Michigan Municipal League Foundation Announces Letter of Cooperation with State Department to Advance Subnational Diplomacy in Michigan

Jessica Weirauch
Michigan Municipal League
[email protected], 734-669-6311


Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez met with Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and convened local and state leaders on Mackinac Island to discuss integrating Michigan-specific ideas into foreign policy and fostering connections among local communities and abroad.

Mackinac Island, Mich. – Today, on the margins of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, Under Secretary of State Jose W. Fernandez signed a Letter of Cooperation solidifying a “Michigan Subnational Diplomacy” initiative with the Michigan Municipal League Foundation to further engagement on a range of issues related to subnational diplomacy in Michigan. This new collaboration underscores a shared commitment to building Michigan global partnerships and leveraging local and state-level leadership and expertise to address pressing global challenges and opportunities.

Subnational diplomacy is the act of engaging state-level and local actors in foreign policy. It supports U.S. foreign policy and national security priorities by integrating local ideas and leaders directly into foreign policy and fostering connections among cities, municipalities, and communities in the United States and abroad.

“We applaud the Michigan Municipal League Foundation for its leadership and innovation in supporting the State Department’s efforts in charting a ‘Foreign Policy for all Americans’ through city and state diplomacy that elevates the voice of local leaders and their communities” said Under Secretary of State Jose W. Fernandez. “We look forward to collaborating with Michigan’s subnational leaders in building meaningful economic opportunities, global partnerships, and relationships around the world, including in the EV sector, for the benefit of our communities”

“Through this new Michigan Subnational Diplomacy initiative and Letter of Cooperation, Michigan will act as a trailblazer on a national stage in helping the U.S. Department of State to define how U.S. states and cities can engage in international affairs to benefit citizens,” said Speaker of the Michigan House, Joe Tate. “Michigan local leaders will be able to seize new opportunities, strengthen existing partnerships, and showcase Michigan as a dynamic and forward-thinking global player.”

“Michigan communities have long recognized the importance of partnership and seeing more partnerships crafted with an eye towards global opportunity is exciting,” said Helen D. Johnson, President of the Michigan Municipal League Foundation. “We are passionate about big ideas that transform communities and, as part of our LIFT initiative, this work will provide tools for League member communities that will allow local leaders to test new ideas, build cross-sector relationships, and address issues in housing, local economy, environment and infrastructure.”

“In today’s interconnected world, the role of subnational governments (e.g. cities and states) in international affairs has become increasingly significant. Michigan, with its rich history, diverse population, and innovative spirit, has local communities with much to contribute to global conversations,” said Julie Egan, former U.S. diplomat and Senior Fellow for Subnational Diplomacy, Michigan Municipal League Foundation. “Through this initiative, Michigan communities will have access to new subnational diplomacy tools to amplify their efforts and opportunities to build global partnerships in exciting areas ripe for subnational cooperation, such as entrepreneurship, urban innovation, art and culture, sports, technology and sustainability.”

“Michigan, with its rich tapestry of diverse rural, urban, and suburban communities, is uniquely positioned to be a leader and innovator in the subnational diplomacy arena,” said Mari Manoogian, former State Representative (D-Birmingham) and Truman National Security Project Michigan Chapter Leader. “This letter of cooperation is an excellent start to the effort to engage our state’s local communities and leaders, ensuring that diplomacy serves all Americans well, including Michiganders.’”

The initiative’s efforts include mapping and cataloging existing international affairs activities across Michigan, building global partnerships and toolkits for Michigan cities of varying sizes in collaboration with the State Department, organizing legislator and local leader trainings on subnational diplomacy, organizing study trips, executing Michigan partnership delegations, liaising with the State Department and launching a Special Envoy and working group to deliver a report and recommendations to the Executive Office of the Governor on subnational diplomacy including enduring frameworks for city and state diplomacy in Michigan. Today, Under Secretary Fernandez met with Michigan local elected leaders working on this effort.

A special convening on Michigan subnational diplomacy is slated in 2024 with the State Department and partner policy organizations with expertise in this space.

In the context of this work and Letter of Cooperation, the State Department met with Governor Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist. The Michigan Municipal Foundation is pleased to have collaborated with the State Department to invite Michigan elected leader, Oakland County Executive David Coulter, to travel in June with a high-level State Department delegation to Armenia to explore mutual areas of understanding and cooperation in the areas of democracy and voter rights, economic development and culture. The Armenian diaspora population in Oakland County is significant, with over 50,000 Armenian Americans estimated to reside in Michigan. Michigan Armenian diaspora business leader Roger Basmajian and the Michigan Municipal League Foundation will also participate in the delegation.

“As Cassopolis continues to work towards long term growth within our community, we understand the significant impact that our partnerships with global companies has had, and continues to have, on our ability to create and maintain a vibrant, rural, relevant, sustainable and exceptional community, said Emilie G. LaGrow, Esq., Cassopolis Village Manager. “We are excited to continue to explore global opportunities that will further our goal of creating transformative partnerships that ultimately result in long lasting relationships with businesses that bring a positive impact to our environmental, economic and social way of life.”


About the Michigan Municipal League: The Michigan Municipal League is the premier statewide association representing more than 500 full-service cities, villages, and urban townships. Our members expect us to educate, advocate, and inspire their work as public servants building community wealth for their residents and stakeholders. We accomplish this by providing unmatched services in everything from professional development to executive recruitment to insurance and risk mitigation.

About the Michigan Municipal League Foundation: The MML Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Michigan Municipal League (the League). The MML Foundation supports innovative work through partnerships, grants and programming that creatively and intentionally bring people together and build community wealth.

About the U.S. Department of State and Subnational Diplomacy: Reporting to the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, the Subnational Diplomacy Unit at the State Department leads and coordinates the State Department’s subnational diplomacy engagement with mayors, governors and other local officials in the United States and around the world. The Special Representative for City and State Diplomacy aims to bring the benefits of U.S. foreign policy, such as jobs, investments, innovative solutions, and international experiences, to the local and state level. This work supports U.S. national security priorities by integrating local ideas into foreign policy and fostering connections among cities, municipalities, and communities in the United States and abroad.

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