Author Archive

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U.S.-China Relations: Great for TV, but Greater for the U.S. Economy

December 11, 2014

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Picture of the capitolFrank Underwood doesn’t understand the purpose of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT).

Maybe you know of Frank Underwood, the main character on the show House of Cards, played by Kevin Spacey. If so, you may remember how he conspired with colleagues in the White House and State Department to orchestrate a trade war with China.

How did he do it? Through the JCCT negotiations.

While Mr. Underwood is commonly known in the United States, it’s much less likely that the average American knows what the JCCT is, aside from it being some way for a fictional administration to create tension with a major U.S. international partner.

Though it isn’t a household term, the importance of the JCCT can’t be overlooked. While Mr. Underwood used the JCCT to start a trade war, the reality is that the United States and China use it to support trade peace – resolving bilateral tensions and exploring areas of mutual cooperation.

The United States and China established the JCCT in 1983 as the primary forum for addressing trade and investment issues, and promoting commercial opportunities between the two countries.

The JCCT has since resulted in significant progress on issues U.S. businesses have identified as priority concerns in China, including:

  • protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights;
  • government procurement;
  • standards, testing, and certifications; and
  • issues specific to certain sectors like information technology, energy, and travel and tourism.

Improving American businesses’ ability to compete on a level playing field in China through the JCCT and other bilateral engagements has contributed to growth of U.S. exports and business activity in China’s market, supporting the American economy and job growth. It has also helped drive important reform in China’s economy, supporting innovation and growth there as well.

The next round of high-level JCCT Meetings are in Chicago this month and we’re looking forward to using this opportunity to address bilateral trade concerns and deepen positive economic engagement between our governments and commercial sectors.

Why does JCCT matter to the average U.S. citizen?

  • China is our second largest trading partner. U.S. total exports to China have nearly tripled since 2005, reaching $122 billion in 2013.
  • U.S. goods & services exports to China support nearly 796,000 U.S. jobs.
  • Continued growth in China’s middle class will create even more promising export opportunities for U.S. companies.
  • To continue with Mr. Underwood’s example, China is now the top goods export market for his home state of South Carolina. The state’s goods exports to China reached $4.9 billion in 2013, which is nearly eight times greater than in 2005.

Lastly, not to quibble with the House of Cards writers, the show makes one important error: the Secretary of State was in charge of the JCCT discussions, and provided guidance to the U.S. team of negotiators.

In fact, that team would have been led by the Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative. Secretary Pritzker and Ambassador Froman will lead the U.S. delegation and be joined by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Premier Wang Yang.

While we have yet to see those officials portrayed in the show, we look forward to seeing them play prominent roles in upcoming seasons…

More importantly, we look forward to the 25th JCCT this month, and to seeing the continued positive effects these important meetings have on the U.S. and Chinese economies and our commercial relationship.

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Competing to Win: How We Can Help U.S. Exporters Succeed at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games

December 10, 2014
Fans from many countries watch a sporting event.

Fans are ready for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and U.S. businesses should get ready for export opportunities related to the games.

Athletes around the world have already begun their preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

For U.S. businesses looking to take advantage of export opportunities, preparations should also begin now.

The good news (for most of us anyway) is that preparations for businesses don’t require any sprints, hours in the pool, or extraordinarily difficult-looking skills on a pommel horse.

Actually, the best advantage for a U.S. company looking to win in Brazil is help from the International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service. We have teams on the ground in Brazil actively working with U.S. industry to identify opportunities presented by Rio 2016 and overcome challenges to capitalizing on these opportunities.

Opportunity

Rio 2016 presents new opportunities for U.S. exporters in a broad range of sectors. Spending tied to the Games between 2010 and 2016 will reach close to $50 billion and includes new investments in sectors including:

  • Construction and Engineering,
  • Transportation,
  • Public Security,
  • Education and Training,
  • Sporting Goods, and
  • Telecommunications.

In addition, new infrastructure-related investments for the Rio 2016 Games will reach $15 billion, targeting major airports throughout the country, new transportation corridors and intelligent transportation systems, and port revitalization. Subcontracting opportunities will also be available to U.S. firms.

