Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Nicholas A. Veliotes
VELIOTES: It was running out, and Bill Crockett, as I say, talked the Department into letting the embassy offer to a number of officers a second post in Italy, on the grounds that we'd learned Italian and, frankly, we'd produced and we deserved something else. That's how I got to Rome in the Economic Section.
Q: And you were doing what, in the Economic Section?
VELIOTES: I was assistant commercial attach�. I did it for two years, and I very much regret that a young Foreign Service officer cannot do that today. It was another great learning experience, another kind of experience in a big bureaucracy where you could actually express yourself professionally. You could go out and work, and you weren't under the same constraints as the junior officers in the Political Section, for example.
Q: What were you doing as a commercial officer at that time? These interviews are designed really for somebody doing research who is not overly familiar with this.
VELIOTES: My basic function at that time was to help American businessmen who were interested in investing in Italy, or selling in Italy, or those businessmen who were already in Italy and had problems with the Italian government.
And remember, at the time, we used to talk about the dollar overhang, which meant that we were trying to get people to sell to us so we could buy their products abroad and reduce this enormous so-called dollar overhang that existed in Europe, bring some of the dollars back. That changed as the circumstances changed, in the late fifties, and we started to worry about American exports abroad.
The most interesting part of the job was getting in on the Common Market, when American business woke up to the fact that Europe had recovered and it wasn't sufficient to just count on exporting to Europe, because the Europeans were going to be tough competitors everywhere, including in their own markets. The most creative part of the job was that, working with the Americans who came there.
You had your own world of Italian contacts, both governmental—interagency, as well as private—trade associations, business people. It was an area in which you could do a lot and get a lot of satisfaction.