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The future of commercial diplomacy


By Dr. Huub RuëlWindesheim University of Applied Sciences – Zwolle.  

The future of commercial diplomacy in shifting global economy.

Advanced economies as well as emerging economies have placed commercial diplomacy high on their foreign policy agenda. Commercial diplomacy concerns the use of the networks of government and business representatives to support home country international business via the use of diplomatic channels and means. Embassies are key players in the execution of commercial diplomacy.

For many advanced economies, promoting home country business abroad, opening foreign markets for national business, and attracting foreign investments, is an important route to regain economic growth. Especially in a global economy with a shifting power balance, and emerging economies showing more and more economic self-confidence. Within this context it is interesting to know how the future of commercial diplomacy may look like?

We conducted a study aiming to picture future developments in commercial diplomacy. A group of thirteen commercial diplomats from 10 different countries, Argentina, Germany, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, United States, Canada, Mexico, and The Netherlands, all based in Canada, were interviewed in two rounds on the future of commercial diplomacy. The first round concerned open questions on expected developments regarding commercial diplomacy actors and activities. In the second round, the experts completed a questionnaire, in which they rated the developments mentioned in the first round with the use of a 5-point Likert scale.

The results showed that commercial diplomats interviewed expect that 1. actors will have to work faster, more professionally and efficiently in the future; 2. prominent political figures will be heading trade missions more often; 3. locally hired staff will substitute for diplomats more; 4. foreign ministers’ interest in commercial diplomacy will increase further; 5. Asia will become increasingly important as a region of interest for actors.

Concerning the activities of commercial diplomacy, the respondents expect that 1. commercial diplomacy will have a more central role in diplomatic policy and practice; 2. higher service levels will be expected if there are fees for the services; 3. commercial benefit will become a necessity of all embassy-wide activities; 4. Asia is becoming more important as a region of interest for activities; 5. the recession will lead to assigning priority to commercial diplomacy as a specific form of diplomacy.

The results provide indications for foreign policy makers in advanced economies as well as emerging economies.

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