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U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories: A Kodak Moment: How the Department of Commerce Brokered a Deal between Eastman Kodak and an Egyptian Bank

July 25, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

When the Department of Commerce helped Eastman Kodak broker an exporting deal with one of Egypt’s largest state-owned banks, it was a true Kodak moment. American businesses like Kodak are becoming increasingly engaged in exporting to Africa, and the reasons why are clear:

  • Africa has made great strides towards achieving sustainable economic growth and widespread poverty alleviation.
  • Gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa is expected to rise 6 percent per year over the next decade.
  • Africa is set to have a larger workforce than India or China by the year 2040.
  • According to the World Bank, almost half of Africa’s countries have attained middle-income status.

Africa’s potential as the world’s next major economic story is why businesses in the United States, like Kodak, want to offer their products, services, and expertise to help unlock even more of Africa’s potential – and the Obama Administration and Department of Commerce are committed to helping these exporting businesses each step of the way.

Kodak, the company best known for pioneering photographic film products, has been an active client of the nearby Rochester U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) for decades. This long-standing relationship connected Kodak with one of the largest state-owned banks in Egypt, Banque Misr. When the bank was about to place an order to purchase Kodak Scanners, Banque Misr was told that Kodak had encountered a financial problem not familiar to many outside the U.S.: Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

To better understand Kodak’s financial situation, Banque Misr contacted the U.S. Commercial Service in Egypt, which then contacted the Rochester USEAC. The Rochester USEAC  was able to confirm that Kodak was still operational and headquartered in Rochester. With the help of Tim McCall, a trade specialist in Rochester, and the U.S. Commercial Service, the bank received the proper paperwork and placed an order to Kodak which amounted to roughly $185,000 in export sales.

The Obama Administration and the Department of Commerce believe that Kodak’s and Banque Misr’s example can encourage other U.S. companies to do business in Africa. That is why, last year, President Obama announced the launch of Trade Africa, a partnership between the United States and East African Community (EAC) – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Trade Africa aims to increase exports from the EAC to the U.S. by 40 percent, reduce the average time needed to import or export a container from African ports by 15 percent, and decrease by 30 percent the average time a truck takes to transit certain borders, making it easier for businesses on both side of the Atlantic to trade.

Businesses interested in learning more about exporting should contact their local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

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Connecting African Leaders to U.S. Industry Beyond the Beltway

July 25, 2014

This post originally appeared on the White House Blog.

The Honorable Leocadia I. Zak is the Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Leocadia I. Zak

Leocadia I. Zak

The upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which is the largest single engagement by any U.S. President with our African partners, will help the United States play a driving role in the continent’s future development.

Many Americans are aware that sub-Saharan Africa is a fast-growing region with tremendous potential, but they may not know about significant plans to develop infrastructure across the continent. We believe that these plans represent enormous business opportunities for U.S. companies of all sizes, and that is why we have invited key African decision-makers to meet with private-sector leaders in Chicago and Houston prior to the Summit.

These African Leaders’ Visits, which the U.S. Trade and Development Agency is partnering with the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Energy to host from July 30 to August 1, will highlight the United States’ experience fostering economic growth through key infrastructure investments. These Visits are the only commercially focused events to take African leaders to major U.S. cities outside of Washington, D.C. on the occasion of the Summit.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony R. Foxx and I will co-host the African Leaders’ Visit: Transport in Chicago for transportation ministers whose countries have recently announced plans for significant near-term expansions in both rail and aviation infrastructure. Site visits to the Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal and O’Hare International Airport will feature the U.S. rail and aviation industries and demonstrate how the development of transportation infrastructure has made Chicago an international hub for finance, industry, and technological innovation.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and I will lead the African Leaders’ Visit: Energy in Houston for energy ministers as they face important decisions on how best to develop their countries’ extensive natural gas reserves. In Houston, the delegates will visit energy facilities that were developed to transport and utilize the area’s natural gas resources and that have helped create an economic boom.

