Ambassadors, Executive Agents, and Special Representatives - Special representatives

Many of these international issues achieved such importance that regular offices dealing globally with these matters have been established, usually within the Department of State. The United States now had—in addition to the regular regional geographic bureaus—special officers, or assistant secretaries of state, dealing with various topical themes. These included drug control, human rights, the environment, scientific affairs, and communications and information policy. The administration of President George H. W. Bush established such a special representative for religious freedom. Such offices proliferated in response to domestic lobbying, and many citizens have come to believe that an issue is not receiving high priority unless a special office is established to deal with it. These offices served to provide the necessary expertise and monitoring for negotiations and conferences, just as such separate organizations as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency do in their fields.

Economics and trade grew in importance, resulting in the development of a series of international organizations to establish rules to regulate and facilitate the exchange of goods and services between nations, and to settle disputes regarding the internationally accepted rules. These organizations required not only special representatives, but the establishment of new governmental offices to deal with these economic and trade issues. The organizations, all of which have regular meetings, included the International Monetary Fund; the World Bank; the Group of Seven (which became the Group of Eight in the 1990s), the nations with the largest economies in the world; and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The meetings of these groups usually involved representatives of the Treasury and Commerce Departments as well as the State Department. Some were held at the summit level.

Trade and international economic matters became so vital that it proved necessary to establish a separate office to deal with these matters. The Office of the United States Trade Representative within the Executive Office of the president was established in 1962 and given broader status by the Omnibus Trade Competitiveness Act of 1988. The trade representative's office was responsible for the negotiation of agreements relating to international trade; it conducted all global, multilateral, and bilateral trade discussions, both for the establishment of global and bilateral accords and for the effective implementation of such agreements. Its responsibilities encompassed the World Trade Organization (WTO)—which evolved from the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs—the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and all bilateral trade disputes and agreements. Globalization increased the importance of these economic matters, and the Office of the Trade Representative played an increasingly central role in U.S. foreign relations from the time it was established.

The use of executive agents and special representatives greatly increased in the late twentieth century as new issues emerged and as all of them became more global in their impact. The result was a proliferation of offices that often created confusion as to which had ultimate responsibility; this resulted in rivalry between agencies. So many issues came to involve multiple offices and departments that the making of foreign policy increasingly involved interagency task forces to coordinate the efforts of the many agencies involved. These groups gained considerable importance under the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter and the senior George Bush. This created new problems, but also assured that experts with the appropriate knowledge are consulted regarding all issues.

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