Leocadia Zak

“What we are hearing from host countries is that we want trade not aid. We want to work with the private sector.” –Leocadia Zak, Director of USTDA (CSIS, June 30, 2014)

Director Zak at CSIS' Chevron Forum on June 30

Director Zak at CSIS’ Chevron Forum on Global Infrastructure Development

Who is she?

Leocadia I. Zak was appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) on March 10, 2010.

As Director of USTDA, Ms. Zak focuses on expanding U.S. jobs and the markets for U.S. goods and services abroad by supporting U.S. businesses in emerging markets.  Some of these targeted approaches include inviting foreign officials to the U.S. for reverse trade missions and offering best-practice training programs.

Ms. Zak has substantial experience in the public and private sector.  Prior to joining USTDA, she was a partner in the Washington and Boston offices of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, and Popeo, P.C. and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Boston University School of Law, Moring Center for Banking and Financial Law Studies, and at the Georgetown University Law Center. Ms. Zak received her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law.

Recently at CSIS:

On July 17, Leocadia Zak spoke at CSIS’s Chevron Forum on Development focusing on ways the U.S. government can better leverage its assets at home and knowledge of emerging economies to help American companies play a larger role in the current global infrastructure market boom. Ms. Zak highlighted the importance of leveling the playing field for U.S. businesses in emerging markets and focusing on sectors where American businesses excel, such as energy, transportation, and telecommunications.

U.S. businesses face a disadvantage in low-cost environments.  However, countries are increasingly looking for the best value, something which U.S. businesses can offer. “Our competition came in early and now what people are discovering, is that they didn’t really get everything that they thought they were getting, that the infrastructure is not as strong as they’d hoped for, that they didn’t get the quality. So this might be the perfect time for U.S. business.”  In response, USTDA launched the Global Procurement Initiative with George Washington Law School to help host countries discern the real best-value contracts.  The GPI, along with other USTDA programs, is bridging interested host countries with U.S. businesses who can offer better quality, technology advances, and best-practices.   “We really do believe if people have the opportunity to meet with U.S. businesses and see U.S. goods and services in action, then they are going to choose those goods and services.”

Despite these promising initiatives, there is still significant work that the U.S. Government can do to support American businesses abroad. Jose Fernandez, who also spoke at the July 17 Chevron Forum, writes in Foreign Affairs that “Without significant increases in private-industry initiative and government support, U.S. firms risk falling further behind their foreign competitors, or simply being left out of this boom altogether.”

Image courtesy of CSIS Flickr stream.

 Elena Rosenblum is a researcher with the Project on U.S. Leadership in Development at CSIS.

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