Briefing on US Government Advocacy

The Advocacy Center helps US companies bidding on public-sector contracts overseas

By Christ Ponderosa
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The US Commercial Service in Jakarta held an information session introducing how the US government can support US companies in competitive procurements overseas. The Advocacy Center’s Regional Manager, Jason Evans delivered a short briefing, which was then followed by a Q&A session at the February 13 meeting.

The Advocacy Center, as part of the US Commercial Service, is determined to help ensure a level playing field for US exporters to compete for specific international contracts or export opportunities, said Evans.

Working closely with commercial offices within US diplomatic missions in eighty countries, the Advocacy Center coordinates interagency advocacy efforts on behalf of individual US exporters involved in the bidding process on public-sector contracts with foreign governments.

“The advocacy process is usually a long one,” said Evans, “starting with the client completing a questionnaire about the proposed project.”

This continues with the signing of an anti-bribery agreement, after which the center carries out its due diligence to ensure the project is aligned with US national interests. When these preliminary stages are passed, the center will then propose an advocacy strategy, which – upon the client’s approval – will then be translated into coordination and action.

Evans said the Advocacy Center conducts government-to-government advocacy, and the message relayed is typically addressed to the advocating official’s direct counterpart. For instance, advocacy conducted by a senior commercial officer is addressed to staff level decision makers and sub-cabinet officials, while messages relayed by the ambassador are addressed to ministers and cabinet-level officials. The advocacy can also involve US cabinet secretaries, and even the president.

The advocacy can take one or more of the following forms: official correspondence, focused meetings, in-person advocacy, talking points in bilateral meetings, dialogue and meetings at multilateral events.

The Advocacy Center encourages transparency and fairness in the foreign government procurement process, and helps in countering foreign political influences.

The center has commercial service liaisons to five multilateral development banks – the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - to help US exporters competing for bank tenders.

In its advocacy within the Asia-Pacific region, the center has a wide reach with 420 currently open cases covering approximately $320 billion in potential goods and services. Created in 1993 and based in Washington, DC, the center has allocated five of its 20 staff for the region.

With the region a key market for advocacy, the center has deep portfolios – covering aviation, defense, energy and power, infrastructure and transportation, information and communications technology (ICT), and healthcare. It has scored 110 “wins” amounting to $53 billion worth of US export content since 2012.

While the center usually conducts executive advocacy for each of its clients (ie, one client’s case is considered a specific project), a single advocacy project can also involve multiple clients if businesses come together to form their own consortium. However, the responsibility to initiate the consortium falls on the businesses’ shoulders, because the center has a non-disclosure policy between clients, even for clients with similar interests.

Evans ended the briefing by encouraging US companies to contact the Advocacy Center “early and often when pursuing foreign business opportunities”.

For more information on the Advocacy Center, please visit www.export.gov/advocacy, or call +1 (202) 482-3896.

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