Coca-Cola Co. over the next year is set spearhead a series of discussions around the South with policy makers, business leaders and other key stakeholders on U.S. competitiveness, international aid and the role of sustainability efforts in American leadership around the world. 

The Atlanta-based beverage giant was named the lead of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition‘s South Initiative through 2023 at the organization’s June 13 Impact Forum in Washington. 

The USGLC is a network of more than 500 companies and nonprofits advocating for strategic government spending on development aid and other “soft power” initiatives that assist recipient countries while improving America’s diplomatic standing and open up markets for U.S. products. 

The group has periodically hosted high-level events in Atlanta urging the federal government to stay the course on international aid programs that leaders have said make up less than 1 percent of all federal spending yet make the world safer, with positive downstream effects for U.S. security policy and market access. 

Coca-Cola Co.’s Michael Goltzman, vice president of global public policy, spoke at a USGLC Atlanta luncheon in 2017 alongside then-U.S. Sen. David Perdue, saying governments play a role that companies can’t: improving governance and leveling the playing field for U.S. firms by pushing for equitable market access. 

Advocates for continued U.S. aid programs, which cost tens of billions, argue that without a significant presence int the developing world, the U.S. risks ceding important diplomatic ground to countries like China, which has funded many infrastructure projects without the strings generally attached to U.S. development assistance. 

The USGLC in April urge that Congress pass the $67.7 billion in discretionary spending for international affairs proposed by the Biden administration, a 17 percent increase over the previous year. 

On June 26, President Joe Biden also pledged that the U.S. would provide a third of the $600 billion in infrastructure funding the Group of Seven industrialized nations committed to developing countries through loans, grants and other financing instruments. The move is widely seen as effort to offer an alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative, which some have decried as “debt-trap diplomacy.” 

Coca-Cola Co. sells its products in 200 countries and territories around the world but has its roots here in Georgia, said Joanna Price, senior vice president of public affairs, communications and sustainability for Coca-Cola North America, in a news release. “Making a difference is integral to our company purpose, and we believe that by convening leaders in business, civil society, academia and government to address today’s global challenges, we can build greater consensus around solutions that will have a meaningful impact for generations to come.”

Learn more about the coalition at 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...