Dan Clune is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who served as the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the Department of State from 2010 to 2012. In this capacity, he oversaw key decisions regarding the Keystone XL pipeline to transport oil from Canada to the United States. From 2007 to 2010, he was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Australia.
Clune has worked on trade issues in multiple capacities, including in positions with the Office of Monetary Affairs and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. He holds a J.D. from the University of California-Berkeley and had practiced law before joining the Foreign Service in 1985. In his early postings, he served in Lima, Peru and Jakarta, Indonesia. Clune is married and has three daughters.
Why is he in the news?
On June 21, President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Dan Clune as the next U.S. ambassador to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Once confirmed, Clune will succeed outgoing ambassador Karen Stewart, who has been active in promoting U.S. soft power in Laos via traditional outreach, social media, and a much-publicized 2011 stint as a Lao rapper.
What can we expect?
Ambassador Clune will arrive at his post during a dynamic time in U.S.-Lao relations. The U.S. government has expressed concerns over recent cases of human rights violations in Laos, including the high-profile abduction of agronomist Sombath Somphone in December 2012. At the same time, Clune will bring to his new position valuable experience in economic and trade issues. Laos joined the World Trade Organization in February 2013, paving the way for expanding commercial and investment ties with the United States.
The appointment of a State Department official with Clune’s diversity of experience as the next ambassador to Laos underscores the strategic value that the Obama administration accords to the U.S.-Lao relationship. For Washington, keeping Vientiane engaged will be increasingly important to the U.S. rebalancing to Southeast Asia.