Global engagement promotes economic prosperity

December 6, 2013 By Colleen Waterston and Zach Silberman

The Pew Research Center made a splash yesterday by releasing poll results that showed that 52% of Americans believe the United States “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.”  But if you look into the poll results a little more closely, you’ll find surprisingly strong support for U.S. global economic engagement that seems to contradict or at least nuances the headline.

It turns out that most Americans also say the benefits from U.S. participation in the global economy outweigh the risks.  The poll showed that American support for closer trade and business ties with other nations stands at its highest point in more than a decade with 77% of Americans supporting growing economic ties with other countries.   Over two-thirds believe that greater involvement in the global economy opens new markets and opportunities for U.S. growth.  We only need to look at South Korea as an ideal example of the benefits from global investment.  Following the Korean War, the U.S. invested in pursuing a better future for a country rising out of the ashes of war.  50 years later, South Korea is one of America’s leading trading partners and an aid donor itself.

In some ways, the support for global economic engagement shouldn’t’ be surprising.  With 95% of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, Americans see the benefits from greater economic engagement with the world.  Already American businesses are seeing the value in foreign investment, particularly in the developing world. To reach new customers in emerging markets, companies have fostered innovative partnerships that leverage not only the company’s strengths, but bring along additional partners to maximize engagement with their new customer base.  Most importantly, these partnerships utilize American businesses and ingenuity to create jobs for folks here at home at a multinational business.

For instance, Coca-Cola has participated in successful public-private partnerships to increase access to safe drinking water in the developing world. Through Coca-Cola’s Water and Development Alliance partnership with USAID, Coca-Cola set an ambitious goal to replenish 100% of the water used in its beverages and their production by 2020. With investments in Sub-Saharan African countries like Nigeria, Zambia, and Ghana, the benefits are already being felt by the local population and can eventually improve the livelihood of those countries’ citizens, as well as build opportunities for economic growth.

Americans have seen decades of successes from U.S. economic engagement, particularly through helping to promote economic growth that reduces poverty.  Partnering with foreign governments through trade and foreign investment are hallmarks of the International Affairs Budget and its agencies, working to connect American businesses with global partners that build economic prosperity abroad and at home.