Prague, April, 4 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Commerce Secretary
Ronald H. Brown was an artful practioner of "commercial diplomacy" -
putting the weight of the federal government behind American
businesses seeking overseas contracts.
Yet, his tragic mission to the Balkans was more than trying to help
U.S. corporations get their share of the pie. It was to assess the
financial needs of the war-torn region and eventually develop a
long-range business plan. Just like drawing up a business plan for a
startup company. Its purpose was to pump enough money into the
troubled region so neighbors would care more about holding down jobs
than fighting each other.
It was and remains to be a tricky task.
It is hard to imagine that the General Motors and Sonys of the world
would invest in Bosnia the large sums of money needed to manufacture
automobiles and television sets. Capital, after all, goes where the
rewards are the greatest and the risks the least.
So, it is up to governments and government-sponsored financial
institutions to make investments attractive - whether it is in the
Balkans, Somalia or Haiti. This can be done a number of ways such as
through tax breaks, loan guarantees, low-interest loans and grants.
And then the contracts would start rolling in.
Brown, who was killed in a plane crash near Dubrovnik, Croatia,
yesterday, recently estimated that there are 5,000 million dollars
worth of reconstruction projects needed to be undertaken in Bosnia
during the next three to four years.
He said, "Just as we took the lead in the peace process, we need to
show the way in rebuilding from the ruins of the war." Brown added,
pointedly, "And I want American companies to get their share of those
It seems the American companies were ready - if not to invest at
this stage to at least look and listen. There were a number of top
U.S. executives traveling on Brown's airplane.
Brown was proud of his role in trying to bring peace to troubled
Just before undertaking his mission, Brown - a confidant of the
president of the United States - said he was trying to use
commercial diplomacy "to move towards long-term peace and stability"
in the Balkans.
It will be left to someone else now to complete this task.