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Hillary Clinton's Business Legacy at the State Department

How Hillary Clinton turned the State Department into a machine for promoting U.S. business
Hillary Clinton's Business Legacy at the State Department
Photograph by Martin Schoeller/August

On her 79th and probably last overseas trip as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton made a pit stop in the Czech Republic. One purpose of the 11-hour visit on Dec. 3, squeezed between NATO talks on the future of Afghanistan and the Syrian civil war, was to make a personal appeal to Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas on behalf of Westinghouse Electric, which is vying for a contract to build a nuclear power plant there. The company is locked in a $10 billion bidding war with a state-owned Russian energy giant, and Clinton pressed the Czech officials about the wisdom of depending on Vladimir Putin’s Russia for something as essential as electricity. Westinghouse Chief Executive Danny Roderick, who’s still awaiting a decision, says Clinton’s intervention made a big impression on the Czechs: “I was proud that she was in the trenches with me.”

In four years as the nation’s top diplomat, Clinton, who is expected to step down this month, has made dozens of similar sales pitches on behalf of U.S. companies. In 2009 she toured a Boeing plant in Moscow and met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to persuade state-owned Russian Technologies to buy 50 Boeing 737s instead of jets made by Airbus. That $3.7 billion deal was one of several large contracts Clinton helped clinch for Boeing. In December 2011, Lockheed Martin announced a $7.2 billion deal to upgrade Japan’s aging fighter jet fleet, beating out Eurofighter. Clinton advocated for the contract with her Japanese counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly. In February 2012, Space Systems/Loral, which builds communications satellites in Palo Alto, won a contract for equipment to create a national broadband network in Australia. Clinton met with former Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd several times to press for the deal. Last summer, Clinton’s undersecretary for economic growth, Robert Hormats, a former Goldman Sachs vice chair, took executives from Google, MasterCard, and Dow Chemical to Myanmar to network with government officials, the first such meeting since sanctions against the country were lifted in 2012.