Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Nicholas A. Veliotes
VELIOTES: Not really. Many of the problems are the problems that you have today. American business had gotten used to being in the driver's seat and would not go after the contracts.
To some extent we had responsibility, working with our new embassy in Libya, for example, for Libya. I remember a case where someone in Libya wanted to buy a million tires, and the American tire manufacturer didn't think that was worth the time to respond to this, whereas the foreign competitors sent representatives, saying, hey, this could be the beginning of something. There was no sensitivity on the price, and service concepts were far behind what the Europeans were starting to develop at that time.
Q: How did you feel at that time about how responsive and how much cooperation was there with the Department of Commerce?
VELIOTES: Well, I thought there was enough cooperation. It depends on what you mean by cooperation. Your work was primarily with Commerce back in Washington. I found very quickly that no matter how good a job I was doing (and I was doing a hell of a good job; I ended up for a year as acting commercial attach� at a crucial point in the Common Market), the Commerce people and the Bureau of Foreign Commerce would never give you a top rating for your work, because it ran against what they saw as their own bureaucratic interest—to create their own commercial service, and if Foreign Service officers were doing a good job, and they said they were doing a good job, that would act against this. As a matter of fact, the only people the Department of Commerce sent out as commercial attach�s at that time were duds (our top Italian told me, when I left I was replaced by three senior people out from Commerce); they detracted from the work. This was a disappointment to me. And yet, when I came back to Commerce, I was romanced and I was asked why don't I come to Commerce and work for two years. And I told them very frankly why. I said, “If I was that good, why didn't you say so? I can't see where my career can be enhanced by my putting in two more years...” So I went over to State.
Q: Within the embassy, how much interest at the top? Most of the time was what, Ambassador James Zellerbach? How much interest was there in the promotion of American commerce?