Program Theme Spotlight: Foreign Trade and investment

Three visitors at a family-owned “pop-up” camper business in Sacramento, where they discuss the with the owners the company’s global marketing strategy.


With the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other pending trade agreements in the headlines, and as states across the country compete with one another for foreign investment and global export markets, IVLP projects in these fields are on the rise.  The increase of projects on this theme is a reflection of U.S. foreign policy interests and a recognition that global commerce has an impact on a myriad of domestic policy issues. In preparing proposals for projects about trade and investment, Meridian and its implementing partners consider a number of policy priorities that are affected by the globalization of commerce.

Beginning in Washington, DC, where exchange programs often focus on federal trade and economic policy priorities and formulation, visitors can also examine how federal trade-related agencies work  together with state/local public and private entities to support their role in fulfilling federal foreign trade priorities. Issues of import at the federal level are often of equal, if not higher, significance at the state and local levels where federal priorities may not always mesh with those of state government and local communities.  The impact of federal trade policies and initiatives at the state and local levels will play an important part of any program looking at these topics.

So how best to demonstrate how this works to international visitors?  Once in local communities around the U.S., participants will be interested in the following:

  • How are federal trade policies affecting what states and localities are trying to do?
  • How do states and localities partner with federal trade and economic agencies?
  • How do states and localities partner with the business, academic, non-profit sectors   concerning global commerce, workforce development, small business development?
  • What mechanisms are utilized by states and cities in the competition for trade and investment?

More specifically, and depending upon the specific thematic priorities for any given  project, visitors may also be interested in the following topics, to name just a few:

  • Specific strategies/investments for trade and investment promotion
  • Technology transfer – from government and academic research to commercialization
  • Intellectual property protections in global commerce
  • Impact of foreign trade on the state/local workforce
  • Worker training and retraining (skills development)
  • Industry involvement in curriculum development to ensure skilled workers
  • Impact on the environment of global trade practices; inequality of regulatory frameworks from developed to developing countries
  • Infrastructure development/maintenance: ports, airports, transportation routes
  • Support for small business development, including access to global markets
  • Movement of goods, at ports, airports, and cross border checkpoints
  • Community and consumer perspectives on bi-lateral and multi-lateral trade treaties

A few places to begin the search for resources in your community might be with your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club or World Trade Center. You will want to cultivate members of the business community (frequently a difficult component) because visitors always want and expect to meet with the corporate sector. Check with community colleges for worker training/retraining programs and also look for university based apprenticeship programs that may involve collaboration with the business sector. University business schools are also key to a program about trade and economic development.

Other tips: find innovative small business incubators that can allow visitors to meet with actual entrepreneurs; meet with labor officials if in a union state (or even if you are not) for perspectives on how U.S. trade policy is affecting America’s working class; and connect with quasi-governmental economic development organizations that most communities have for discussions about attracting foreign investment to your city or state.

This is a brief and assuredly incomplete set of suggestions that are intended to help guide you toward relevant and useful resources in your community in the field of foreign trade and investment. But once you begin your search, resources on this very broad theme will easily be found throughout your community.