Remarks
Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
Woodrow Wilson Center
Washington, DC
November 19, 2012


Good morning everybody and thank you Blair for that kind introduction.

It is a sincere privilege to be with all of you today.

On behalf of the State Department, I’d like to thank the Woodrow Wilson Center, both for hosting us today—as well as for the critical work being done within these very halls at the Kennan Institute; your research has been vital in dissecting the challenges the United States and Russia have faced in the past, and your research highlights the ever-present opportunities our countries share for the future.

That’s particularly important, because from the outset of the Obama Administration, the United States has affirmed, expanded, and nurtured its deepening bilateral relationship with the Russian Federation.

Built upon a respect for the country’s timeless heritage, we’ve worked to reset our strategic outlooks; ramp up actions taken toward achieving a shared global peace; and revitalize business relationships for a 21st century economy.

From the New START Treaty, to the work done to support Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization—we’ve established robust channels of cooperation, wherein issues of trade and investment, science and technology, security and stability, are all discussed at an intensive level in order to write the next chapter of growth for our two nations.

So no matter what you may have heard on the campaign trail this past cycle—such efforts over the past three years, coupled with the sort of extensive research proffered by the Kennan Institute—all point toward one unshakeable truth:

o The future will benefit from strong investments in a vibrant U.S.-Russia relationship.

It’s why both our countries are working to formally deepen our scientific cooperation in addressing the impact climate change is having on our shared environment.

It’s why we’re working to jointly increase our conservation efforts in the Bering Strait; so researchers and academics from both of our countries can study the unique ecosystem of life, culture, and language we share in a region of the world where our homes are only miles apart.

And it’s why just a few short months ago Secretary Clinton entered into an agreement with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that brings the dynamism of the Washington and Moscow relationship, to the doorsteps of regional localities throughout cities and oblasts.

But there’s more to be done. And there’s more we should do. Part of that begins by building upon key strides we’ve made in our trade relationships.

As all of you know, Russia represents the world’s 6th largest economy, but is only our 20th largest trading partner. While its accession to the WTO was an excellent start for building new commercial inroads – U.S. enterprises will not realize the full benefits of a new WTO member until Congress peels back outdated policies, which have stymied the potential of U.S.-Russian growth.

In fact, United States currently accounts for only 4 percent of Russia's imports, but U.S. businesses have actively been seeking to gain market share in this $310 billion import market for years. And, therein lies new jobs, new industries, and new innovations waiting to be unleashed—a reality that points to one mistakable truth:

o The economic and innovative growth of tomorrow cannot take root in the infrastructure of yesterday.

And so, that’s why we applaud the work of the U.S. House of Representatives in passing legislation just a few days ago that would repeal the applicability of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Russia and allow the United States to extend permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to the country. Not only will this open the floodgates for increased trade and investment opportunities, but it will also ensure that global competition occurs on a more even playing field in the 21st century.

And, if the Senate acts swiftly to do to the same, we’ll be able to embark upon a new era of partnership with Russia. One where we honor the same commitments to transparency, trade rights, and accountability – as principal pillars in our bond with one another.

So with the right global framework in place, we recognize that there is an extraordinary potential for increased cooperation between Americans and Russians.

As the President once noted, we can pursue trade that is free and fair and integrated with the wider world. We can boost investments that create jobs in both our countries, we can forge partnerships on energy that tap not only traditional resources, like oil and gas, but new sources of energy that will drive growth and combat climate change.

All of that, Americans and Russians can do together.

Now, we know that central governments can promote this sort of cooperation, but ultimately individuals must advance these collaborations. And the greatest resources of any nation are the individuals on the local level: individuals in the boardrooms and the classrooms, in the city council chambers and the state assemblies; individuals who are assessing the needs of local stakeholders, individuals who are right here in this room, implementing policies that capture the values of local governments, and individuals who are enacting practical solutions to challenges, when central governments are eclipsed by too much gridlock to act.

These are the members of society that guide the destiny of civilization.

And though central governments of nation-states will always be looked upon to tackle pressing challenges of our time—more often than not, individuals on the ground—who striking up partnerships with fellow community members, bridging divides across state lines, and experimenting with new ideas—are the ones that change communities.

And that’s particularly critical because – beyond just a philosophical discussion about regional governments versus national governments – facilitating “subnational” action allows nations to tee up creative ideas to global problems on a regional level, by encouraging localities to work with another. And, furthermore it can inspire hope in other localities, in opposite corners of the world, to observe how communities are working to stimulate innovation, devise alternative energy solutions, or build out their infrastructure—when a central government is unable or unwilling to act on a national or global scale.

It’s that very ethos of regional action that is defining a new era of 21st Century Statecraft. One where a local civic leader in Russia, looking to establish environmental protections while not forgoing financial revenue for a community, can take note from a U.S. mayor who is working with his or her city council to enact new forms of carbon off-sets.

It’s an era where the Governor of Sao Paolo, Brazil can exchange best practices with the Governor of California, when it comes to building out new innovation clusters that will attract investments in the medical device space.

It’s an era, where academics, businesses, and local legislators from Bangalore, India can convene with their counterparts from Boston, Massachusetts to assess new ways to facilitate economic cooperation—even without a central government trade mission.

Under the innovative leadership of Secretary Clinton and the State Department’s Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs—we have broken new ground on the frontier of interregional cooperation.

And so from India to Brazil to Russia – subnational engagement has fast become a substantial stimulus for economic modernization in areas where traditional forums have been unable to act. Particularly, in an age of rapid globalization, where anyone with an internet connection can revolutionize the business, cultural, or social landscape with an idea—it is vital that we work towards leveraging those ideas through new nodes of engagement and by facilitating new platforms to confront challenges of our time through nontraditional means.