The Organizing Committee for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games will also have a separate budget of $1.3 billion to acquire products and services such as temporary construction for sports venues, mobile equipment, video and broadcasting equipment, marketing, and catering services. U.S. firms, especially those with proven success at previous Olympics and major sporting events are welcome to bid.

What this all adds up to is enormous opportunity for U.S. companies, and the Commercial Service team in Brazil is working closely with the Olympics Organizing Committee to make sure U.S. companies know about all of these opportunities.

Action Plan

The first step for potential suppliers is to register at the Rio 2016 Suppliers Portal website. After registration, U.S. companies will be able to view all available tenders and steps to place a bid.

U.S. companies interested in Rio 2016 opportunities should visit CS Brazil’s website

for information about the games and bidding opportunities.

U.S. firms can also directly visit the Rio 2016 website as well as the Rio 2016 Committee website for information.

The Commercial Service in Brazil is ready to assist you in this process. Please feel free to reach out directly to CS Rio Principal Commercial Officer Mark Russell, mark.russell@trade.gov, or Commercial Officer Jay Carreiro, jay.carreiro@trade.gov for further information.

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We’ve Got Your Six: Vets Go Global Initiative Connects Veterans to Global Markets

December 9, 2014

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Murat Muftari is an International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service working out of the Long Island, NY U.S. Export Assistance Center.

Our Vets Go Global team met with veteran-owned businesses at the National Veterans Small Business Engagement to provide export counseling.

Our Vets Go Global team met with veteran-owned businesses at the National Veterans Small Business Engagement to provide export counseling.

As a former U.S. Special Forces soldier with multiple combat tours abroad, I can say with certainty that the camaraderie and trust that exists between soldiers is second to none. The title “We’ve Got Your Six” references what lies behind someone on the battlefield, their most vulnerable blind spot that is covered by their teammate.

Here at the Department of Commerce, we want to help veterans out by watching their six as they start and grow their businesses.

Throughout government, we have been working to support veterans as they transition into civilian life, helping them get back to work through the Veteran Employment Opportunity Act and Veteran Recruitment Act. A number of veterans, me included, have found a home as International Trade Specialists in the U.S. Commercial Service, consulting with U.S. companies on international business development and growth through our global network of trade professionals.

Now, the veteran hires of the U.S. Commercial Service have united together to create Vets Go Global, an initiative that proactively engages veteran-owned businesses to connect them to global markets. Our team will work diligently to support veteran-owned businesses and help them grow their business by:

Our Vets Go Global team believes in veteran-owned businesses and the important business skills they bring to the table — like adaptability, attention-to-detail, discipline, intercultural communications, objective-based focus, leadership, and perseverance.

Those are the skill-sets that increase any company’s probability of success in international business.

As veterans, we look forward to bringing back that battlefield camaraderie to our work with veteran business owners.

To the veteran-owned business community, we’ve got your six in the global marketplace. Let us help you expand your exports and increase your bottom line. Contact your nearest Export Assistance Center to get started.

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Hard Wiring the World, One Country at a Time

December 8, 2014

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center.

Electric wires running from a tower with the sky in the background

More than 80 percent of the world’s transmission wire is sold outside the United States, giving CTC Global a great opportunity to do business overseas.

CTC Global Corporation is a California-based company that makes transmission wires and sells them in 28 countries. CTC has 110 employees and 70 percent of its revenues come from international sales.

And the company continues to expand to new markets. While attending the Discover Global Markets Forum in Los Angeles earlier this year, CTC signed a deal with a new distributor in Portugal, with the help of the International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service.

Marv Sepe manages the company and recently shared details of the company’s international success with Doug Barry, a trade specialist with the International Trade Administration.

Barry: You’ve gone into all these markets in less than eight years. How did you do it?

Sepe: Only 15 percent of the world’s transmission wire is sold in the United States. Eighty-five percent is sold outside of the country. So if you are going to serve the larger part of the market, you need to be outside of the United States. Many of us that were there when the business started were not afraid to go offshore at all in order to sell what we source and make in the U.S.

Barry: What has been the biggest challenge for you in building this business?

