A Global ‘State’ of Mind: Help from an Unexpected Resource

by Melissa Sanderson

Department_of_stateYouthful populations and burgeoning middle classes, from Pacific nations and the African continent to China, offer unprecedented opportunities for growth and profit for enterprising U.S. companies.

As a businessperson, you already know that knowledge is power, and research is key to successful start-up and market growth. What if there were a free resource that can be invaluable in helping you make the initial choice to go global, and help along the way?

This invaluable resource is www.state.gov. The website, the portal to the U.S. Department of State, can provide you enough “one-stop” information to decide whether a specific country offers enough potential to merit either additional research through specialized services such as the U.S. Commercial Service (with offices in Phoenix and Tucson) or perhaps a fact-finding visit to the country in question.

Here are a few examples of the sort of information available at the State website:

From the main page, click on the “Countries and Regions” tab and select either a region (South and Central Asia, for instance) or a specific country (India, say). This will bring you to the latest policy developments with the region/country of interest — for instance, if the U.S. is negotiating a free trade or other special arrangement with the country or region in question, or if there are specific issues of concern such as territorial disputes that could affect investment.

Once you select a specific country, you will be directed to a fact sheet with the latest information on U.S. relations with that country, statements by the ambassador, and be led to a link with the U.S. Embassy webpage for that country, with further information and live links to various offices in the embassy (Ambassador, Economic or Political offices), where often you can make contact with an embassy officer working in the country, to whom you could pose questions. The country link also can direct you to the CIA World Factbook information on the country, which is a great source of historical and actual information to further enrich your research.

On the State website, you also can access useful annual reports such as the Investment Climate Statement, which provides in-depth information on doing business in specific countries, including links to local lawyers recommended by the embassy to help U.S. companies navigate local legal labyrinths. In addition, there are the annual Human Rights and Religious Freedom statements, which help you better understand any country’s attitudes and behaviors toward others; special links deal with women’s issues as well.

Finally, at the State site you also can discover the latest on trade agreements and, very importantly, you can receive the latest travel updates and alerts for the region or country in which you are interested. You can also register your trip. This is essential for any traveler, whether on business or pleasure. Registering allows the embassy in the area you are going to find you in case of emergency and, if needed, to provide assistance. Remember, if the embassy doesn’t know you’re in-country, they can’t help you in a crisis.

As a former diplomat, I admit I’m prejudiced as pro-State, but I do think that the State Department is an often-overlooked but extraordinary resource for U.S. entrepreneurs looking to grow globally. Good luck!

Melissa Sanderson is the VP of International at Freeport-McMoRan.

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