LEHI — For Utah to continue its economic prosperity, the United States must invest in its role as a world leader through diplomacy, along with economic development programs in emerging countries.
Speaking as a panelist Friday at a U.S. Global Leadership Coalition forum on how American diplomacy and foreign aid help bolster U.S. national security and create economic opportunities for Utah businesses, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, told an audience of business and civic leaders the nation benefits when America engages with its allies around the world.
“As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I am committed to supporting the vital U.S. government programs that protect our nation’s interests abroad," he said. "Our global ties help to open new markets for U.S. businesses and create jobs for Americans, while U.S. diplomats and development workers overseas are preventing conflicts and wiping out diseases before they reach our borders.”
He also noted that the economic and political uncertainty that is pervasive around the globe is detrimental to the nation's economy, so it would be advantageous for the U.S. to continue providing aid to these countries that are working to stabilize themselves.
"It's really in our best interests to make the economies of these other countries part of our politics," Curtis said. "(We can) go in and make a difference with education and helping people out of poverty."
He said using "those very precious dollars" in a way that is stabilizing in these other countries is in our economic and geopolitical best interests.
"You can look at it from a philanthropic standpoint and justify it from that or you can simply look at it from a selfish perspective and say the dollars we're spending there actually save us money and keep us out of wars," he said. "Economic security for these countries keeps them out or wars and makes them strong so they can defend themselves."
From a business perspective, finalizing trade agreements with our allies around the world will also help the nation and Utah significantly, explained panelist Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.
"I'm glad we've got the (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) and we're close to getting one with China," he said. Resurrecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership should also be a priority if the U.S. is to continue its quest to remain a global economic power, he added.
The now-defunct deal was an agreement with 11 other countries, mostly from the South Pacific region, including some of the "fastest-growing economies in the world," he noted. The demise of that agreement is having a negative impact on Utah businesses that are currently unable to participate effectively in international trade in that region.
"It's an economic issue, but it's also a geopolitical issue because these are countries that want to align themselves with the United States," Miller said. "They don't want to be aligned with China, and yet China is pulling them into their sphere of influence by having trade deals with them."
These South Pacific countries would rather do business with the U.S. but they feel like they are being shut out because we don't have trade deals with them, he reiterated. "It hurts our businesses. It hurts our economy and it makes us weaker on the geopolitical scene," he said.
Meanwhile, in the most recent proposal, the Trump administration asked for a 24 percent cut to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development budgets, which officials believe come at a time when various crises worldwide pose a threat to U.S. national security as well as global stability.
With over 352,000 Utah jobs connected to international trade, and local exports to foreign markets amounting to more than $11.6 billion annually, America’s status as a world leader has become a strategic economic issue for the Beehive State, said U.S. Global Leadership Coalition National Outreach Director Carey Campbell.
"Supporting our nation’s diplomats and development workers provides us with a three-fold return on investment: our country is safer, our economy is stronger, and countless lives are improved worldwide,” she said.18 comments on this story
"American businesses lead in every sector of the global economy and that includes businesses right here in Utah," Miller said. “That is why it's so important that our nation's diplomats and development workers have the resources they need to create markets, promote American values, and connect our businesses to new opportunities across the globe."
"If America wants to remain a leader in the world's markets and boardrooms, we need to make sure our civilian corps of professionals overseas receive needed funding," he said.