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Wednesday, December 29

The America Desk at State: The Office for Commercial and Business Affairs

"Looks like Rumsfeld was right when he said maybe it was time to install [an] American desk at the State Dept." --a reader's comment on Pundita's 12/28 post.

Ah, but there is an American desk at State; it was established in 1995. The desk is officially called the Office for Commercial and Business Affairs (CBA). The CBA falls under the massive Bureau for Commercial and Business Affairs at State.

The catch is that the America Desk is a business desk: ". . .committed to promoting U.S. economic and commercial interests overseas." Here is an excerpt from the 1995 mission statement:

"The America Desk

"The State Department has a China Desk, a Haiti Desk and a Poland Desk. Secretary Christopher has established an "America Desk." The Secretary and all State Department officers serve on the "America Desk" to ensure that the vital concerns of the American people and the American business community are represented in the State Department and in our foreign policy. Coordinator for Business Affairs.

"As part of the "America Desk" commitment, the Secretary has designated a Coordinator for Business Affairs to act as an ombudsman for business within the State Department. The Coordinator reports to the Under Secretary for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs, and works closely with our Embassies abroad and the State Department regional and functional bureau coordinators in Washington to promote U.S. economic and commercial interests through:

-- ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF U.S. FIRMS COMPETING OVERSEAS.

-- LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD AND PROBLEM SOLVING FOR U.S. BUSINESS OVERSEAS.

-- BRINGING BUSINESS CONCERNS TO THE FOREFRONT OF THE FOREIGN POLICY PROCESS. "

The last sentence above speaks volumes about the State Department's direction during and since the Clinton presidency. If we dig into the activities of the CBA during the past decade I feel sure we'll find many pieces to the puzzle of how Foggy Bottom managed to eclipse the Pentagon's power.

Also, in light of the election situation in Ukraine, it would be helpful to learn whether the CBA helped smooth business deals launched by [ex-USSR] oligarchs who found favor during Clinton's administration and at the pre-9/11 Bush White House. I am thinking in particular of Khodorkovsky, who has been cooling his heels in Russian jail for several months.
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