Author Archive

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Burma: An Old Civilization Opens to New Ideas

June 9, 2014

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

Burma could become the next market for your goods and services.

Burma could become the next market for your goods and services.

Burma is opening up as a nation and an economy after decades of isolation. As the nation develops, there are numerous opportunities for U.S. companies to support the nation as it grows, modernizes, and brings in new products and services.

Commerce Secretary Pritzker completed a commercial diplomacy trip to Burma and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) along with a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council to solidify the commercial relationship between the United States and the region.

The International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service is also opening an office in Rangoon to support U.S. businesses looking for opportunities in this new market. Our staff will help companies understand market trends, navigate Burmese regulations, and find qualified business partners.

Commercial Officer Mike McGee is based in Thailand, but has worked with companies doing business in Burma for years. He spoke about the U.S.-Burma commercial relationship and path forward with Doug Barry of ITA’s Global Knowledge Center.

Barry: You commute regularly between Bangkok and Rangoon. Since we spoke a year ago about the easing of sanctions and the opening of the country to U.S. investment, in what ways have things changed?

McGee: Burma still has a wealth of need. After more than 50 years of stagnation and isolation, the country and its people need just about everything—from consumer goods to housing to a functioning electrical grid. So there is a huge opportunity, and there’s almost no sector that does not have tremendous need for bringing in new companies and products.

Barry: There is great internal and external pressure to open up more and to reform. How’s the government doing?

McGee: It depends on who you ask. I think it’s accurate to say that a lot of progress has been made in a short time, but much more needs to be done. We feel strongly that there can be a commercial connection to further recognition of human rights, and that will be a key focus of our work here going forward.

U.S. companies that are on the ground now fully support this approach. They are not here to extract and leave. They want to help the Burmese prosper, be free, and contribute to the well-being of the entire region. We are in this for the long haul, and much patience and engagement on every level is needed.

Barry: How do political and business leaders in Burma view the United States?

McGee: Very positively. We hear over and over again how the United States is the “Gold Standard” for just about everything.

In the area of energy production, especially electrical, the government invites greater participation by the U.S. private sector. They’re also interested in our LNG and wind power technology. Some earlier energy contracts have gone to UK and Chinese companies, but in future contracting rounds I think we’ll see much more U.S. participation.

Barry: U.S. economic sanctions have eased but not disappeared.

McGee: That’s true. If the reforms backslide or don’t continue forward, there needs to be consequences. The government is in uncharted waters, and there is much that we don’t understand about its workings.

That said, the United States is engaging with the Burmese on a variety of fronts. The U.S. Agency for International Development has programs in economic development and creating a civil society. The Peace Corps is setting up shop. Treasury and Agriculture people are here. The U.S. Commercial Service will open an office soon to help U.S. businesses spot opportunities and find buyers.

Barry: Burma is not a rich country, and “grinding” is an apt word to describe the poverty in the countryside where most Burmese live.

McGee: It’s not rich, yet. Burma is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, so it’s very difficult to try to introduce new technologies and new programs, partly because of the lack of a regulatory infrastructure, a legal infrastructure in place, but also just the poverty that exists.

The good news is that this is in many ways, a very wealthy country. It is very rich in resources and will have huge bearing for many years in the Southeast Asia and East Asia Pacific.

Barry: It’s a pretty exciting prospect for U.S. companies to get in on the ground floor.

McGee: Yes. What we have been largely advising is that companies find distributors and begin to get their products into the country. We can help, and will be even more helpful when the Commercial Service office opens in the U.S. Embassy later this year.

Barry: How do you help U.S. companies find partners?

McGee: We help with the due diligence process because there still is a fairly sizeable list of people who are prohibited for us to do business with. We offer a service called International Company Profile in which we make sure that their intended partners are the best choice in every sense of the phrase.

Increasingly, there are traders who are looking for the best businesspeople with the best price on the products the people need and want in the country. One of the things that I’ve been very surprised at is how vibrant the commercial environment is despite all of the prohibitions, despite all of the obstacles.

The Burmese are very resourceful, and they are very kind and friendly people.

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Rebuilding, Opportunity, Challenges in Philippines

June 6, 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.

Developing countries have plenty of difficult tasks to overcome while modernizing. The Philippines was a special case, as a 2013 typhoon brought destruction and tragedy to the islands.

