Author Archive

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Taking Advantage of Business Opportunities in Colombia

June 25, 2014

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency blog.

George Mui is the Access to Markets team lead in MBDA’s Office of Business Development.

Aerial view of a city in ColombiaThe U.S. Department of Commerce, through its Look South campaign, helps U.S. exporters to expand their markets and identify new opportunities in Latin America. U.S. goods exports to Peru, Panama, Mexico, and Colombia have increased every year since 2009. As we celebrate the second year anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement more American companies are exporting goods and services to Colombia, the vast majority of which are duty-free. The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement is just one of the11 free trade agreements between the United States and Latin American countries.

That’s why MBDA San Antonio Business Center director Orestes Hubbard and MBDA Global Business Center project manager David Leister visited Colombia along with an MBDA Global Business Center client, Carlos Silva, CEO of USATEQ, a Colombian native.

MBDA San Antonio director Orestes Hubbard shared his experience with George Mui, MBDA’s Access to Markets team lead in the Office of Business Development.

Mui: Why did you choose to travel to Colombia?

Hubbard: Colombia has a very advantageous geography and is roughly twice the size of the state of Texas – where I live. Colombia is also the only country in South America with access to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and has long had good diplomatic and trade relations with the United States.

Mui: What was the purpose of your trip?

Hubbard: The purpose of the trip was to make contacts and identify concrete and tangible contracting opportunities for not only our center clients, but also opportunities for minority-owned businesses across the nation. We visited the two largest cities and major centers of commerce and industry, Bogota and Medellin.

Mui: You found some impressive opportunities – can you highlight a few of the industries?

Hubbard: In total, we discovered over $30 billion of business opportunities. There are private sector opportunities for U.S. construction and engineering companies looking for potential partners on infrastructure projects. The Colombian government has a number of opportunities in the renewable energy, highway, and railway industries. Colombia is the third ranked automobile manufacturer in Latin America, which creates significant opportunities for manufactured products, preferably automotive-related. For more information on opportunities in Colombia I recommend businesses visit the best prospect sectors for Look South countries.

Mui: An MBDA Global Business Center client was part of the trip to Colombia – what was the client’s impact?

Hubbard: Inviting a Colombian-American client from Medellin proved invaluable as Mr. Silva was able to make key government and private sector introductions, particularly in the areas of construction, renewable energies and automotive supply chain in Colombia.

Mui: What were your key takeaways?

Hubbard: Our trip confirmed what most trade reports declare, that Colombia is open for business and the stigma of the drug cartels and vast conflict with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) are things of the past. The main challenges appear to deal with traffic snafus and the need for the Colombian government to continue its admirable commitment toward growing the middle class.

However, it must be noted that fluency in Spanish is essential to having success in Colombia. This applies not only to the obvious case of setting up a local facility, but also when engaging a market representative. It is important that a good knowledge of Spanish is available in-house in the United States operations.

Mui: Can you discuss on-the-ground resources available to help minority-owned firms?

Hubbard: We cannot emphasize enough the invaluable role the U.S. Commercial Service in Colombia plays in assisting MBDA clients get into the Colombian market. We met with senior commercial officer Cameron Werker, foreign commercial officer Aaron Held, and a Colombian national market specialist, all of whom were very helpful in sharing information and resources pertaining to helping U.S. companies successfully enter the Colombian market.

This was an excellent collaborative meeting in which we gained critical insight into the Colombian economy and political workings. We mutually agreed that after registering with the local United States Export Assistance Center in the United States, all minority business enterprise clients interested in doing business in Colombia would be promptly referred to U.S. Commercial Service in Colombia to obtain market intelligence and critical introductions to events and contacts.

All in all, we came away impressed with the seeming transparency and relative ease of starting up a company, pulling in on-the-ground resources in Colombia from both the U.S. Embassy, as well as local Colombian trade and investment vehicles.

Mui: What advice do you have for U.S. companies thinking about exporting?

Hubbard: For minority-owned firms who want to learn about global business, and believe your product or service can be sold abroad, your first stop should be an MBDA Business Center. Contact Orestes Hubbard, director of the MBDA San Antonio Business Center at orestes.hubbard@utsa.edu or 210-458-2480.

MBDA supports the Look South campaign with a successful business exploration trip to Colombia. As a result, more than $30 billion of global contract opportunities were identified in both private and public sectors. Additionally, the MBDA Global Business Center also identified key strategic partners, such as the American Chamber of Commerce and ProExport Colombia. We look forward to bringing you more insights from Colombia.

