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Export Success Series: Texas’ Polyguard Products Wins “E” Award for Expansion into Colombian Market

June 16, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Decorative graphic representing U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement

Export Success Series: Texas’ Polyguard Products Wins “E” Award for Expansion into Colombian Market

Colombia is a major trading partner with the United States, and we have many mutually beneficial business collaborations. One American business that has profited from engaging in trade relations with Colombia is Polyguard Products, resulting in a partnership that has grown steadily within the last nine years.In 2006, the North Texas U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), which is part of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), assisted Polyguard Products in locating partners around the globe, and in helping with day-to-day export issues. Nathan Muncaster, the company’s global business development director, says that Polyguard has worked with Commerce “to enter many of the markets where our products fit easily… We now approach the point where the road steepens in our international journey, an incline where market access issues are becoming prevalent and important.” As Polyguard commissions the USEAC as well as the Department of Commerce for business-to-business matchmaking services, finding solutions to international export difficulties have been crucial to the company’s success. Polyguard won the 2010 President’s “E” Award for achieving outstanding exporting results, having sent products to both Colombia and Turkey. Additionally, by growing their export sales by 70 percent from 2010 to 2013, generating more than $3 million, Polyguard received the 2014 President’s “E Star” Award as well.

Polyguard Products has become a leader in remediating difficulties associated with international expansion. The company’s work is also an excellent example of how efforts to teach exporting methods to other companies can exponentially increase innovation and globalization. Companies who have similar interests in expanding their business can find information at To learn more about the President’s “E” Awards, companies can also visit The “E” Awards recognize companies for their contributions to increasing U.S. exports. In 1961, President Kennedy signed an executive order reviving the World War II “E” symbol of excellence to honor and provide recognition to America’s exporters.

Many of the “E” Awardees are able to conduct business internationally as a result of the 14 trade agreements the United States currently has in force with 20 countries. The Obama administration is working closely with Congress to pass trade promotion legislation, which outlines Congressional priorities on trade agreements, so that the deals currently being negotiated can be put in place. Trade promotion legislation is critical to the completion of new, high-standard trade agreements that will strengthen our economy, level the playing field for our businesses in markets around the world, and promote American values.


Beyond the Border: U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico Trade in Perspective

June 16, 2015

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

This is a guest blog post by Philip Poland, Director of International Trade Compliance at DHL (USA). DHL was a Platinum Marketing Partner for the Discover Global Markets: The Americas Forum in Miami, FL, in May 2015, and is a Marketing Partner for the 2015 Discover Forum Series.

The North American trade relationship is the strongest in the world, and exceptionally important to U.S. businesses.  The United States exported over $600 billion in goods and services to both Canada and Mexico in 2014. Canada is our largest trading partner, with $658 billion in goods exported and imported last year. With this in mind, a recent panel discussion I participated in, held during the Discover Global Markets: The Americas conference, explored the opportunities and challenges for U.S. companies looking to do business with our closest neighbors.

How should businesses approach trade with Mexico and Canada, and what are the implications for organizations that want to expand and succeed?  The following is an overview of key considerations relating to the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada equations:

NAFTA is key. Since taking effect in 1994, the free trade pact has significantly reduced the cost of trading between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, by removing or reducing tariffs in multiple industries, including agriculture, textiles and automobiles.  U.S. manufacturing exports to NAFTA countries have increased 258 percent in the last 20 years.  Companies that have not yet launched an export strategy, and are analyzing opportunities for their products, must surely consider the cost implications involved under the free trade marketplace.  Simply put, if your business is just getting into the global trade game, Canada and Mexico may be a good place to start.  Both countries have a very skilled labor force as well as high-quality education in the areas of engineering that is needed for production and manufacturing.

Logistics costs are low.  Given the close proximity of our neighbors, and the productive relationships that exist between our governments, border movements are simplified relative to other nations. Lower transportation costs and streamlined customs procedures mean reduced logistics costs for those U.S. businesses exporting goods to Canada and Mexico – and for those importing manufactured goods and materials for use in production as compared with the cost of shipping from Asia.

Rules and details matter. Companies considering trade with our neighbors – and those that are already trading – must clearly understand the particular customs requirements that apply in each country.  For instance, in Mexico, customs officials can be very particular about accuracy on customs documents, right down to the smallest details.  Companies must state the date as “day, month, year” versus the way that it is ordinarily stated in the United States, or they risk delays.  Even the smallest errors on documentation can cause long delays in the clearance process.