Sepe: We deal in a very conservative market. When you go to a utility in any country or the United States and say, “We want to change the way you deliver power to something more efficient,” people are quite skeptical. Our biggest barrier really has been the proof–to tell the customers that this is a new way to do things. We give them a demonstration, and we wait.

Barry: How has the U.S. Commercial Service helped you?

Sepe: They’ve been very helpful. My first involvement with them was back in 2010. I participated in a trade mission to China with the Secretary of Commerce. It was the first renewable energy or efficient energy mission to China. We got a good sense of the capabilities of their team, and we’ve kept up ever since.

The Export Assistance Center in Irvine is quite close to us, and I know those guys very well. We deal with them all the time. Now we’re using the team in Europe to do partner searches for us in several different countries right now.

Barry: What would you recommend to other U.S. companies that are considering expanding their international sales?

Sepe: Go on a Department of Commerce trade mission. It’s phenomenal as far as raising brand recognition as a company that delivers high efficiency and clean energy. We probably couldn’t have gotten that any other way.

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Being Part of A Family and the Foreign Commercial Service

November 25, 2014

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Bill Kutson is an Officer in the International Trade Administration’s U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service

Note: The International Trade Administration plans to hold an assessment in 2015 through which it will hire a new class of Foreign Commercial Service Officers. We’ll publish a series of articles about ITA’s Foreign Commercial Service to answer questions from people who may be interested in this career opportunity.

Kids play soccer outside a school in Athens.

Schools overseas can help your children make life-long friendships while you serve in the Foreign Service.

Raising happy, well-adjusted kids. Don’t worry – I’m not going to dole out advice on that one…

But one important consideration for anyone considering a career in the Foreign Service is how it will affect your family. My three kids have spent parts of their lives growing up overseas, and I’m here to tell you that the rewards of the experience outweighed any of the challenges we faced as a family.

So here are some observations, in no particular order, to consider about serving abroad with kids:

  • As vehemently opposed as kids may be to moving to a new location, they very well may be just as opposed to leaving when your tour is over.
  • Living abroad is fascinating. What’s more fascinating is experiencing it with your kids. Part of my sons’ Boy Scout archaeology merit badge was earned through visits to the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora in Athens. We also hiked Mt. Olympus. Yes, it is real. Zeus, however, was on “holiday” (it is Greece after all).
  • Your kids will forge life-long friendships with other kids through the Embassy, school, clubs, etc. These are often great springboards for you making new friendships with the kids’ parents.
  • On the first day in her new school after returning to the United States, my daughter casually told the teacher she’d been to about a third of the places on the alphabet chart with pictures above the chalkboard. My son’s track and field meet was in a different country. Pretty cool.
  • Give your kids time to adjust – both to going overseas and to coming back to the States. But also understand they’ll often adjust to some things more quickly than you.
  • The government doesn’t pay for nursery school and it’s usually not cheap. Factor that expense in if you have kids that age.
  • Schools are usually good to very good, but not always. Foreign nationals attending the schools can be very wealthy and not always welcoming of “Embassy kids.” Do your homework and learn about your options for schools. One source of info is Tales From a Small Planet, a website on overseas Expat life including schools.
  • Keep in mind that no matter where you’re living, there is still homework, grocery shopping (often more frequently than in the United States), taking out the trash, etc. Living overseas won’t magically make your kids want to make their beds or load the dishwasher.
  • And finally, take your own plastic bags and paper towels on airplanes. Turbulence and kids don’t’ mix.

The above is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list on the topic of serving abroad with kids – just some things to think about as you consider a life in the Foreign Service. Everyone is different and has different experiences.

Living abroad while serving your country in the Foreign Service is an amazing experience. It can also be challenging. Kids can sometimes create new challenges, but my wife and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I’ll close with this: if you’re seriously considering the Foreign Commercial Service – do it; it’s an amazing career!

It was just part of the exciting work we do as Commercial Officers, and it’s what you can be a part of if you join the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below. Or you can sign up to receive email updates from our team.

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Is Your Company Ready to Export?

November 24, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Don Aberle has one piece of advice for companies looking to export: Commit to it.

It may take time, but the marketing manager from Titan Machinery Outlet says that commitment can pay off, and “good things will happen.”

