By Steve Dust, CEO, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber
The importance of maintaining an adequate federal budget for International Affairs was the emphasis of an August 1 meeting between U.S. Rep. Rod Blum and representatives of the Iowa Advisory Board to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC).
Appropriately, the meeting was held in Blum’s Cedar Falls office around a conference table featuring a revolving globe.
The Trump Administration’s budget proposed dramatic cuts to the account, while House and Senate FY18 proposals are closer to FY17 enacted levels. The International Affairs activities of the federal government are under the direction of the State Department and Executive Office.
Others in the meeting addressed the national security missions, accountability and transparency reforms underway in the U.S. State Department and USAID, and effectiveness of addressing humanitarian crises with International Affairs programs.
My comments were focused on the important role of the Development and Aid budgets to opening foreign markets for Cedar Valley of Iowa and U.S. exports and the importance of increasing private investment to secure diplomatic relationships.
The Alliance & Chamber pays attention to the customers of our existing businesses and what it takes to expand those markets. Foreign aid in development and economic empowerment creates new buyers for machinery and equipment of all kinds produced here and builds capacity to buy and consume commodities and value added agricultural products.
The concentration of manufacturing, food processing, and commodity production in the Cedar Valley is more evenly balanced than the rest of the state. About 97 percent of the world’s potential consumers are outside the United States. That means open, economically vital markets are essential to business growth here.
Demands for Cedar Valley services go well beyond machinery and food. A few years ago, a Chinese sister city group visiting Cedar Falls had specific interests. They wanted to obtain harvesting equipment, technology for food processing, and assistance to recruit an enormous number of English teachers. Ostensibly the goal was to advance their economic development in the South Central region of the nation. We had or could make effective, quick connections on all fronts that benefited us.
Well-placed and accountable development aid and trade assistance help establish and ensure the political stability in nations to be reliable trading partners and protect investments of Cedar Valley firms. U.S. aid also helps people around the globe to become consumers of our commodities and food products.
Open markets are good for us: effective aid programs encourage rule of law and enable a safe environment for investment in the developing world – often the location of some of the fastest growing economies today.
The International Affairs operations rely heavily on private agencies to most effectively deliver the services on the ground in these nations, and aid and diplomacy are so much better — and less expensive in all ways — than relying on a military presence.