Logo for the African Leaders VisitThe Visits will provide U.S. companies of all sizes exposure to African leaders in settings that showcase the operation of their cutting-edge technologies and services. In Chicago and Houston, the leaders will discuss investment opportunities in their countries and identify potential areas of partnership with the United States. U.S. businesses interested in participating in the Visits can find additional information at www.ustda.gov/africanleadersvisits or on social media via #ALVTransport and #ALVEnergy.

By emphasizing American ingenuity and innovation that can address the continent’s infrastructure needs, the African Leaders’ Visits will help establish new – and strengthen existing – commercial partnerships between the United States and Africa.

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Making the Most of International Trade Shows

July 25, 2014

Arun Kumar is the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

The International Trade Administration Commercial Service team may be the most connected business partners you will ever have. Our specialists are export experts, giving your business advice on potential trade partners, ways to market your company, and how to successfully export.

Now our Commercial Service team is making it even easier to succeed in exporting through an exciting video series called Export Experts. This series will provide information on trade shows, tips for exporting to rural areas, international exporting advice, and so much more.

The first video of this series is about making the most of international trade shows, which can be great opportunities to meet lots of different people in one place. They can be efficient and beneficial events for any company looking to expand to new markets.

Here are some tips about trade shows that we as commercial service officers have learned through our years of exporting assistance.

  1. Go prepared. Know your product, understand your client base, be professional. You are at a trade show to create connections with people that could become your business partners. Making a good impression is key, so know your stuff.
  2. Be interactive. One great way to stand out is to have something that attracts people to your booth. Whether it be a video or a product demonstration, keep people engaged.
  3. Make connections. You are there to meet new people, and form potential partnerships, not just to sell your product. If your company can help another company make money, you will always be in business.
  4. Follow up, and follow through. Probably the most important thing to do after a trade show is reconnect with the people you met. The only way to create these lasting business relationships is to stay connected to the people you meet.

Commercial Service officers are here to help you succeed in expanding your business. We have various tools and ideas to prepare you and maximize your time at trade shows. Contact your nearest Export Assistance Center today to find out about upcoming trade shows and how to succeed in the global marketplace.

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Supporting the Best Environment for U.S. Exporters

July 24, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

The ITA Environmental Technology Team is ready to support your business!

The ITA Environmental Technology Team is ready to support your business!

One way the International Trade Administration (ITA) supports U.S. exporters is through specific teams of specialists who focus on specific industry sectors.

From marine technology, to health care, to automobile manufacturing, ITA offers export support in a variety of sectors.

To promote professional development and to make sure our specialists stay on top of the latest business trends and opportunities, our teams come together to share lessons learned, study best practices, and discuss ways their industry is changing.

This month, the Environmental Technology team did just that.

Their week-long conference included various seminars which built on existing knowledge of export policies and emerging environmental technologies. These conferences benefit exporters because they keep the commercial service specialists up to date on the latest and greatest in their industry. The main focus of this year’s training sessions was ways the team can address pollution issues related to water, air, and soil, and to learn about new recycling technologies.

Other ways ITA supports environmental technology exporters are through programs such as;

The environmental sector is a large and growing industry. Environmental technologies make up a $735 billion global market with U.S. exports currently comprising about $45 billion of this market. Therefore there is much growth potential for U.S. envirotech exporters.

Industry-specific offices are just one of the ways ITA constantly works to make exporting easier for American businesses.

You can find out more about our industry teams and how they support exporters at export.gov. Or you can contact the Environmental Technology Team so they can help lead you in the right direction.

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U.S.-Africa Business Success Stories: How a Texas Oil Company Started Doing Business in Cameroon and Morocco

July 23, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

The geographic distance between Texas-based Arnold Oil Company and Sub-Saharan Africa may be thousands of miles, but their economic relationship has never been closer. U.S. businesses like the Arnold Oil Company are increasingly finding economic opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa: between 2001 to 2012, U.S. trade to sub-Saharan Africa tripled from $6.9 billion to $22.5 billion dollars. Africa is now home to six of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world, leading President Obama to call sub-Saharan Africa the “world’s next major economic success story.” That is why the Department of Commerce is working to facilitate and advocate for American businesses in this growing region, and U.S. firms are eager to help unlock even more of Africa’s economic potential.

