The forces of populism and nationalism that surged during the presidential election have fed the misguided perception that Americans no longer are interested in thinking beyond our nation’s land and maritime borders. Fear of foreigners and international cooperation seems to be the new — or not-so-new — vogue.
Unfortunately for American isolationists, it’s too late. Eso ya no está de moda. The United States and the vast majority of both developing and industrialized nations have become so interconnected, reversing that trend — or even pausing it — would be profoundly difficult, not to mention detrimental.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 41 million U.S. jobs are dependent on trade. At a surplus of $248 billion in 2016, the United States is a net exporter of services, a sector that continues to grow, particularly in the realms of intellectual property, technology, and financial and legal services.
The growing community of Latino lawyers that make up the Hispanic National Bar Association understands this environment on two fronts. As attorneys and legal advisers, our performance is often influenced by our ability to anticipate and outmaneuver the competition, wherever they may be, to more effectively advocate for our clients. As the descendants of Latin American migrants, or as immigrants ourselves, we know what it means to call one nation home, but have deep connections to another.
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Which is why more than a thousand of us — Latino attorneys, judges, law professors and law students — are congregating in Miami this week for the HNBA’s Corporate Counsel Conference, to help build our national and international networks in an increasingly global business environment. Firms, organizations, and businesses continue to look to cities such as Miami to engage a global audience or to access markets across the world. Our goal during this year’s convening is to drive important discussions on how international issues can affect local businesses, open opportunities here in the United States and abroad, and build meaningful and long-lasting connections here and around the world.
But those experiences shouldn’t be limited to cities with palm trees and clear blue water. Even for those not directly involved in international law or business, the actions of others, the current state of technology, broad access to top talent, and the ease of travel substantially affect everyone’s bottom line. For those looking to expand their reach, showing a prospective international client that you understand their needs, idiosyncrasies, and culture can be the difference between landing the pitch and missing it completely. Ignoring those opportunities isn’t simply foolish, it puts you at an economic disadvantage.
We should embrace our international networks the same way we Americans embrace our diversity: as a source of strength rather than division. America is at its best when it authentically engages its partners for mutual benefit. As individuals, we should do the same.
Pedro J. Torres-Díaz is national president of the Hispanic National Bar Association.