Garcetti deputy named to high-level U.S. diplomatic post

Nina Hachigian shakes hands with President Obama.
Nina Hachigian, then the U.S. ambassador to the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations, shakes hands with President Obama during his visit to Malaysia in 2015.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

A senior aide to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will be appointed the first ever U.S. State Department special envoy for linking local governments to national foreign policy, the U.S. State Department announced Monday .

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken named Nina Hachigian as the country’s first special representative for subnational diplomacy, according to a statement in which he said she would “fundamentally strengthen the Department’s ties to our cities and communities.”

“Subnational” diplomacy refers to government entities at local levels — cities and counties instead of nations.

Hachigian, 55, has served as the Los Angeles deputy mayor for international affairs under Garcetti since 2017. Before that she was a State Department diplomat assigned to the leading Asian alliance, the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

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The idea behind the new office, officials say, is to connect issues with local impact, such as climate change, to international programs, sharing information, ideas and money.

“Communities, cities, and states are coming up with some of the most innovative and creative ideas for tackling many of the global challenges we face,” Hachigian said in an interview ahead of her appointment. “It is vital that we at the State Department harness the ingenuity of our local communities as we strive to build a foreign policy for all Americans.”

U.S. officials say the new office is meant to further connect foreign policy to middle-class America, a goal President Biden has stated since his election. Presumably it is also a way to shield foreign policy from those who would argue that domestic issues should come first at the expense of looking abroad.

“A central task for us,” Hachigian said, “will be bringing the benefits of our foreign policy to the local level.”

Blinken, in his statement , said cities, counties and states across the United States are on the “front lines of many of our most pressing global issues, including climate change, economic justice and democratic renewal.”

For example, when former President Trump attempted to back away from efforts to combat climate change, it was local or regional entities — such as California — that persisted in adopting programs to contain waste, pollution and the explosion in climate destruction.


“U.S. cities and states are incubators for innovative and novel ideas that tackle global challenges, and the department should harness these solutions,” Blinken said. Hachigian’s new office will lead and coordinate those efforts, he added.

Her appointment comes as Garcetti’s nomination to a diplomatic post has languished in the Senate for months. Biden nominated Garcetti in July 2021 to be the U.S. ambassador to India.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved his nomination in January, but the outgoing mayor’s confirmation has yet to see a floor vote — and it’s unclear whether it will.

The 50-50 Senate is in recess until after election day, and Congress will return with a host of other priorities in the lame-duck period, including a government funding package, a same-sex marriage bill and election reform legislation.

Times staff writer Nolan D. McCaskill contributed to this report.