A family-owned supplier of automotive and oil lubricant products, the Arnold Oil Company became interested in expanding its business abroad. They met with the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Austin to request assistance in developing an exporting and marketing plan for their products. After creating a plan that satisfied the company, the USEAC arranged for a meeting with a representative from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to assist the Arnold Oil Company with financing its exports.

But the USEAC took its assistance one step further, introducing the Arnold Oil Company to a buyer in Cameroon, who eventually was signed as a distributer. As a result of this relationship, the Arnold Oil Company was able to ship their first exports of oil lubricants to Morocco, generating revenue of more than $24,000 in 2013. With assistance from the USEAC, the Arnold Oil Company was able to expand its business into one of the most economically dynamic regions in the world.

In 2012, the Commerce Department launched the Doing Business in Africa Campaign to help U.S. businesses, like the Arnold Oil Company, take advantage of the many export and investment opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of the campaign, Commerce has expanded trade promotion programs tailored toward Africa and dedicated an online Africa business portal to direct businesses to federal resources. In addition, on August 5, the Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies will co-host the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a day focused on strengthening trade and financial ties between the United States and Africa.  The Forum will be attended by President Obama, Secretary Pritzker, Mayor Bloomberg, and other senior U.S. government officials. The U.S.-Africa Business Forum will intensify efforts to strengthen trade and financial ties between the United States and Africa and seek to create partnerships that will promote trade, accelerate job growth, and encourage investment. These efforts are helping American businesses expand and enter the global market for the first time, and the Department of Commerce remains committed to helping create more exporting success stories.

Businesses interested in learning more about the benefits of exporting should contact their local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

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Four Points for Finding “Harmony” in Exporting

July 23, 2014

Kenneth R. Mouradian is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Orlando U.S. Export Assistance Center.

A person in a stock room examines boxes

The numbers on the box help trade authorities know what’s in the box.

Numbers, numbers, numbers…! There are so many numbers to keep track of in global trade; and three, in particular, are commonly confused: the Harmonized Schedule (HS) Code, Schedule B Number, and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Number. They’re related but not the same.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, or Harmonized System, is a means for customs agents to know “what’s in the box” without having to open it or understand what’s written in various foreign languages on the shipping documentation. It’s a system for identifying commodities in trade based on a string of six to eight digits. The Harmonized System is used by 179 countries covering about 98 percent of world trade for the assessment of customs duties (“border taxes” on imports) and the collection of statistical data.

Under the Harmonized System, products are classified into two categories, 21 sections, and 96 chapters by form and function. For example, 8471.30, is “Portable automatic data processing machines, weighing not more than 10 kg, consisting of at least a central processing unit, a keyboard and a display.”

English translation: laptop computer.

Combined with the product’s origin and value, customs agents use the HS Code to derive the tariff to be assessed.

The string of numbers that customs uses to assess taxes is six to eight digits long. To get even more specific in the collection of statistics, however, countries that use the Harmonized System are permitted to add digits to the HS Code to a total of 10 digits. In the United States, we refer to the full, 10- digit string as the Schedule B Number if it’s for export and the HTS Number if it’s for import.

So many numbers, so little time! Here are four important things to know about the Harmonized System, Schedule B, and HTS:

  • Nearly Identical. Schedule B and HTS Numbers are identical except for the last two digits. You’d use these numbers on forms submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Bureau of the Census. You can self-classify your exports under Schedule B and obtain on-line training and support from the U.S. Census website.
  • Electronic Export Information (EEI). Exporters have the legal obligation under the Foreign Trade Regulations to record the export of any consignment whose value is equal to or in excess of $2,500 using the EEI. The Schedule B Number is used on the EEI to identify the commodities being exported.
  • Trade Data and Foreign Tariff Schedules. You can derive an HS Code by looking at the first six to eight digits of a Schedule B or HTS Number. Because of its universality, trade data is commonly reported by governments, the World Trade Organization and United Nations using the Harmonized System Code. Hence, the HS Code is an important tool in conducting market research. Similarly, the HS Code is the key to searching foreign governments’ tariff schedules.
  • Free Trade Agreements. You can view a list of Free Trade Agreements to which the U.S. is a Contracting Party, as well as detailed information on the benefits of each and how to take advantage of them.

