Business Beyond the Reef had an interesting post recently - about a Direct Line to contact U.S.Ambassadors for business needs for U.S. businesses and traders. A program of the U.S. Department of State Direct Line's objective is explained in their website thus:
"The Direct Line program provides a unique opportunity for American businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises, to engage directly via teleconference with U.S. Ambassadors overseas. The program is open to American companies which are already in the country where the Ambassador serves or which are interested in expanding their businesses into those countries. Calls will vary in topic according to the specific needs for business in a given country. Tell us about your experience with Direct Line using #DirectLine on Twitter."
This is an interesting concept wherein business interests are promoted by diplomatic personnel overseas. National interests and domestic business interests coalesce. The U.S. administration seeks opportunities for its domestic trade interests overseas in terms of market access and other opportunities. It is a classic example of multiple stakeholders seeking to push forth what is perceived to them in "national interest".
Is such an arrangement possible in developing countries? Can bureaucracies in these countries project and pursue domestic business interests in foreign lands? Traditionally and historically, government and business in developing countries have not had the easiest of relationships? Should this change in globalized times where national interest is often seen as domestic trade interests? However, there is a difference between pursuing genuine national business interests and crony business interests abroad. While the former may be a wise national development strategy, the latter would be disastrous. To tread that line would also require a clear understanding, mandate and clarity of purpose.