And when you can introduce a young council member in one part of the world, to another mayor in the United States or another part of the world – it’s astonishing to see how both instinctively want to forge bonds in tackling issues that are undoubtedly plaguing all of their communities—despite being oceans apart.

It’s that firm commitment to humanity, and problem solving, that allows bonds to be forged among countries, beyond traditional diplomatic cables – eclipsing histories of tension or conflict, for a new era of strength in virtue, in numbers, and in partnerships of empathy or understanding.

In fact, just this past July, I was able to see the extraordinary desire for subnational engagement on display, when I visited cities and oblasts throughout the Russia. From Moscow and St. Petersburg, to Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok—there was a pulsating energy for new partnerships to be forged in the United States; for mayors to meet other mayors to discuss best practices in areas ranging from commerce to education; and for local chambers of commerce to have new inroads with their cohorts, to expand possibilities of growth.

And through meetings with the Russian Minister of Regional Development, representatives of regional and local governments, and consultations with thought leaders in Russia’s business and academic communities—we were able to chart a roadmap forward; one that would breathe new life in the U.S. Russia subnational effort, and offer a new era of opportunity. The U.S.-Russia Joint Statement on Strengthening Interregional Cooperation is the direct result of this engagement—and in all the years of the storied history we share, it marks the first time, that young leaders of a country—undoubtedly the future faces of both of our countries—willingly wanted to carve out a new destiny in their relations with the United States. One where communities could interface with a nation in discussing preeminent issues of our time, and not just leave the action to either of our nation’s capitals.

That’s why the signing of the U.S.-Russian Joint Statement on Interregional Cooperation agreement in Vladivostok in September was particularly noteworthy. The Joint Statement helps bring the full suite of federal resources, dedicated to facilitating commerce, culture, and growth – to a local level. That means our local mayors and governors in the United States can bring the insights of the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and yes our own Commerce Department to bear when discussing how to go about increasing greater opportunities for trade and investment with Russia.

It means that the Governor of Maryland can engage in a judicial exchange with the Leningrad Oblast with more ease—facilitating a dialogue where justices can discuss key trends shaping the legal landscape and best practices in evaluating competing statutes.

It means the full weight of the U.S. Government.

It means that the Governor of Colorado can lead a delegation of staff throughout different parts of Russia, to assess how different regions are balancing natural resource investments in an era of tighter economic means.

Ultimately, this form of engagement not only breaks new ground for American civic diplomacy, but it also establishes new inroads of cultural diplomacy where businesses, universities, think tanks, and state and local leaders are able to better understand the cornerstones of Russian values and American values.

By encouraging business to partner with one another; by encouraging leaders to talk with one another; and by exchange values throughout our campuses—we’re able to use subnational engagement as a vehicle that seeds more opportunity.

And that is particularly important because there is the 20th century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another. And there is a 19th century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another.

We know these assumptions are wrong. In 2012, we are learning from each other. And when we empower the 50 United States to embark upon new partnerships with 83 Russian oblasts—and when we invite that cooperation to engage the numerous industries with vested interest in both countries—the permutations and combinations of opportunity are boundless.

So when Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov signed the Joint Statement on Strengthening Interregional Cooperation, it signaled a new era of government engagement where state and local leaders with inventive ideas and unchartered relationships on a local level can be one of the hallmarks of our diplomacy.

That’s what these local dialogues are all about. And that’s what this State Department and this Administration have been able to accomplish through cooperative partnerships in some of the world’s most rapidly developing nations.

We’re proud of the strides we’ve made in this unchartered territory of 21st century diplomacy, but we’re not just here to pat ourselves on the back.

While there is great hope for multilateral engagement—in order to make multi-regional engagement a mechanism of growth—we must continue to cull qualitative and quantitative data that paints a clearer picture of how regional governments can collaborate to tackle common challenges. That means we need to continue looking to economists and think tanks like this Institute to evaluate how interregional relations can enable countries and their economies to flourish. By building specific metrics that measure the success of such growth, we’ll be able to better determine where new on-ramps can be built, and how to fertilize existing relationships that work.

Moreover, we need to find additional ways to align the full suite of federal and local investment resources when regional entities want to do business across borders. Currently, the United States operates from a perspective that everyone wants to do business with us – but in that pursuit the onus is on us to make sure that it’s easier to engage such business prospects. That means that as we bring down borders between localities, and it means ensuring that business and exporters of all sizes have the tools necessary to maximally facilitate inbound and outbound investments.

And finally, we need to build upon existing bilateral relationships—that occur at the central government level—by infusing an ethic of “subnational engagement” to all future dialogues. Only then can we ensure that this interregional mentality is able to successfully penetrate the mentality of traditional statecraft and diplomacy for the 21st century.

As we just bore witness to a decidedly, tough election here in the United States, we’re all keenly aware of the powerful role people have in shaping the values and systems of a generation. But the onus is on us to now harness that collective voice, and leverage its prowess to get things done even when the nation as a whole is unable to act. It’s a truth as old as both of our nations itself: individuals on a regional level get to decide what comes next and they also get a lot of things done.

Individuals and regions get to choose where change will take us. That is the source of power in this century.

Every country charts its own course, but as the United States and Russia move forward, let’s refuse to be burdened by the old obstacles and old suspicions; and let’s instead embrace a world where we are protected, enlarged, and empowered by one another. That is the new era of our relationship, and that is the level on which the next great chapters of growth will be written. Thank you very much.