interests.
Some lawmakers keen to make steep reductions in spending have zeroed in on the foreign operations budget, calling for cuts from 16% to 20%, moves that would affect foreign aid as well as state department staffing in Washington and at embassies around the world.
They say the US must reduce its foreign spending at a time when the domestic economy is reeling and unemployment is still above 9%.
But Clinton warned that retreating from the international arena would jeopardise America's standing as a global leader, a position she said had to be continually earned with commitments of time, energy and resources.
Withdrawing will cost American jobs by allowing other countries to get footholds in foreign markets where they can push their business interests without competition from the United States, she said.
"The simple truth is, if we don't seize the opportunities available today, other countries will," Clinton said.
"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."
The state department now has more than 1 600 employees at its headquarters and overseas embassies who promote American businesses ranging from commercial giants like Boeing to small- and mid-size companies that specialize in construction, agriculture, manufacturing and mining.
Their efforts have helped seal hundreds of millions of dollars in deals, creating thousands of jobs in America, Clinton said. "Old-fashioned door-to-door salesmanship still works in the twenty-first century," she said.