Regulations and enforcement are subject to change. As in many countries, regulations in Canada and Mexico evolve and change. Companies need to stay up-to-date and work with a logistics partner who understands the shifting environment.  As an example, Mexican customs recently began enforcing regulations on shoes and apparel that require the importer in Mexico to be registered in an effort to prevent the undervaluation of shipments.  More information on this requirement is available here.

Licensing and permit requirements must be understood.  It is essential for companies to understand the way that products are regulated in Canada and Mexico before they decide on their trade strategy.  For instance, in the area of vitamins and supplements, in some cases items sold over the counter in the United States will be sold only with a prescription in Canada and Mexico.  This regulatory difference means that some items exported to these countries will require a specific license or permit.  On the import side, U.S. companies that work with particular manufacturers across the border also need to understand when a license is required.

Looming policy and process changes could make trade with Canada and Mexico even more attractive. The United States, Canada, and Mexico continue to pursue agreements to streamline the trade process and harmonize data flows and perimeter security procedures.  The Beyond the Border program is a good example.  Mutual recognition and acceptance of trusted trader programs, which will allow for expedited customs procedures, are also in the works.  More information is available here.  Finally, the United States is pursuing the implementation of the International Trade Data System (ITDS), which will allow international traders to submit documents required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its Partner Government Agencies through a “single window.”  The ITDS will expedite customs procedures and reduce paperwork, and fulfill U.S. commitments under the Beyond the Border program.  Mexico has also recently implemented a single window program.

I am glad that DHL was able to be a part of the Discover Forum in Miami, and we all look forward to participating in future events with the U.S. Commercial Service. Is your company engaged in trade with Canada and/or Mexico? Let us know what you see as the biggest opportunities and greatest challenges at @DHLUS, and be sure to check out the export resources available at

Note: This article is not intended to be specific legal or compliance advice, but general information related to international trade.


Newest Class of Commercial Service Officers Sworn-in By Secretary Pritzker

June 15, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Secretary Pritzker Swearing in 27 Foreign Commercial Service officers and one Intellectual Property Attaché from the Patent and Trademark Office to the Commerce team.

Secretary Pritzker Swearing in 27 Foreign Commercial Service officers and one Intellectual Property Attaché from the Patent and Trademark Office to the Commerce team.

Today, in a formal swearing-in ceremony, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker welcomed 27 Foreign Commercial Service officers and one Intellectual Property Attaché from the Patent and Trademark Office to the Commerce team.  The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.  The new officers will use their unique skills to match U.S. companies with foreign partners, reduce trade barriers, fight intellectual property rights violations, and attract investment to America’s shores.  Stefan Selig, Under Secretary for International Trade, Arun Kumar, Assistant Secretary and Director General of Global Markets and Shira Perlmutter, United States Patent and Trademark Office Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs were also in attendance.

For their first assignments, 14 officers have been selected to go to overseas posts, 9 will work in domestic field offices around the country and 5 will serve here in Washington, D.C.  The Commercial Service officers went through a rigorous screening process and were selected from over 2,800 candidates. Most of the new officers cultivated their expertise in international trade from previous federal or state government service, while others previously held positions in the private sector in fields such as energy, financial services, pharmaceuticals, publishing, entertainment, and consulting. These new officers bring a wealth of knowledge, skills, and real world experience to their positions that will assist them in helping U.S. companies capitalize on global opportunities.  For example, new Commercial Service Officer Suzanne “JK” Platt will leverage her many years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry to help American businesses compete and sell their goods and services worldwide.  She spent the last five years with a manufacturer, supporting their exports to Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, where she worked on commercial flows into and with the EU, while also supporting new distribution channels and operations.

Companies today are born global.  From brand new start-ups to established multi-nationals, all are looking for the next export opportunity to expand their bottom line. President Obama, the Commerce Department, and the entire Administration understand that, for domestic firms to succeed, they must reach the 96 percent of customers who live beyond our borders.

The President has made exporting a key priority of this Administration, resulting in 5 years of record-breaking levels of goods and services sold abroad..  The Obama Administration has set forth a robust trade agenda to help level the playing field for American businesses and their workers through modern, high-standard trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

As we look to complete these trade deals, the Commercial Service will be on the front lines of implementing these deals and ensuring American companies can capitalize on new opportunities in the Asia-Pacific, Europe, and elsewhere.

The new officers will join the ranks of the Commercial Service’s cadre of talented professionals working in nearly 80countries and 100 domestic locations assisting U.S. companies in exporting and increasing sales to new global markets.

Congratulations to the newest class of Commercial Service officers.

