By Hari Choudhari, 2023 FedEx Corporate Diplomacy Fellow
The United States faces an unprecedented set of global challenges today. From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to climate change and supply chain disruptions, American policymakers face an ever-growing nexus of threats. The Biden administration, in its first National Security Strategy (NSS), framed these threats within the two trends of strategic competition and shared challenges, both of which require the U.S. to put its best foot forward to ensure a “free, open, prosperous, and secure international order,” according to the NSS.
This is a central pillar of grand strategy, i.e., the alignment of means and ends within an intellectual framework. As America emerges with a new framework of strategic competition and challenges, it must create robust mechanisms to maximize its unique advantages within this framework – or risk being left behind.
A dynamic private sector is among the most formidable means at America’s disposal. With immense global reach, credibility, and innovative capacity, companies are (in Meridian CEO Ambassador Stuart Holliday’s words) “the new diplomatic actors addressing the world’s shared challenges.” The U.S. private sector has stepped to the plate in the past year by divesting from forced labor in supply chains and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with partners in Ukraine, cementing its place at the forefront of America’s global outreach.
Government actors have also taken encouraging steps in recent months, including a June 2022 Memorandum of Understanding between the Departments of State and Commerce on improving coordination in commercial diplomacy and active public-private engagement in the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, the Summit for Democracy and the upcoming APEC summit. True synergy between the public and private sectors, however, requires the creation of robust and lasting mechanisms for exchanging expertise, experience and strategy. Without this synergy, private and public actors may lack the coordination necessary to maximize the United States’ commercial engagement with the world.
It is this lacuna that the Meridian Corporate Council seeks to address. As an intermediary able to bring the private and public sectors together, Meridian is uniquely positioned to facilitate a constructive dialogue on critical areas of collaboration. A key example is the formation of five Working Groups on February 10, 2023, bringing business representatives together to help inform senior government officials, including the State Department Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, Dilawar Syed. Exchanges between public-private actors in the U.S. and foreign diplomats in Washington are also crucial steps towards ensuring that America remains sensitive to the interests and concerns that truly matter to our interlocutors.
Through creating public-private synergy, organizations like Meridian can form the vanguard of the revitalization of the U.S. grand strategy, giving America the best possible shot at leveraging its unique commercial dynamism in service of shared global prosperity.