That’s the theme of a new video from the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), which provides tips from successful exporters about how a company can become a global player.

Young companies should also be paying attention to and taking advantage of global opportunities. Startups actually can have an important advantage when it comes to pursuing exports, in that engaging in foreign markets early can make global business a continuing part of your company’s culture.

And that can set your company up for continued success in the global economy.

Here are a few tips that can help your young business find success in exporting:

  • Do Your Research: Find the right markets for your company and have a well-defined strategy for approaching them.
  • Differentiate Yourself: Everyone says their company makes the best products and provides the best customer service. Your company needs to explain – from a consumer’s perspective – why someone would want to buy your products.
  • Be Patient: Jon Engelstad of Superior Manufacturing says there are companies he’s worked with for up to three years in order to make them customers of his company. That means a lot of work for an exporter, but it also creates a strong relationship between you and your consumer.
  • Work with ITA’s Commercial Service: Our team can help you find the right research, plan your strategy, and find the most qualified partners to work with.

Just because your company is young doesn’t mean exporting is out of reach for you. If you’re ready to get started, contact your nearest Export Assistance Center.

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SABIT Fosters Relationship Building between American and Pakistani Business Leaders

November 24, 2014

Becky Long and Tanner Johnson are International Trade Specialists at the International Trade Administration’s Special American Business Internship Training Program (SABIT).

The Pakistani delegation made a visit to Hess Brother's Fruit Company to learn about trends in packaging materials and food safety.

The Pakistani delegation visited a number of U.S. companies, including Hess Brother’s Fruit Company, to learn about trends in packaging materials and food safety.

The Special American Business Internship Training Program (SABIT) promotes international economic development and the formation of business ties by hosting delegations of international executives in the United States.

The program has been training international business leaders from Eurasia, South Asia, and other regions for more than 20 years.

SABIT recently hosted a delegation of 13 Pakistani executives from the packaging industry, in an effort to further the U.S.-Pakistan business relationship.

The delegation met with leaders of American companies, associations, and government agencies in Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Illinois to discuss trade opportunities, technological innovations, and U.S. trends in packaging materials, manufacturing processes, food safety, and marketing.

The group also attended PACK EXPO, one of the world’s largest exhibitions of packaging equipment and materials.

Hosting delegations like this is crucial to furthering the U.S. relationship with an important trade partner.

The United States is the largest export market for Pakistani goods, with nearly $3.7 billion worth of goods going to U.S. consumers. Roughly 90 percent of that total was in the textiles and garments industry, which means there are considerable untapped possibilities for Pakistan’s other industries to expand their exports to the United States.

Pakistani business leaders in a variety of industries are seeking more information about the U.S. market and industry-specific import regulations and processes.

Upon returning home to Pakistan, the delegates will use the knowledge and contacts gained in the United States to improve their businesses, encourage industry collaboration, and increase exports. At the end of the program, several delegates were eager to share their thoughts and takeaways from their visit:

“I learned a lot about laws and regulations, and how to implement food safety regulations. This is important because in Pakistan people are not very aware [of international food safety standards] and due to this reason, food waste is quite high….The flexible packaging market is very similar in the United States and Pakistan, and it is growing in [both countries]. So we have a lot of opportunities to develop flexible packaging materials.”
– Tahira Yasmin, Assistant Manager of Research and Development, Packages Limited

“Being here is like being presented with a crystal ball, you can look ten years ahead into the future, so that is a very good thing. We already know what the future is and where we should be if we want to stay in business.”
Motasim Ahmad Bajwa, Chief Operating Officer, Lucky Plastic Industries Ltd

In March 2015, SABIT will host a Pakistani delegation of professionals in the sphere of supply chain management. The program will help improve Pakistan’s transportation, storage, and logistical linkages, and it will serve to further integrate Pakistan into the international supply chain. SABIT is also planning future in-country training events and webinars for SABIT’s alumni in Pakistan.

Click to watch SABIT’s video interview with some of the packaging delegation participants. U.S. companies interested in hosting SABIT’s international delegations may contact the SABIT office at 202-482-0073 or sabit@trade.gov.

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