But some good news has returned to a population inching towards the 100 million mark.

For one thing, GDP growth is at 7.2 percent, among the highest growth rates in Asia. That’s expected to continue, fueled in large measure by repairing damage from the deadly storm. Sound macroeconomic policies under President Aquino’s administration have been helpful, and robust growth is expected to continue.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited this nation with a delegation of U.S. business executives to discuss ways the United States can support rebuilding and growth in the Philippines, and how to advance the U.S-Filipino commercial relationship.

“This is a young, growing, vibrant market,” said Senior Commercial Officer Jim McCarthy, who hosted Secretary Pritzker on her visit.

He points out that the Philippines is the 12th most populous and fourth-largest English-speaking country in the world. “The people here think well and favorably of Americans and American products.”

With a median age of 23, this market holds plenty of future opportunity for U.S. businesses.

In particular, opportunities abound for U.S. exporters in aviation, security, defense, franchising, energy, infrastructure, franchising, IT, just to name a few.

For all the upside, said McCarthy, “it’s important to remember the Philippines is a work in progress.”

Filipinos are working to improve transparency and eliminate corruption in the market. Improvements in the nation’s Ease of Doing Business rankings led to an increase in the country’s investment rankings from all three major debt-rating agencies.

Other challenges persist. With high economic growth and a rising population come strains on infrastructure, including power generation, roads, airports, and ports. Government procurement requires patience and determination.

McCarthy believes that U.S. Government services available in the country lower risks and increase the success rate for U.S. companies.

The Department of Commerce, through its U.S. Commercial Service in Manila, organized five U.S. trade missions last year, the first such missions in several years. Delegations came from the states of Utah and Iowa, and from sectors such as energy and education. In addition, the multi-sectoral Trade Winds mission came to the Philippines in 2013. Three more delegations will visit the country later this year and include franchising, medical equipment, and a mission from the State of Mississippi.

“The increased interest in our services shows dramatically more interest in the export opportunities in the Philippines,” McCarthy said. “We urge U.S. companies to take their first or a second look at the country.”

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Understanding Business Opportunities in Vietnam

June 3, 2014

Peggy Keshishian is the Acting Senior Commercial Officer in the International Trade Administration’s Foreign Commercial Service Team in Vietnam.

Secretary Pritzker met with leaders from the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.

Secretary Pritzker met with leaders from the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.

It was an honor to host Commerce Secretary Pritzker here in Vietnam. She and the visiting delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council are absolutely right to prioritize the Vietnam market and their visit to the country will do nothing but help solidify a promising commercial relationship.

Here’s what I know about Vietnam: Despite some potential pitfalls, it is a hotbed of opportunity for U.S. businesses.

There are two important reasons Vietnam is a promising market:

  1. The country is modernizing, meaning there are numerous needs for infrastructure development. Improvements of transportation systems — including subways, highways, and airports — not only mean opportunities for U.S. firms, but also an improved business environment in the country.
  2. The population is also young; 70 percent of Vietnamese citizens are under 40 years old. That means there is tremendous opportunity for developing brand loyalty among consumers. Vietnamese citizens recognize the quality of U.S. products, and incomes in the country are rising. That helps create a promising environment for U.S. goods and services.

That said, it’s important to recognize there are some risks in the Vietnamese market.

Much of the money being injected into the economy comes from foreign sources, and is often provided by nations that expect their companies to receive a leg-up when it comes to competing for state contracts. You need to aware of how projects are financed so that you don’t end up spinning your wheels competing for a contract your business is unlikely to win.

This is something Secretary Pritzker addressed in several meetings with Vietnamese leaders, and I believe the country is taking important steps to increase transparency and fairness.

Our Foreign Commercial Service team works hard to make sure any American company looking to enter this market knows how to succeed. We work with our Commercial Service colleagues in the United States to support U.S. businesses with services like market research, finding the most qualified local partners, and discovering the best opportunities available.

We’ll remain here on the ground, continuing to support U.S. businesses and building off the success of the Secretary’s visit.

If you’re interested in opportunities in Vietnam – or in any other market – you should contact your nearest Export Assistance Center to get started.

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Celebrating International Trade in Maryland

June 3, 2014
John Malone of WTS International accepts an Export Achievement Award from Jolanta Coffey of the Export Assistance Center in Baltimore, Md.

