The ambassadors roam the world from corner to corner, carrying the flag of their beloved country, serving its foreign policy, and building coalitions with host countries. Over time, the profession has changed in nature, moving from the role of gentlemen-ambassador to something more dynamic. An example of this change was witnessed at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as envoys swiftly moved into place to serve and protect the very lives of their citizenry.
At the outbreak of the pandemic, diplomats from around the world utilised their power to return hundreds of thousands of citizens to their home countries despite air restrictions and international border lockdowns. In the following months, diplomatic interventions were necessary to maintain the flow of global supply chains and to facilitate cooperation between countries to ensure the import and export of desperately needed ventilators, testing equipment and PPE.
The race for a potential COVID-19 vaccine provides a new wrinkle as countries compete to develop a preventive substance to boost national recovery and chances for long-term virus protection. Certainly, the post-pandemic world will also be faced with significant challenges amid an inevitable global recession. While nations work to rebound within their own borders, diplomats will be working abroad to reconnect countries as the world once again moves from nationalism to internationalism. These contemporary challenges raise a fundamental question about the future roles of diplomats as they work to not only protect their countries, but how can diplomats best manage such multilateral roles while carving out a new diplomatic path.
Economic recovery strategies must be at the heart of all domestic and foreign policy to enable shorter recessions and to ensure resilience amid future crisis.
The Congressional Research Service of the United States government issued a study projecting the aftermath of the virus. However, the full impact of the pandemic will remain ambiguous until the time that it ends. A reduction in economic growth is expected in the range of 3.0% to 6:0% in 2020. This implication suggests a high risk of global recession and unemployment numbers not witnessed since the Great Depression of the 1930s. An alarming fall by 13% to 32% is expected in global trade, depending on the depth and extent of the global economic downturn. The heaviest economic toll will impact trade-dependent, developing and emerging economies.
A crucial component of foreign policy
Looking back across history, particularly since the end of the Second World War, economic diplomacy has become a crucial component of foreign policy, enabling nations to build international coalitions and forge peaceful relationships during the emergence of a global economy. With the development of advanced technologies, such as automobiles and aviation, global trade took on a new life and began to rise once again.
Today, with a worldwide economy highly integrated within a globalised system, we cannot neglect the strong ties between economic policy and international relations, which ultimately translate through a nation’s foreign policy. Economic diplomacy is a distinct component in overall diplomacy that offers a unique approach to decision-making and negotiation on mainstream economic topics. The scope of economic diplomacy includes the primary international economic activities of a country, including policies pertaining to exports, imports, investments, lending, aid and free trade agreements.
Economic diplomacy helps countries recover from financial crisis by strengthening international coalitions and advancing policies designed to bestow mutually beneficial economic security. The creation of new markets generates job security and income diversification.
Going forth, economic diplomacy must meet uncertain challenges while attempting to reconfigure a post-COVID economy, particularly in terms of international trade, as we witness a resurgence of nationalism as a side effect of the pandemic. Economic recovery for individual countries should be assisted by taking proactive approaches on the international level. Another challenge to be met is building necessary capabilities and equipping qualified diplomats with relevant know-how. Diplomats, namely those sent abroad with an economic agenda, must be provided with thorough training in relevant economic and trade areas.
The pandemic has turned up the heat on all systems, whether political, economic, or social. Economic recovery strategies must be at the heart of all domestic and foreign policy to enable shorter recessions and to ensure resilience amid future crisis.
— Ruqayya Alblooshi is a UAE columnist and researcher in International Relations.