By Scott D. Pattison
Over the past several years, the leaders of America’s 55 states, territories, and commonwealths have taken more prominent roles on the world stage. State governors have been advancing Americans’ interests in building strong economic and other ties across the globe.
Our state economies are intertwined with numerous nations to the point that many Americans have jobs because companies around the world invest in the U.S. and we sell countless products and services to other nations. International economic relationships are vital — so foreign officials, businesses, nonprofits, and community groups are turning more often than ever before to our states’ chief executives for insights and stability.
With this in mind, the National Governors Association created a new program called NGA Global as a platform for governors to convene with their counterparts beyond U.S. borders. Our member governors foster mutually beneficial relationships to boost their states’ global competitiveness and fulfill their goals in infrastructure, energy, agriculture, tourism, innovation, workforce development, public health, law enforcement, human rights, education, the environment and more. Most importantly, governors working with their fellow leaders in other countries and with companies across the globe creates economic development and job creation in their states.
America’s governors certainly honor their role in the U.S. constitutional system by staying within the parameters of all federal treaties and policies, while adding depth and detail through their direct interactions with international colleagues. Their activities link their home-state communities with bustling global marketplaces and opportunities for capital – contributing to the $1.5 trillion the U.S. reaps from exports and the nearly $370 billion we attract in annual foreign investment, according to SelectUSA.
As leaders of economies that rival most countries in size and prosperity, our state governors are continually sought out by heads of state, including Justin Trudeau of Canada, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, and Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, each of whom addressed NGA meetings over the past year. Governors equally value the peer-to-peer contact made possible through important working relationships with the governors association equivalents from all over the world including those in Japan, Mexico, Canada, and Kenya. Governors also partner with global organizations such as the German Marshall Fund, Council for the Australian Federation and the World Economic Forum to create important relationships and leverage their expertise to improve economic development and create jobs in their states.
The relationships developed through these organizational alliances position the U.S. for success on many fronts. For example, earlier this year, just as NAFTA discussions faltered, NGA Global was convening its North American Summit. Governors from Mexico and the U.S. and premiers from Canada cordially shared information, seriously discussed even controversial topics and developed important professional relationships. The event underscored the cross-border commitment that unites the continent and encourages necessary continued cooperation.
Governors are working to expand these healthy international relationships. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (pictured) recently embarked on a trade mission to Canada while Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey traveled to Mexico, which connected major commodity groups from their states with Canadian and Mexican business leaders and government officials. While there, they provided their local companies significant venues to pursue potential business partnerships, network and develop trade opportunities.
Similar progress is being made in Europe. Gov. Phil Murphy was recently on hand for the opening of a Choose New Jersey office in Berlin, Germany, which will leverage investment possibilities in Garden State manufacturing, biotech, and technology start-ups, among other sectors. Similarly, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is developing a Hoosier presence in the EU through interactions within Switzerland, Austria, Germany and France.
Last month, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards went to Israel to promote economic development and research partnerships. He’s already sealed an agreement tapping Louisiana’s water-technology industry and is keen to tie in cybersecurity as well. Edwards also demonstrated global leadership on non-economic issues, having visited the Vatican, for instance, on an anti-human trafficking mission.
In a time of uncertainty in Washington and around the world, America’s governors are reaffirming the country’s value as a trading partner and ally. As governors forge and deepen their relationships with counterparts and business leaders around the world, NGA Global will continue to help them break down international barriers and expand the opportunities available to their constituents worldwide.
Scott D. Pattison is executive director and CEO of the National Governors Association.