John Malone of WTS International accepts an Export Achievement Award from Jolanta Coffey of the Export Assistance Center in Baltimore, Md.

Jack McCutcheon and Paul Matino Support Maryland Businesses at the Baltimore Export Assistance Center.

International exporting can seem daunting to many large and small businesses because they are unsure how to successfully take advantage of opportunities abroad.

Last week, at the 2nd Annual Celebration of International Trade, speakers provided veteran insight about the realities of doing business beyond the borders of the United States. The celebration was in honor of International Trade Month and brought together ambitious Maryland businesses for the chance to learn more about growing their companies.

The celebration provided information and discussions on international financial considerations, risk management, logistics, and legal concerns of international exporting. Dominick Murray, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development, stressed the fact that currently less than 10 percent of Maryland companies participate in exporting.

Laura Lane, President of Global Public Affairs for UPS, noted that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S., and that optimizing international commerce through the establishment of modern and effective free-trade agreements will be critical for the continued strength of the U.S. economy.

Between the educational seminars, the annual award ceremony honored an exemplary exporter in the DC-Maryland region, John Malone, who is the General Counsel and Vice President of Compliance and Quality Assurance at WTS International. WTS was this year’s recipient of the U.S. Commercial Service’s Export Achievement Award, and also also was recognized by Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s office.

Maryland District Export Council Members Carl Livesay and Maryjane Norris were also presented with awards recognizing their contributions to business.

Many of the celebration’s speakers noted that succeeding in foreign markets can be easier than it seems. With the right information, proper planning, and assistance from the state, doing business abroad can be both a great contribution to the bottom line, and good reason to return for the 3rd Annual Celebration of International Trade next year.

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The Look South Slice of the Export Pie Continues to Grow

May 29, 2014

John Larsen is the Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Secretariat.

The Look South campaign is encouraging companies to seek export opportunities in Latin America.Department of Commerce data show that U.S. goods and services exports set a record for the fourth consecutive year, reaching $2.3 trillion in 2013.

U.S. companies that export to our 11 free trade agreement partner countries in Latin America played a major role in this success. Through the Look South campaign, federal trade-promotion agencies hope to help more companies find success by taking advantage of these free trade agreements.

In 2013, U.S. goods exports to Look South markets increased $12.5 billion to $312.6 billion – more than double the 1.7 percent rate of growth for goods exports to the rest of the world.

This isn’t just a blip; we see a clear growth trend as market liberalization, growing middle class consumption, and diversifying industrialization by Latin American markets fuels healthy economic growth and import demand.

As U.S. exporters respond, the Look South markets’ share of total U.S. goods exports has steadily grown from 17 percent in 2009 to 20 percent in 2013.

Here are some more interesting facts about our exports to free trade agreement partners in Latin America:

  • U.S. goods exports to Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Peru have increased every year since 2009;
  • Exports to Mexico grew by more than $10 billion – nearly 5 percent – in 2013;
  • U.S. 2013 goods exports to Mexico totaled $226 billion, exceeding combined U.S. exports to the BRICs countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa;
  • The $57 billion in combined U.S. exports to Chile, Colombia, Panama, and Peru would rank them as our 5th largest export market behind Japan and ahead of Germany; and,
  • The $29 billion in combined U.S. exports to the six remaining Look South markets – Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua — would rank them just behind France or Singapore.

We love talking about this data, but we love it more when we can help U.S. companies act on the data and find success!

The Look South website can help your business find the on-the-ground opportunities. You can also see market snapshots by industry with “Best Prospect Sectors.”

So Look South today to get your piece of the growing export pie!

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Recognizing Those Supporting American Exports

May 28, 2014

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

Ken Hyatt is the Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Icelantic Skis was one of 65 companies and organizations recognized by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker with a President's E Award for supporting U.S. exports.

Icelantic Skis was one of 65 companies and organizations recognized by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker with a President’s E Award for supporting U.S. exports. You can find more photos on our Facebook page.

We at the Department of Commerce produce a lot of numbers, but we always try to see behind the export numbers into what they create – jobs, growth, and development.

It was easy to see behind the numbers today, as I joined Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to recognize and congratulate 65 companies and organizations that have supported the expansion of U.S. exports.

These companies and organizations earned the 2014 President’s E Awards, the highest honor bestowed upon those that are committed to expanding the U.S. economy through exports.

