There’s a time-honored saying that any state legislator knows well: “All politics is local.” It remains true today. As a community, we need to remain focused on what keeps our local economy prosperous and our cities like Atlanta safe and secure. It turns out that international trade and development does just that.
In Georgia, we understand the value of having international trading partners and stability in global markets. Georgia exported $28.7 billion in merchandise to foreign markets in 2010. With companies like Coca-Cola and Delta based right here in Atlanta, contributing tens of thousands of jobs to our local economy, we need to make sure that Georgia’s business community has access to the worldwide marketplace – much of which exists in developing countries. Georgians have seen firsthand the growth and job creation that results from working in the global economy; in 2010, the state increased its share of total U.S. foreign exports by nearly one-quarter compared to the previous year.
What’s more, it’s not just the big businesses that benefit from global trade. Our small and medium-sized businesses here in Atlanta stand to gain just as much from working with our international partners. In 2008, 10,000 companies exported goods from Georgia. Of these, 87% were small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Our fastest growing and most profitable industries are those that engage with international business partners to foster mutually beneficial economic opportunities. It’s a simple truth: if we stay on the porch, we’ll miss out on the parade. We need to look outward to keep jobs here at home.
International development creates more than economic benefits for our local communities; it also contributes to our safety and security.
With American troops being drawn down in Afghanistan, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the restoration of Iraq’s independence, the U.S. is not just ending our decade-long wars in the Middle East. It’s following a successful roadmap.
After World War II, America understood that international development—roads and schools, not tanks and howitzers—was key to our national security. We rebuilt Europe and Japan, turning the countries that had previously been our mortal enemies into our closest partners. Today, those same countries are America’s strongest allies in the global economy and in our fight to keep America safe. Just recently, President Obama imposed the strongest-ever sanctions on Iran and was joined by an unprecedented coalition of allies. Today, Iran’s currency has dropped by more than 40%, and nearly $60 billion in energy projects in Iran have been lost.
International development programs assist other nations in building prosperity, establishing responsible, transparent governments, and developing quality education for their children. Development is not charity, but a long-term investment in global stability that keeps Americans safe.
International development, such as building roads, water treatment plants, and schools is much cheaper than sending soldiers abroad or dealing with the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Here in Atlanta, we know that after-school programs for kids can keep them from joining gangs and entering a life of crime. In places like the Horn of Africa, building schools keeps those kids from joining Al Qaeda and entering a life of terrorism.
The future presents daunting challenges, but as Americans we have the ability, more than anyone else in the world, to shape the course of the 21st century. Let’s honor the legacy of our grandparents by following their example, investing in international development to maintain global stability and keep America safe.
International Development Makes US Strong. To learn more, I invite you to attend a Cycle for Security Reception tonight.
Scott Holcomb represents District 82 (which includes Tucker) in the Georgia House of Representatives where he serves on the Defense and Veterans Affairs, Public Safety and Homeland Security, and Children and Youth Committees. Rep. Holcomb is a Truman Project Security Fellow.