The students of Utah Valley University had the opportunity to participate in the 2nd annual UVU diplomatic conference on international trade relations. This event is the only type of its kind at academic institutions in the United States, thus why it was an amazing opportunity for students, such as myself, at Utah Valley University. The Plenary session began with a statement by President Holland where he addressed the vision of engaged learning, and the goal that UVU has as an institution where learning is taken beyond the classroom.
Following President Holland, the Lieutenant Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, addressed the audience, explaining why Utah is a prime area for both domestic and foreign direct investment. Citing Utah as the 2nd most diverse economy, the 2nd highest birth rate, and the 9th fastest rate of in-migration in the United States; Lieutenant Governor Cox explained that the explosion of growth and strong Utah economy have put Utah as one of the top places to invest in the United States. He also explained that dual language immersion and the strong presence of missionaries that can speak a second language creates a strong culture in Utah where refugees and immigrants are welcomes and loved. The most important statistic according to Mr. Cox, is that Utah leads the nation in service preformed and charitable donations given. Mr. Cox explained that one of the reasons for Utah’s globalized economy is the high standards that the state has for the businesses that work inside the state boundaries. Mr. Cox explained that the government is not able to solve all problems, but that through service we can fill in those gaps.
The next person to address the congregation was the Regional Director for Global Relations in the State Department, Christina Hernandez. She addressed the 106 diplomatic missions with businesses in Utah, California, Nevada, and Arizona. She explained that trade relationships and tourism are critical in the economy of Utah. Lastly, she cited exchange programs between other nations and Utah as a catalyst in building relationships with other countries.
The following speaker in the plenary session was Jackie Biskupski, the current mayor of Salt Lake City. Citing that she had just returned from the 2ND annual Women4Climate Summit C40 in Mexico, she addressed the importance of balancing economic growth with strong maintenance of enviromental sustainability. She states that the word “sustainability” means we are doing everything within lens of equality and fairness. She explained that true sustainability means that we do everything we can to fairly distribute of resources to everyone, everywhere, in an equal way. She also stated that the city of Salt Lake intends to continue to build the resiliency of natural resources in Utah to promote mountain sustainability. Addressing one of Salt Lake City’s biggest problems, Mayor Biskupski stated that Salt Lake City is dedicated to reduce emissions from typical sources of pollution. Utah has been warming at twice the rate as the rest of the globe and continues to raise in temperature as more people move to Utah and thus increase the pollution and emissions. Salt Lake City intends to address these problems through a variety of city ordinances that target clean idling, maintaining fleets of 200 alternative energy cars, constructing 2 fire stations with net zero emissions, as well as acting and leading as stewards of resources in designing infrastructure and promoting positive sustainability practices within the state government. She then ended her presentation, citing that sustainability and economic growth are intertwined and connected.
Next to address in the Plenary Session was a representative of Utah’s World Trade Center, Suzette Alles. She began her presentation by citing that the state of Utah has been cited as a top preforming economy, the best economy overall, and best state for business in the United States. She also highlighted the purpose of the World Trade Center, to promote prosperity across the state by attracting investment and increasing exports outside the state. Citing the 95% of consumers that live outside the U.S. and the 1.5 billion in the growing global middle class, Ms. Alles addressed the importance of increasing Utah’s exports of primary metals, computers, chemicals, transportation equipment, and food to the rest of the world. She discussed how the WTC gives grants and invitations to attend trade shows in various locations to help local businesses foster international connections with a global economy. She finished her presentation by explained the WTC’s role in promoting foreign direct investment, which has yielded 500 international employers, 42,000 jobs, and 60% higher wages than the states average. She explained Utah’s valuable position as a state that builds bridges and expands global connections.
The final speaker in the Plenary Session was Meghan Stettler, the Director of Public Affairs and Communication for the Governor’s Office of Energy Development. She stated that the three policy initiatives of the Office of Energy Development are: policy and planning, industry assistance, a d education and outreach in K-12 programs and lessons. Citing the 20-billion-dollar industry of energy, the 50,000 high paying jobs, and the 10% of energy that comes from renewable resources Ms. Stettler explained that it is a top priority of the Governor’s office to develop renewable resources in the State of Utah.
The Plenary session was all about the importance of sustainability and economic growth in the state of Utah. I enjoyed the presentations about how those two ideas are inter-connected. I think that this summit was important because it highlighted the importance of sustainability and economic development in mountainous communities. I believe that the model of development in Utah can have far-reaching implications for all mountainous communities.
UVU Diplomatic Trade Conference: Breakout Sessions
After the initial plenary session, the delegates from different countries split into two different breakout sessions. The breakout session that I attended encompassed representatives from the countries of Spain, Romania, UK, Vietnam, and Ghana. The first question addressed to delegates was the concept of trade barriers in the global economies. The delegates from Romania and Spain strongly contested the idea of trade barriers that prevent a true free and open market. The representative of Spain was passionate in his rhetoric that protectionism and trade barriers is the root cause of the decline of many world economies. The representative of Vietnam was the next to speak, addressing the importance of the World Trade Organization in managing and combating protectionism and trade wars. The next to address the assembled delegation was the representative of Ghana who stated that trade barriers prevent multilateral trade agreements, upon which the land-locked nation of Ghana depends upon. He states that protectionism would disallow competitiveness in the African economy. Finally, the Consul General of Spain highlighted that the reason that Spain has survived many economic crises because 70% of business in the country is international business and does not on local economy resiliency. He argued that the United States will be the first loser if this country continues after policy of isolationism.
The next topic addressed was about sustainability and gender equality. The representative stated that Vietnam intends to look at the Utah model as a model for energy sustainability and principles of gender equality. Spain, owing to the lack of connectiveness to the rest of Europe, has designed a model of clean and renewable energies. The representative of Romania followed by explaining that energy is a national security issue, and that we should treat energy infrastructure development as a high priority of development. Various diplomats also addressed looking to Utah as a model of controlling and helping immigrant populations.
The final part of the breakout session addressed how we, as future American diplomats, can differ ourselves from past diplomats. The representative of the UK addressed the importance of digital diplomacy and how we can use social media to amplify our political message. The representative of Vietnam explained the need to travel as much as you can to experience life from every corner of the world and thus be able to respect people regardless of race, color, and gender. He explained that open-minded diplomatic thinking will lead to an open attitude. The representative of Ghana invited everyone to learn about other cultures and to interact who people that are different than you to go beyond what one sees on television. The representative of Spain explained that the best job in the world is serving your country. He argued that even if you do not agree with polices that your government holds, as a diplomat you have the right and responsibility to make moves to influence and change those attitudes. He also explained that diplomacy can help one to better understand the world around them. The representative of Romania explained that reaching compromise through negotiation is the art of diplomacy. He stated that our priority is to promote and provide peace. Diplomacy is about negotiation and loving your country. He stated that we should not be different from older American diplomats, but we must learn from them. The representative of Peru explained that your perspective of life will change as career diplomat, and that as he has come to know people and understand different customs, it has served him in a great manner. Finally, the representative of Spain stated that we must always give diplomacy a chance, no matter what the world may say, diplomacy is always the right way to go.
Andrew Jensen, member, Sustainable Mountain Development Club at UVU
STUDENT REFLECTIVE ESSAYS