October 31, 2018

Diplomatic gifting is full of pitfalls, as evidenced by the numerous press articles that are written each time a well-meant gift misses the mark.

Diplomatic Gifts

We feel it’s best to stick to a meaningful diplomatic gift in order to show the recipient that you were seriously thinking about them.

In 2001, President George W. Bush had the first diplomatic visit of his presidency with President Vicente Fox of Mexico. Keith Lipert Corporate Gifts was honored to help the administration find a gift that evoked a sense of shared values and history between the US and Mexico, and to also communicate mutual respect.

Careful research showed that both men enjoyed horse culture and ranching, so President Bush presented President Fox with an elegant bronze horse as a symbol of this shared background and interest.

Click here to learn more out our approach to diplomatic gifts >

A brief history of diplomatic gifts according to Slate.com

Heads of state have been exchanging gifts since the beginning of recorded time.

Americans have never been particularly comfortable with this tradition. When Louis XVI gave Benjamin Franklin a snuffbox adorned with hundreds of diamonds in 1785, Franklin accepted the gift to avoid an ugly scene. The same year, John Jay accepted a horse from King Charles III of Spain in the process of negotiating a treaty. Congress recognized that returning the two gifts might cause a diplomatic row at a sensitive moment and so approved them retroactively.

Based on this experience, the Framers at the Constitutional Convention decided that full disclosure, rather than outright prohibition, was the appropriate course. President Washington appears to have taken this provision quite literally. When an emissary of the French Republic presented its new flag to Washington, he replied, “The transaction will be announced to Congress, and the colors will be deposited with [the] Archives.” Thomas Jefferson refused to keep any gifts other than books, even if Congress approved. He auctioned several items and deposited the proceeds in the treasury.

Congress initially approved most gifts on an individual basis. Until the mid-20th century, approved gifts could become the recipient’s personal property, unless they were expressly donated to the state. In 1966, Congress overhauled the system so that legislators did not have to approve individual gifts. Today, the president (and other officials) may accept most gifts worth $335 or less without congressional oversight and must turn over more valuable gifts to the government.

If you need a truly unique diplomatic gift, let the experts at Keith Lipert Corporate Gifts assist you. We’ve been creating bespoke corporate and diplomatic gifts for over 30 years.

Click here to contact us or call us to discuss your needs: (202) 965-9736