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Export Success Series: Increasing Opportunities For U.S. Trade In Nicaragua and Guatemala

June 15, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Trade Americas wordmarkTwo Central American countries, Nicaragua and Guatemala, continue to open doors for American companies who are seeking out new markets. The U.S. Commercial Service, the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, helps U.S. companies get started in exporting and increase their sales to new markets around the world. Recently, the U.S. Commercial Service office worked with two companies, Second Frontiers and Battery Concepts, helping them expand sales and services into these important Central American countries.

Second Frontiers, a global technology consulting firm specializing in the electronic equipment industry, announced their intentions to expand services to new markets and trade partners. In August of 2014, with the assistance of the Denver, Colorado U.S. Commercial Service office, Second Frontiers used the unique business match-making services that are part of the Gold Key Service program to travel to five Central American countries, including Nicaragua and Guatemala, to meet with prospective trade partners in their industry sector. The Gold Key program provides American firms of all sizes with customized, prescreened meetings with potential overseas clients. As a result of these meetings and expanded trade opportunities, Second Frontiers is now exploring the possibility of building additional office space, warehousing, and distribution centers in the U.S. The progress of their partnerships in foreign markets has been a major catalyst for Second Frontiers domestic growth and increased sales.

Similarly, Battery Concepts, a family-owned supplier of forklift batteries, hopes to pursue new export partnerships with companies in Nicaragua and Guatemala. The El Paso, Texas U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) is assisting Battery Concepts as they look to develop and build new trade networks. So far, the firm has increased export sales from $66,000 per month in 2010 to over $354,000 per month in 2014. The company’s successes were showcased at an International Trade Policy Event at the White House in March of 2015. Battery Concepts’ President John Kenemore stated, “we try to participate in U.S. Commercial Service events every chance we get. The U.S. Commercial Service has staff in many locations, and we plan on using their services at every opportunity.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker attended the President’s Export Council meeting to discuss how to increase international exporting opportunities for American business. Overall, the PEC meeting provided a forum for resolving trade-related challenges across business, industrial, agricultural, labor, and government sectors. Secretary Pritzker highlighted recent accomplishments in international trade as a direct result of the PEC’s recommendations, which include success stories similar to those of Second Frontiers and Battery Concepts.


Future of Urban Innovation: Startups Summit

June 12, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

People sitting in chairs on a stage that appear to be having some sort of panel discussion.

Future of Urban Innovation: Startups Summit

On June 9, the U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with Columbia University, hosted the Future of Urban Innovation: Startups summit in New York City, to discuss urban innovation and how government, academia, and the private sector can work together to help startups and spur economic growth. The summit was part of ongoing efforts, by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to provide information and resources to innovators and entrepreneurs in the region.

Urban innovation is a key driver of economic growth for the U.S., with tech-based entrepreneurs helping to develop the domestic manufacturing base and the urban supply chain. Urban innovation also spurs the formation of new businesses with high paying jobs, and innovative companies that export their goods contribute to America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.

In her remarks, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker discussed the advantages cities offer entrepreneurs looking to start a business, including leading research universities; start-up incubators; financial institutions; advertising and marketing firms; the talent pool to develop new products; and a concentrated customer base. She issued a call-to-action for higher education institutions, the private sector, local governments, and other economic development stakeholders to invest in their urban innovation ecosystems. “Providing the tools for researchers and entrepreneurs to turn their discoveries into commercially viable products – whether in cities or any other setting – is a key priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama administration,” Pritzker said. Pritzker gave examples of agencies that are supporting these goals, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).

To utilize these resources, Secretary Pritzker emphasized the importance of strong, cross-sector partnerships to support businesses as they move out of the research and development phase to tackling the challenges of starting and growing a company. She also outlined the wide variety of ways that the Department of Commerce invests in urban centers across America, facilitates groundbreaking research in diverse fields, and collaborates with various partners to take new ideas from the lab to market.

Through its issuance of strong patents and protection of intellectual property, the USPTO plays a key part in urban innovation efforts by promoting inventive discovery. The strength and vitality of the U.S. economy depends directly on effective mechanisms that protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity. The continued demand for patents and trademarks underscores the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs, and the USPTO is at the cutting edge of the nation’s technological progress and achievement.

“In order to be at the forefront of fostering innovation through intellectual property rights, we are not just operating from a distance, but instead need to be present where innovation happens,” said USPTO Director Michelle K. Lee at the summit. In the last three years, the USPTO has stood up four new regional offices – DetroitDenverDallas, and the Silicon Valley – designed to serve innovative communities on a more regional basis. In addition, where the USPTO does not have a permanent presence, they are partnering with local organizations, such as Cornell Tech at their technology campus in New York City. These partnerships are a force multiplier in order to increase USPTO’s reach to all innovators.