The awardees include an assortment of small and medium-sized businesses in a variety of states and business sectors. From Kansas-based Pioneer Balloon Company to California-based Robinson Pharma, both of which have expanded their exports with support from U.S. government agencies including the Department of Commerce.

Then there are organizations like the Global Commerce Council of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, which provides counseling, training, and networking opportunities to support Atlanta-area businesses looking to succeed overseas. This kind of support is crucial to businesses looking to expand their global presence.

There are 62 other companies and organizations that earned the President’s E Award, each and every one of which is working hard to make international trade a part of the DNA of American business.

I was honored to be a part of today’s ceremony, as I am continually honored to be a part of our nation’s growing commitment to international trade.

Congratulations to each and every company and organization recognized today, and thanks to every other American business, chamber of commerce, trade organization, World Trade Center, and other entities that are supporting U.S. businesses.

All of us at the Department of Commerce look forward to another year of more American companies competing and succeeding overseas, and to recognizing the businesses and organizations who exemplify the American commitment to global business during the next year.

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Transport Company Drives U.S. Service Exports

May 23, 2014

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

U.S. exports of services topped $682 billion in 2013, up $50 billion from 2012. As we explained in a recent blog post, service exports come from a number of industries, from medicine to law.

One other important contributor is transportation services, like those provided by Virginia-based MV Global Transport, which organizes bus and other kinds of transportation for some of the most exciting events you’ve seen around the world.

The company got into global business with help from the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Commercial Service, and now relies on international sales for 100 percent of its revenue.

Brad Kurtz, the company’s president, recently shared his company’s story with Doug Barry of ITA’s Global Knowledge Center.

Barry: You have some pretty impressive clients.

Kurtz: We provide special event transportation for large events all around the world. We have been fortunate enough to support the Olympics – in Salt Lake, Vancouver, as well as in London.

Barry: How did you get into international business?

Kurtz: We got in through the U.S. Commercial Service. They assisted us with work in Doha (Qatar) for the Asian games in 2006 and then also down in South Africa for the World Cup with introductions through their office there.

Barry: How did they do the introduction?

Kurtz: We were invited to a number of networking functions. They brought in the South African Football Delegation into Washington, D.C., and we had the opportunity to meet with them. From there they helped us further along our negotiations and assisted us while we were in South Africa.

Barry: How important has exporting been to your bottom line?

Kurtz: It’s the only way we have survived. Being a service industry, it’s difficult. You have the emerging markets, you have new markets. How do you know where to find the business? With the expertise and industry knowledge of the U.S. government, it’s been instrumental in helping us.

Barry: What percentage of your revenues is international now?

Kurtz: Currently, it’s 100 percent. I would have to say that the U.S. Commercial Service has helped us with about 80-plus percent of that.

Barry: Any new projects coming up?

Kurtz: We just opened up an office in Brazil, as well as in Qatar. So we are working already on the World Cup coming up in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016.

Barry: Any advice for U.S. companies that are thinking about exporting or expanding their international markets?

Kurtz: Enjoy the Gold Key program offered by the Department of Commerce. It’s very beneficial and definitely will help curb any concerns you may have in entering an international market.

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U.S. Workers Are At Your Service

May 22, 2014

Barb Rawdon is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Professional Services & Education Team. Natalie Soroka is an economist in the Office of Trade and Economic Analysis. 

A dentist performs work on a patient with the help of a dental assistant

Many service industry professionals work in high-skilled fields like health care, science, and law. (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet)

Fact: U.S. service industries support four out of five jobs in the country.

I can’t think of a better statistic to show how important the non-manufacturing sector is to the U.S. economy.

As crucial as service industries are, they’re also often misunderstood. It’s common for observers to limit perception of service industries to food preparation and service workers, but the industry also includes scientists, healthcare providers, financial analysts, architects and engineers, lawyers, accountants, and many other professions.

According to the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) service-sector index, April was the 51st consecutive month of growth for economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector, with the most job growth happening in the higher-skilled, higher-paying professions.

These professional services are also key to U.S. participation in the global economy. U.S. service exports totaled a record $682 billion in 2013 with a trade surplus of $229 billion. Workers in export-intensive services industries earn 15 to 20 percent more than comparable workers in other services industries.

