What is the Advocacy Center?
The Advocacy Center is a unit of the Global Markets section of the International Trade Administration , an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Advocacy Center coordinates U.S. Government (USG) resources and authorities in order to level the playing field for U.S. businesses as they compete against foreign firms for international public contracts, both civilian and defense. The Advocacy Center prioritizes advocacy cases and coordinates commercial advocacy across the government on behalf of U.S. exporters, bidding on public-sector contracts with overseas governments and government agencies. Since its inception, the Advocacy Center has helped hundreds of U.S. companies of all sizes in various industry sectors win government contracts around the world.
What is USG Advocacy?
USG Advocacy is a government-to-government activity. It presents a counterweight to foreign government political pressure and is intended to promote fairness in the tender process, which is the process whereby governments and financial institutions invite bids for large projects. The Advocacy Center works very closely with the U.S. Commercial Service network of domestic Export Assistance Centers and Commercial Offices within U.S. diplomatic missions overseas.
How Does the Advocacy Center Advocate?
The Advocacy Center is the gateway to U.S. government advocacy at various levels. Advocacy is always government-to-government and is typically addressed to the advocating official’s direct counterpart. Engagements by USG officials with overseas governments may take the following forms:
- Official correspondence
- Focused meeting/in-person advocacy
- Talking point in bilateral meeting/dialogue
- Press release or meeting with foreign press
What are some Advocacy Dos and Don’ts?
- Seek guidance from the Advocacy Center before engaging in commercial advocacy
- Contact the Advocacy Center early enough to coordinate strategy, especially for defense related tenders
- Review meeting and trip schedules – particularly for senior level visits – to see if they present opportunities for commercial advocacy
- Report advocacy efforts, developments, results to the Advocacy Center promptly
- Advocate prior to completing an Advocacy Questionnaire
- Advocate without an up-to-date guidance from the Advocacy Center
- Publicly discuss commercial advocacy efforts or wins except from approved guidance
The Advocacy Process
To apply for commercial advocacy, the first step for an applicant is to submit an Advocacy Questionnaire. An applicant seeking commercial advocacy must agree and sign the “Anti-Bribery Agreement” and attach it to the Questionnaire. Both the Advocacy Questionnaire and the Anti-Bribery Agreement can be accessed at http://www.export.gov/advocacy/.
Applicants for advocacy should apply for advocacy in a timely manner, allowing sufficient time for the Advocacy Center to conduct its review in coordination with other agencies. Defense-related advocacy cases usually take a considerable amount of time to approve, as a number of offices at the State Department and Department of Defense need to review the case.
After an Advocacy Questionnaire is received, the Advocacy Center conducts a due diligence review on the application, including the various stakeholders, to determine whether the commercial advocacy is in the U.S. national interest. If the Advocacy Center determines that provision of commercial advocacy is in the U.S. national interest, the Advocacy Center will assign the case to the Task Force, which coordinates efforts across the government and helps to coordinate engagement of foreign government leaders.