MBDA and ITA have pledged a memorandum of understanding through January, 2016 that provides assistance to minority companies to develop their export potential through increased awareness and use of existing ITA products and services; increase ITA and MBDA cooperation at the regional and district office/local level, especially in regard to export counseling and trade finance training for minority firms.

 

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Secretary Pritzker Swears in New Commercial Service Officers

June 20, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Secretary Penny Pritzker swears in new commercial officers.

Secretary Penny Pritzker swears in new commercial officers.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today swore in 24 new Foreign Commercial Service Officers and one Intellectual Property Attachè at the Commerce Department. The ceremony marked an exciting beginning to these officers’ careers in overseas and domestic markets where they will work to strengthen the American economy by supporting U.S. businesses in the global marketplace.

The administration is committed to increasing U.S. exports, which support millions of jobs.  U.S. exports have set records for four consecutive years, reaching $2.3 trillion in 2013. These exports now support 11.3 million jobs in the United States. The recent launch of the NEI/NEXT campaign by Secretary Pritzker has built on the momentum of the recent growth to encourage American companies to take their business to overseas markets.

Expanding trade and investment is a central part of the Department’s ‘Open for Business Agenda’ and having an overseas presence is one critical way to support U.S. businesses seeking to grow in foreign markets.

During a recent trip to Burma, Secretary Pritzker announced the Department of Commerce will expand its overseas resources to help U.S. businesses navigate additional global markets and sell their goods and services to customers all over the world. The Department’s International Trade Administration will add a total of 68 new positions and open offices in five new countries, including its first in Burma. The expansion is largely focused on fast-growing markets in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.  The Department of Commerce will soon add new offices in Africa and Asia in order to facilitate exports in these critical markets.

The new officers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from their prior private or public sector service. Of the more than 3,800 candidates, these 25 men and women were chosen because of their constant resourcefulness, tenacity, and of course, diplomacy.

These new Commercial Service Officers play a vital role in the enhancement of American businesses. They support U.S. businesses in overcoming trade barriers, finding global business opportunities and partners, and attracting investment to U.S. shores. These officers will be the boots on the ground, leading the charge to open new markets and helping companies compete in the global marketplace.

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Brazil and U.S. Share More Than Just Love of Soccer

June 19, 2014

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

Jonathan Gartenberg is an Intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Trade and Economic Analysis

Fans from many countries watch a sporting event.

World Cup fever plays a part in the expanding U.S.-Brazil commercial relationship.

The FIFA World Cup is underway and all over the world, excitement grows as fans cheer on their national teams.

Americans are no exception.

In fact the Brazilian Federal Government reported that more than 150,000 tickets were assigned to the United States – more than any other country outside Brazil.

By cheering on the U.S. team, fans are not only supporting players but contributing to the growing commercial relationship between Brazil and the United States.

Below are some highlights from Brazil’s economic and trade profile:

  • Like the United States, Brazil is mainly a service economy. In 2012, services comprised 68.5 percent of Brazil’s economy, compared to 78.6 percent of the U.S. economy in 2011.
  • Brazil is a net exporter to the world and had a 2013 trade balance of $2.5 billion. In the same year, Brazil’s exports totaled $242 billion.
  • As recipient of $44.1 billion of U.S. exports in 2013, Brazil earns a spot in the Top 10 U.S. Export Markets. Our top five exports to Brazil, are chemicals, transportation equipment, computer and electronic products, machinery (except electrical), and petroleum and coal products.
  • U.S. and Brazil mutual foreign direct investment totals more than $80 billion dollars, supporting thousands of jobs in both countries.

Even when world sporting events aren’t going on, the Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration (ITA), and other government partners work hard to further develop the U.S.-Brazil commercial relationship. ITA maintains five offices around the country, and our commercial specialists connect U.S. companies to qualified partners and promising business opportunities.

You can learn more about the work ITA is doing in Brazil at http://www.export.gov/brazil, or follow our Brazil team on Twitter at @Export2Brazil.

Stay tuned for more economic profiles on the countries competing in the World Cup!

 

*Except where noted, all figures are from Trade Policy Information System.

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Study in the States, Inshallah

June 19, 2014

Doug Barry of ITA’s Global Knowledge Center and Senior Commercial Officer Dao Le of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait produced the “Study in the States” video series.

Faris al-Obaid is one Kuwaiti citizen featured in the video series who enjoyed his experience as a student in the United States.

Faris al-Obaid is one Kuwaiti citizen who enjoyed his experience as a student in the United States. You can see his story, and the story of other citizens, courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.

