Like a diplomatic snowball effect, the more countries that have a presence in Georgia, the easier it is to sell prospective countries on the state's advantages.

Diplomats leave cities for a variety of reasons: Postings expire. New governments juggle personnel to match priorities. More prestigious postings call or retirement comes.

Whatever the reason, these modern-day nomads don’t stay put for long. Bouncing from one country to the next, they promote their nations’ interests in an increasingly connected world. Posting lengths vary, but three years seems to be somewhat of a standard, long enough to put down roots in a community but short enough, presumably, to keep from settling into relational ruts.

The result is that any city with international offices has a diplomatic revolving door that never ceases spinning. In a year like 2009, it can be dizzying, but we at GlobalAtlanta believe it’s important to track the activity closely.

The reasons are simple: As state leaders and local economic developers have repeatedly stressed, consulates and trade offices are seals of approval for Atlanta, helping cement its role as the commercial center of the Southeast. They’re also a vital ingredient in the city’s evolving recipe for global engagement. Perhaps most importantly, they serve as barometers for a country’s presence here, signs to folks back home that healthy communities stand ready to incubate new businesses and welcome their employees in an unfamiliar land.

Georgia puts the number of countries that have either set up or announced a diplomatic presence in the state at 62, including consulates, honorary consulates and trade offices. That’s up from 49 in 2005, and the state maintained its gains even as foreign governments trimmed budgets amid the recession and closed offices elsewhere in the U.S. “That’s a great story that Atlanta and Georgia have to tell, that international governments value their presence in the Southeast so much, they’re not closing offices here,” said Chris Young, who handles the state of Georgia’s relationships with consulates.

Atlanta also added some new countries to its list. The Bahamas unveiled a new consulate general in August, hoping to boost trade and tourism to help pull the country out of an economic quagmire caused largely by a decrease in American visitors. In early December, Chile’s trade promotion agency, ProChile, opened a three-person office here. Liberia and the country of Georgia named new honorary consuls, and Italy‘s honorary consulate reopened, now vested with the power to offer visa services. Ecuador‘s vice president said in Atlanta that his country would put a consulate here next year, possibly by the first quarter.

Meanwhile, some existing consulates spent this year ramping up their presence. Brazil, which launched a full consulate with a trade branch in Atlanta in 2008 after a seven-year hiatus, is gearing up for what Consul General Adalnio Ganem has said will be a blockbuster 2010. With the 2014 World Cup and 2016 summer Olympics on the horizon, Brazil is planning huge tourism, business and infrastructure projects, and Atlanta will have its share of chances to take part, Mr. Ganem said.

But it wasn’t all good news on the diplomatic front. Much-anticipated Indian and Irish consulates didn’t materialize, though officials from those countries had said they would open by the end of this year. Prospects for a Chinese consulate, never formally announced but eagerly desired nonetheless, grew no brighter. Trade ties and recruitment efforts in China remain strong, but the wave of momentum sustained by Delta Air Lines’ 2008 nonstop Atlanta-Shanghai flight subsided as the airline nixed the route and high-profile Chinese manufacturing investments struggled to gain traction after being welcomed with fanfare.

Possibly the story with the most immediate impact in the diplomatic community was the least noticeable: A new wave of consuls general arrived in Atlanta, replacing some who had become fixtures in the international community. Below is a summary of the transitions we tracked:



Argentine Consul General Carlos Layus headed back to his country to become a representative to Mercosur, a South American trade bloc that also includes Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. With five years in Atlanta, Mr. Layus had been the longest-serving member of the consular corps, an honor now enjoyed by Israeli Consul General Reda Mansour. Mr. Layus’s replacement, Marcelo Gerschenfeld, arrived in November from a Mercosur position. He hopes to boost trade and investment between the Southeast and his country.

Further reading (with video):

Argentine Consul Departs Atlanta for Trade Post

Argentina’s New Consul General Settles Into Atlanta


United Kingdom

British Consul General Martin Rickerd left Atlanta in September after a three-year posting which he remembered fondly during a farewell interview with GlobalAtlanta. After reiterating the importance of U.K. investment in the region he left a word of advice to Annabelle Malin, his successor, who came to Atlanta from the West Coast: Learn the ways of the South.

Further reading (with video):

British Consul: Successor Must Learn Southern Ways



-French Consul General Philippe Ardanaz arrived in the Southeast on the same day that Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. Without time to settle in, he immediately threw himself into the task of providing aid and services to French and American residents in the battered region. Once the storm was over, Mr. Ardanaz began working to mend Franco-U.S. relations. In Atlanta, distorted perceptions of France lingered as fallout from the U.S.-France rift over the Iraq war. The French, meanwhile, didn’t understand the opportunity the Southeast presented. Mr. Ardanaz helped build cultural ties, supporting the Louvre Atlanta exhibition at the High Museum of Art. He also worked to foster understanding about business opportunities in both directions.

Pascal Le Deunff replaced Mr. Ardanaz in September, announcing at his first reception that the French consulate would move to a new location in Buckhead and appoint a new attache for university and scientific cooperation.

Further reading (with video):

French Consul General to Return Home in a Calmer Time

New French Consul General Outlines Priorities




-Canadian Consul General Brian Oak heavily promoted trade between the Southeast and his country, Georgia’s largest trading partner, during his tenure in Atlanta. In 2007, Mr. Oak played a role in the establishment of a business alliance between six southeastern states and seven Canadian provinces. He’s continuing to promote trade in his new post at Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Ottawa. About $1.5 billion in goods are traded across the U.S.-Canada border each day, so the countries must find ways to continue working together to balance the free flow of goods with security concerns, he said.

Stephen Brereton, Mr. Oak’s replacement, came to Atlanta from Buffalo, N.Y., where he had been the consul general.

Further reading (with video):

Canadian Consul to Focus on Border Issues in New Post


Australia, Switzerland

In March, Claudio Leoncavallo replaced Ulrich Hunn as Switzerland’s consul general in Atlanta. Amanda Hodges, Australia’s consul general, was replaced by Duncan Cole in July.


A comprehensive list of consulate coverage from 2009:


Bahamas PM: Atlanta Consulate Good for Trade

Bahamas Opening Atlanta Consulate



Chilean Ambassador: Atlanta Office a Smart Investment

Chilean Consul: Trade Office Will Focus on Smaller Companies

Chile to Open Atlanta Trade Office



Ecuador to Open Atlanta Consulate in 2010



Country of Georgia Names Honorary Consul in Atlanta



Maybe Next Year for Indian, Irish Consulates



New Liberia Diplomat Focused on Flights, Trade



Irish Consulate General Coming to Atlanta

Irish Consulate General to Boost Business, Officials Say

Mayor Franklin: Irish Consulate Boosts Atlanta As Global City



Atlanta and Italy: Stronger Ties Ahead 


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...