In a panel of intellectual property (IP) experts during the summit, Director Lee discussed IP strategies for technology entrepreneurs. Topics included best practices and common pitfalls relating to start-up patent strategies, tips for working with attorneys, insights into the role of IP for emerging companies, and the possible impact of pending patent reform efforts being considered in Washington. During a session on federal support for entrepreneurs, speakers from the MBDA, EDA, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) discussed opportunities for companies to receive grants, funding, and other assistance. Throughout the summit, there were startup pitches by entrepreneurs as well as networking events.

The Department of Commerce is committed to investing in urban centers across America, facilitating groundbreaking research in diverse fields, and collaborating with various partners to take new ideas from the lab to market.


Export Success Series: Export Sales to Mexico Opening Doors to Latin America

June 12, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Decoration image of a globe with U.S. and Mexican flags designed as arrows pointing above and below each other

Export Success Series: Export Sales to Mexico Opening Doors to Latin America

As businesses work to expand their international export networks, they look to the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service (CS) to move domestic and foreign economy relations forward. The U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), a major part of Commerce’s CS, specifically provides key opportunities through counseling, special events and specific business matchmaking. This business matchmaking can broaden opportunities for further export sales with a multitude of countries. Escalade, Inc. of Evansville Indiana, now an international manufacturer and distributor of sporting goods brands, partnered with the USEAC in Indianapolis ten years ago to establish themselves in Latin America.

In 2005, Escalade’s National Account and International Sales Manager Marla Fredrich, with the help of USEAC, explored possibilities of opening export sales to Mexico. Soon after connections were made, initial sales to Mexico launched and have increased ever since. Today, Escalade exports their products not only to Mexico, but also to other Latin American countries such as Colombia, as well as CAFTA countries including El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. Fredrich explains, “there’s no doubt that learning the ins-and-out of selling to Mexico and working with the Commercial Service gave us more confidence in expanding our sales to other parts of Latin America.” By doing so, Fredrich states that Escalade is “now reaping the fruits of [their] hard work in making new sales to world markets, and Latin America has become a key focus of our international business strategy.” Escalade is just one recent example of how U.S. companies have made much progress in exporting to a wide variety of countries, especially those in Latin America.

Establishing a foothold in one reputable export country such as Mexico paves the way for businesses to grow and sustain export networks in similar countries. This global diversification creates opportunities for both U.S. firms as well as foreign countries to strengthen economies and become more internationally competitive. Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker attended the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Secretary Pritzker emphasized achievements of the High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED), which include new air travel agreements, steps to improve border management. Strengthening people-to-people ties in the near future with these types of forums, Pritzker stated, will continue to play a key role in creating export success stories similar to that of Escalade, Inc.


Growing the Export Tradition in North Carolina

June 10, 2015

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

Wayne Cooper is the Chair of the District Export Council of North Carolina, a Marketing Partner for the Trade Winds-Africa Business Forum and Trade Mission.

Wayne Cooper

Wayne Cooper

As long as North Carolina has been a state, it’s been an exporter.

One of our first main exports was pine tar, and one rumor has it that our use of pine tar in the Revolutionary War is how we became known as the Tar Heel State. But I’m not writing to talk about rumors, or about the past.

What I want to talk about is the future, and for companies here in North Carolina and around the country, the future is global. We’re on a winning streak here in this state, and I’m not talking about college basketball. North Carolina has set goods export records for four straight years, hitting $31.3 billion in 2014.

Our globally engaged companies are reaping the benefits of that success: finding more revenue, hiring more people, expanding their inventories, their services, and their companies.

Why wouldn’t your company want to find that kind of success?

At the North Carolina District Export Council, the importance of exporting is always top of mind for us. What we want is to help get more North Carolina companies on board.

That’s why we are so glad to work with the U.S. Commercial Service, and it’s why we are partnering on the Trade Winds—Africa Forum. When we talk about the future of global business, it would be folly to not talk about Africa. In development, population, spending power, and just about any other measure, few regions can compete with the growth in Africa.

I hope that companies across the state, from the beautiful sands of the Outer Banks to the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains, will take a look at opportunities in Africa, and at the Trade Winds mission. If there is any way your company can best take advantage of the opportunities in that continent, it’s with the help of the Commercial Service team.

I want more companies to find the success that our state’s exporters already enjoy, because we all know that there aren’t many places in the world that compete with North Carolina when it comes to manufacturing, building, selling, or providing quality products and services.

Now let me say this in my best North Carolina voice: I hope to see y’all in South Africa!


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