Services trade connects our world through integrated supply chains, telecommunications, financial services, computer services, energy services, environmental services, audiovisual services, a broad range of business and professional services. Modern services enhance innovation and cut production costs for manufactured goods while increasing quality and variety, benefitting consumers.

Our team is proud to work with businesses in the service industries, professional associations, and organizations in both the public and private sector.

For more information on trends in services trade, see “Recent Trends in U.S. Services Trade, 2013 Annual Report.”

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Four Questions to Ask Before Your Business Looks Overseas

May 21, 2014

Business people closing the deal by shaking hands.   [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786738][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/group.jpg[/img][/url]  [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9786622][img]http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40117171/business.jpg[/img][/url]Ken Mouradian is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Orlando Export Assistance Center.

I work with a lot of small businesses looking to begin exporting. It’s not uncommon for me to be asked, “How do you know if a company is export ready?”

The more relevant question is, “How does a company know that it’s export ready?” That’s a tricky one! For me, there are four main questions a company has to answer before it knows it’s export-ready:

  1. What’s your goal? It’s important to understand what you want to get out of exporting. Do you want to soften sales cycles? Do you want to diversify risk? Do you want to grow sales or keep production facilities busy?There are a variety of potential objectives and there may be more than one driver behind your interest in export. It’s important to be clear about the objective that is most important, though, and avoid objectives that are unrealistic or unattainable.
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  3. Do you have the resources? Drilling down a bit, you need to know the resources necessary to achieve your most important objective. When it comes to resource constraints, these are the big three:

    • Management and Personnel: Can management devote the necessary time and manpower to support global business?
    • Production Capacity: Can your business meet an increase in demand?
    • Financial Resources: You don’t necessarily have to have money in the bank, but you do need to be bankable.

     

  4. Have you done your research? You really need to do some evaluation here – both about your company and your target markets. You need to know your competitive advantage and whether it’s something global consumers will value. You have to know your buyer’s profile and how buyers will find you and your products. You also need to know how much risk you are willing to take. There is no right export market but there are a lot of export markets that may be wrong for your company. Following the herd can lead you over the cliff!
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  6. Are you committed? If you’ve read this far, you probably have the final thing I look for in determining export readiness: commitment. Export isn’t any more complicated than any other line of business. However, export requires compliance with U.S. and foreign government regulation, observance of foreign cultural and business norms, a willingness to follow and anticipate current events, and the flexibility to roll with the punches. Export isn’t for everyone, but with the right planning and support, there’s no reason that export has to be wrong for you.

If you know the answers to the above questions and you feel ready to get started exporting, it might be time for you to visit your nearest Export Assistance Center. If not, you might want to talk to your local Small Business Development Center.

If you need a little more information, our Basic Guide to Exporting is a great resource to help you evaluate your export readiness.

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The Global Appeal of Alabama’s Southern Charm

May 19, 2014

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

Robert Stackpole is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Birmingham, Ala.

Alabama Department of Commerce SealIn a business sense, Alabama can’t be pointed out in one location on a map. As the Alabama Department of Commerce is proud to point out, Alabama is everywhere.

Our Southern state is a global leader, exporting goods to about 200 foreign markets and attracting international business investment in high tech industries like aviation and automobile manufacturing. Our exports are up more than 50 percent since 2009, reaching $19.3 billion in 2013. Our transportation equipment exports have more than doubled in that time frame, reaching $8.3 billion.

There are plenty of reasons why Alabama is helping lead the way in global business. My favorite reason is this: teamwork.

The Export Alabama Alliance is a coalition of state and federal agencies, trade associations, and private organizations that have one mission in mind: helping Alabama grow through trade. We work hand-in-hand to support Alabama’s manufacturers, chemical companies, agriculture producers, and any other business looking to succeed in international markets.

We work with the ports for shipping intelligence, we contact our specialists overseas to understand market regulations, and we keep in touch with the chambers of commerce to understand the needs of Alabama’s businesses.

It’s an extraordinary level of cooperation, and it’s working. Of the eight companies recognized by Governor Bentley this year for export excellence, every one of them worked with the Alliance on some aspect of their international business plan.

As Alabama recognizes World Trade Week this week, we’re excited to celebrate the successes of our exporters and our subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies. We’ll toast to the thousands of jobs supported by global business throughout the state.

We’re also looking forward to bringing more of our small businesses into the global marketplace. If you’re ready to get started, we’re here to help!

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