America has never backed down from a challenge. Our world today presents plenty of them, but also tremendous opportunities.
The world is more interconnected than ever before. That is why it is so critical to have our nation’s international-affairs programs at full capacity to tackle extremism, poverty, pandemic disease, and instability. These actions are essential for our economy and security, and in demonstrating the best of who we are as a nation.
Economically, emerging world markets are prime opportunities for U.S. businesses to expand and create quality jobs here at home. U.S. development and diplomatic efforts are critical to creating environments in which our businesses can tap global markets, particularly in the developing world.
Overseas markets represent 95 percent of the world’s customers and 80 percent of global purchasing power. Here in Minnesota, one in five jobs is tied to trade. And it’s not just the big companies. The vast majority of exporters are small- to medium-sized businesses. The U.S. government is an essential partner for businesses in reaching emerging markets.
These efforts work to improve conditions in host countries as well as bottom lines here at home. One example is the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) partnership with Land O’Lakes to build the productivity of dairy operations in East Africa. By improving animal genetics and care, as well as milk-handling and marketing, we helped establish thousands of sustainable agribusinesses, improving lives in areas often plagued by famine.
America’s world leadership is something Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Development and diplomacy programs help prevent conflicts before they begin, which ensures that our brave Americans in uniform are sent in only as a last resort. Last month, the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, told senators, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”
Past U.S. investments overseas have delivered a substantial return. Ten of our top 15 trading partners, countries like South Korea, were once recipients of development assistance. At just 1 percent of the federal budget, our development and diplomatic programs turn challenges into opportunities. Even as we face difficult fiscal decisions, now is no time to retreat from the world.
Tonight the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota will recognize the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition — an organization dedicated to educating Americans about how important the tools of development and diplomacy are. As board members, we are honored to stand with them in their mission to build a better, safer America and world.
The writers are, respectively, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture, and the president and chief executive officer of Land O’Lakes Inc.