Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 | 2:02 a.m.
The past few years haven’t been easy for Nevada’s economy, families and businesses. But one bright spot on the horizon is the rapid growth in international trade and exports. In just the first half of last year, exports by Nevada businesses shot up 20 percent, creating over 3,300 new jobs in our state. Our local businesses are selling their products overseas, especially in fast-growing markets, and we are seeing the economic benefits here at home.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, “Enterprising States-Recovery and Renewal for the 21st Century,” ranked Nevada No. 1 in both export intensity growth and export growth, and ninth in growth in its share of national exports. Exports are clearly a key component of Nevada’s economic recovery, and we have to stay ahead of the curve in an interconnected world. For Nevada, there is no doubt that engaging in today’s global marketplace is essential for our local economy.
Although we come from different political parties, both of us want to keep our economy growing and strengthen our nation’s security. From our collective experience, we know the best way to do this is supporting a strong and effective federal international affairs budget.
Contrary to common perceptions, the United States spends only 1 percent of our budget on our civilian international affairs programs, yet they pay big dividends for our state. Nearly one in five jobs in Nevada depends on trade, and close to half of U.S. exports go to the developing world — a number that grows each year. In this economy, the stakes are too high and we cannot afford not to invest in these programs.
Recently, more than 50 business leaders from throughout the country wrote an open letter to members of Congress, saying “The trade and export promotion programs funded by the international affairs budget are essential to expanding U.S. activity in new and emerging markets.”
What businesses know is that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States. If we want to grow our economy and continue to be competitive in the global marketplace, we must do everything we can to develop new markets for our goods and services, and the international affairs programs help U.S. businesses do just that.
It’s about more than jobs and our economy, though, as the international affairs budget protects our national security. Nevada is home to nearly 250,000 military veterans, and these brave men and women can all attest we face complex new threats today that require the use of a range of foreign policy tools, including our development and diplomatic operations alongside defense.
This small investment funds counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, works to prevent conflicts in hot spots before they even occur, and builds infrastructure to support stable societies and fight poverty and disease, both of which can cause instability and extremism.
One of the biggest proponents of the international affairs budget is former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who has said time and again that “without development, we will not be successful in either Iraq or Afghanistan.” He regularly points out that there aren’t enough foreign services officers to crew even one aircraft carrier.
If there is a cost-effective way to keep our soldiers out of harm’s way and prevent conflicts from even occurring, why would we not want to make that investment? Our development and diplomatic operations do just that, and we need to provide them with the proper resources and support.
Our leaders in Washington are facing a lot of tough choices these days to get our fiscal house in order, but it would be pound foolish and penny wise to do this at the risk of our economy and national security. As Nevada works to climb out of this recession, a strong and effective international affairs budget is a crucial investment for Nevada’s future.
Richard Bryan, a Democrat, was a member of the U.S. Senate and governor of Nevada. Frank Fahrenkopf, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. They co-chair the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Nevada State Advisory Committee.