Need help? Contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center.

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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Discusses Opportunities for U.S. Companies to Export

July 17, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

U.S. exports reached a record $2.3 trillion in 2013 and support a record 11.3 million U.S. jobs. Thousands of companies across the country made exporting a strategy to growing their business and in fact, exports have driven the economic recovery and job creation in a number of U.S. cities. Because of the critical role of exports, the Department of Commerce recently launched the next phase of the NEI Next emblemNational Export Initiative, NEI/NEXT. Building on the success of the National Export Initiative, NEI/NEXT is a new customer service-driven strategy with improved information resources that will help American businesses capitalize on existing and new opportunities to sell Made-in-America goods and services abroad.

As part of this effort, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego, Calif. yesterday, where she led a roundtable discussion on the importance of U.S. exports with the “Global San Diego Export Plan” team. This plan, which aims to integrate exports into San Diego’s economic development strategy, is being developed in close consultation with the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

During the roundtable discussion, Secretary Pritzker met with local private and public sector leaders and learned more about the success of their export strategy and the challenges they still face. The partnership-driven export and investment strategy has made a big impact on the San Diego economy, but there are still more areas and opportunities for growth. One of the key objectives of NEI/NEXT is to promote exports as an economic development priority for communities across the country. San Diego’s export plan is an excellent example for how other cities and metropolitan areas across the country can partner with businesses and government to better facilitate exports.

Roundtable participants also spoke about the practical challenges they are facing including the role of small and medium sized businesses, infrastructure, retaining talent and branding. Secretary Pritzker discussed Department of Commerce resources and ways the Department and ITA could provide assistance to businesses and the Export Plan team to help overcome some of these challenges.

Since the launch of President Obama’s National Export Initiative in 2010, the United States has seen strong export-driven economic growth and has broken export records four years in a row. Increasing U.S. exports remains a top priority for the Obama Administration, and the Commerce Department is ready to assist San Diego and other communities in making the most of their exporting potential.

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Introducing ITA’s Trade Developer Portal

July 14, 2014

Kimberly Becht is the Deputy Program Manager for Web Presence in the International Trade Administration.

ITA's Trade Developer Portal provides APIs for office locations, market research, trade events, trade leads and trade news.

ITA’s Trade Developer Portal.

In support of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and the Commerce Department’s strategic plan, the International Trade Administration (ITA) has taken a major step in making its data open and accessible to the public through its Trade Developer Portal.

Announced today by Secretary Pritzker, the portal is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow software developers to create web and mobile applications using information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Making its data public to software developers is one more way ITA is helping U.S. businesses export and enabling foreign investment in American companies through the use of cutting edge technologies.

The Trade Developer Portal helps fulfill the Department’s top priority of making federal data open and available to third party developers in order to foster economic growth.

Currently, the developer portal includes:

  • access to information about trade events;
  • market research;
  • trade leads;
  • locations of domestic and international export assistance centers; and
  • trade news and articles.
Our developer portal can help developers show country-specific pages based on U.S. government data.

Our developer portal can help developers create country-specific pages displaying U.S. government trade data.

Over the next few months, we plan to add APIs around business opportunities, tariff information for goods and services covered under Free Trade Agreements, and frequent questions asked by exporters. We are continuously adding and enriching data sets with the long-term goal of sharing all publicly disseminated information produced by ITA and other trade promotion agencies.

Through the portal, we will engage developers by showcasing applications, providing access to our data owners, and soliciting input to help us improve the quality of public data. The picture on the left is just one example of what can be done using the information currently available in our Trade Developer Portal.

