(From the chapter on consuls and business):

“Although there are still degrees of a top-down authoritarian arrangement between some consular offices, there’s also evidence of a certain amount of disengagement because the way new trade and investment opportunities are developed has changed.

As the important economic zones throughout our country vary from industry to industry (think Chicago for commodities and Silicone Valley for IT), these regional divisions have often resulted in consuls functioning on a micro-level so that commercial initiatives have become independent of the superior office. If a consul in, say, Kentucky wants to—or has been asked to—help initiate a cooperative venture between executives of a local investment banking firm and the consul’s government officials he’s likely to set the proposal in motion, and even lead it to its conclusion, without asking for authorization from a superior office that may be located as far away as Los Angeles or New York City. Of course, much depends on allocated resources and any specific instructions from the sending or appointing state.

Today’s local consuls are open to new alliances. They are often able and willing to be first responders to matters ranging from the usual trade inquiries (both from locals seeking to do business in the consul’s country, and from people overseas who seek trade leads in the consular area) to expressed desires for direct investment contacts in either direction. Also, consuls usually have enough knowledge of local or state government regulations (or know where to get the information) affecting business in whatever forms it may take.

Then, there are consuls-general in major cities, like those just mentioned, who have jurisdiction over the whole country, not because they necessarily wish to have such geographically extensive functions but because their territory is set when the office is initially approved by the U.S. State Department. On the other hand, the functional authority of many consuls who are located in the capital of one of our states may only cover parts of or the whole state, sometimes extending into neighboring ones. This arrangement is usually not obvious to the public.

An understanding of the overall consular hierarchy and the assigned functions of a particular office will facilitate all trade and commercial inquiries. As the consul-general of a major foreign nation said to me just before this publication went to print, “We expect you to do your homework before.”

In the same interview I learned consuls from that country, who are spread throughout the United States, are specifically tasked with being active advocates for trade. Interestingly, the same consul-general volunteered that even those who serve in an honorary position are expected to have their main focus on commercial activities. But, as we’ll see in Chapter 9, honorary consuls aren’t always motivated or capable of fulfilling this charge.

Give it the old consul try

When trying to position the local economy in the global market place, some community officials will actively solicit for the establishment of a new consulate. Elsewhere in the book I give the example with visionaries in …”