Local foreign consulates and business

Local foreign consulates and business

Yesterday I published Part 1 of 3 very basic tools for businesses wanting to benefit from the presence of the foreign consulates in their communities. This is Part 2 and it covers what some consider the most important aspect of how local consuls can be of assistance on the road to a global economy.

Understand consular functions. History shows that the traditional duties of consuls were mainly in industries like shipping and aviation, but today’s consuls are charged with a much broader task: “the development of commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations” between their countries and the communities where they are authorized to function. This has led to an expansion into such fast-evolving areas as investment banking, IT, and biotechnology, to mention just a few.

Clearly, consular functions don’t lend themselves to a quick and easy description. This may lead to confusion about how a local consul can be of assistance. Some foreign consuls have expressed amazement over how little is generally known about their functional responsibilities. Like one of them said, “Do your homework first.” This includes, among many other things, knowing the physical boundaries of a particular consulate. For instance, some consuls in Atlanta have jurisdiction throughout the hosting state of Georgia whereas others cover areas extending to neighboring states like Florida and the Carolinas. Make sure inquiries aren’t dead on arrival in the wrong office.

Stories abound about businessmen seeking economic or commercial opportunities in the consul’s country without any previous research on the country or its local representative. A modicum of knowledge about something seemingly insignificant as consular titles and ranks (e.g., consul general or consul?) can also establish credibility on part of business executives and launch their inquiries on the path to success.

It’s also worth pointing out that when it comes to functions the international consular treaty does not distinguish between honorary and career consuls, although the outcome of commercial inquiries will depend on such factors as the financial resources and personal engagement of the former group.

Finally, although a consul’s representation duties are not among the formal consular functions fine-tuned by time and law, such social venues as athletic, high-society, and other social events can often be the beginning of a desired business relationship. Use all the tools in your consular tool box to approach them.

Above all, know the functions of your local consuls!