If you have any questions about the portal or need assistance using our APIs, please let us know.  We are excited to partner with you in the next phase of the open data revolution!

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NEI/NEXT Priority Objective: Expand Access to Finance for U.S. Exporters

July 10, 2014

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

Yuki Fujiyama is a trade finance specialist with the Office of Finance and Insurance Services Industries in the International Trade Administration.  He serves on the Department’s liaison team to the U.S. Export-Import Bank and he is the author of The Trade Finance Guide: A Quick Reference for U.S. Exporters.

Attendees at the Seminar learned the best ways to get paid from export sales, as part of a continued effort to support U.S. exporters.

Attendees at the Seminar learned the best ways to get paid from export sales, as part of a continued effort to support U.S. exporters. You can learn about this in our Trade Finance Guide.

The U.S. government is focusing on expanding access to finance for U.S. exporters, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and their foreign buyers.

On June 30, the U.S. Department of Commerce partnered with a number of local organizations and federal agencies to present The Global Connect: Arlington Trade Finance Seminar at Arlington Economic Development in Northern Virginia.

Expanding access to export financing is one of the five priority objectives under NEI/NEXT, the next phase of the President’s National Export Initiative, a customer-focused initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets around the world.

Despite recent improvements in the economy, many U.S. businesses, especially SMEs and minority-owned firms, still face significant challenges in financing their export transactions.  The Arlington seminar helped local SMEs learn ways to overcome such challenges by following NEI/NEXT’s three key trade finance strategies:

  1. Engage and educate more commercial lenders and private-sector partners on U.S. government export financing and insurance programs.
  2. Educate more U.S. businesses on how to utilize the government and commercial trade finance resources that can help turn their export opportunities into actual transactions.
  3. Streamline services provided by U.S. government export financing and promotion agencies.

In addition to these finance strategies, participants also explored:

  • getting paid from export sales;
  • getting paid in foreign currencies;
  • taking advantage of  export assistance resources and U.S. Government export financing programs;
  • identifying U.S. export opportunities in Latin America; and,
  • finding global business development resources for U.S. Hispanic and Other Minority-Owned Businesses.

With the new knowledge gained from Global Connect Arlington, participants are now more equipped to enter, grow and succeed in global markets!

Do you need more info on trade finance? Our Trade Finance Guide is a great place to start!

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New Data Show Jobs Impact of Export Destinations

July 8, 2014

Isabel Sackner-Bernstein is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. She is studying Strategic Communication at Elon University.

Chart schows that NAFTA supports 25 percent of US export related jobs. Asia and Pacific supports 28%, EU supports 22%, Latin America without Mexico supports 10%. Middle East and Africa 6%, other destinations 9%.What is an export to Canada actually worth?

We know that Canada has always been an important trade partner with the United States, and we know that total exports to Canada were more than $360 billion in 2013, but new data released from the International Trade Administration (ITA) now give more insight into the value of U.S. exports by destination than just dollar amounts.

What are exports to Canada worth? How about nearly 1.7 million U.S. jobs?

New data from ITA show exports to Canada supporting more jobs than any other U.S. export market, with Mexico as a close second at about 1.1 million. Other top destinations were China, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

The exports to these countries alone supported nearly 4.8 million U.S. jobs last year, which is almost as much as the entire populations of Chicago and Houston combined.

Here are some more quick facts we learned from this new data that you can impress your friends with:

  • U.S. exports set a record for a fourth consecutive year in 2013, reaching $2.3 trillion;
  • Exports to the Asia-Pacific region supported 3.2 million jobs, or 28 percent of all export-related jobs;
  • Canada was the top destination for U.S. exports in 2013, and nearly 1.7 million U.S. jobs were supported by these exports, and;
  • Although they beat us in the World Cup, goods exports to Belgium supported nearly 140,000 U.S. jobs.

Want to learn more? Check out the full report online.

So now that you’re the most well-informed member of your friend group, spread the word about how exporting is growing our economy. Talk to your local U.S. Export Assistance Center to find out how to make your business go global.

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