Every year thousands of international students travel to America to pursue degrees at our world-class colleges and universities. In fact, educating international students represents a huge chunk of our annual service exports.

Not only do students gain valuable experience studying abroad, but they often return to the United States after graduating and bring family members and friends who help stimulate the travel and tourism industry. So, it’s no wonder then that the U.S. government works hard to recruit more students, especially because there is a lot of competition from countries that are also popular destinations for students, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.

To remain competitive, the Departments of State and Commerce teamed up with the embassy in Kuwait City to produce short video spots aimed at Kuwaiti high school students to highlight the benefits of studying abroad in America.

The videos address some common beliefs Kuwaitis have when they think about studying abroad – commonly that the process of applying for a visa is overly burdensome or that it’s difficult to fit in in the United States. The spots are designed to assure young students that these beliefs are untrue.

The videos feature Kuwaiti citizens who graduated from U.S. schools, and now enjoy rewarding careers, which they attribute to their time studying in the United States.

The first group of videos includes speakers such as a senior advisor to the Kuwait government, the regional sales manager for Microsoft, and a high school English language teacher. Some key points they discuss are that:

  • The visa application process is not discriminatory.
  • There are important deadlines the applicants need to adhere by.
  • Americans are welcoming to foreign students and universities are accepting to the different culture these students bring with them. For example, often colleges offer prayer rooms and halal food for Muslim students
  • Studying abroad in America is extremely important in creating an independent, creative, and self-assured student.

Through this program, we hope that international students will feel more comfortable applying to American study abroad programs and at the end of the day be better prepared for their quest to “Study in the States, Inshallah (if God wills it).”

 

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4 Ways Understanding Data Can Inform Your Export Strategy

June 18, 2014

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

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

Relying on export data can make your international business ventures more profitable.

Understanding the facts behind export data can make your international business ventures more profitable.

Numbers can be misleading, especially when they’re used as a proxy for quality thought in decision making.

Now, let’s be clear, here. When I say that numbers can be misleading, I’m assuming that you’re looking at an X and a Y axis with data points and no text except that which is necessary to label the graph. Alternatively, you’re looking at 10 numbers: five years and five corresponding dollar amounts or volumes. That’s where a lot of U.S. exporters begin their market research; and, if that’s where their research ends, that’s a problem.

Potential exporters need to look behind the data points on the graph by asking some important questions:

  • What happened before the trend?
  • What happened after the trend?
  • What caused the trend?
  • Can you compete (i.e., price, quality, terms of sale, features, post-sales support)?

Here’s a hypothetical: Imagine for a moment that you sell building products and the data indicate a 5-year growth trend in Timbuktoo for exactly what you sell. Assume, too, that the data are two years out of date and that you don’t follow soccer. Little did you know that Timbuktoo hosted the World Cup two years ago and that, if you had more recent data, you’d see a drop in demand for building products once the stadium, exercise buildings, dormitories, and tourism infrastructure had been completed.

I should also mention that all the best relationships were probably formed well before construction started. Should you spend much time exploring the Timbuktoo market? Based on what little we know about your company and Timbuktoo from this example, there’s nothing exceptional about Timbuktoo but you wouldn’t know that from statistics alone.

So, what’s a company with limited resources supposed to do to identify potential export markets? Here are a few ideas:

  • Use raw data only as a starting point. TradeStates Express and the UN Comtrade Database are two great online sites where you can find raw data and begin your researching process.
  • Use reports to improve understanding. General reports and information about export opportunities can be found at the Market Research Library.
  • Consult “people in the know” to challenge assumptions. ITA offers business counseling and can provide the inside scoop for companies looking to export. U.S. and foreign trade shows are also a great resource for businesses who want to learn more about the exporting opportunities available to them. The District Export Council can also be a source of information and counsel to those who need.
  • Visit the Market. The U.S. Department of Commerce, World Trade Centers, state and local Economic Development Organizations, and chambers of commerce organize trade missions and can facilitate your visit to the market to make contacts for future deals. Contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center to get more information.

In addition to your local U.S. Export Assistance Center, more info about government-wide services and resources for exporting are available at www.export.gov.

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How to Get Paid for Your Aerospace Exports

June 17, 2014

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

Fred Elliot is a Trade Specialist with the Aerospace Team at the International Trade Administration.

Photo of an airplane engine.Have you ever wondered if you should extend credit to your overseas customers in the same way you do your national customers? Or whether your banking relationships are solid enough to allow this type of credit?

Now’s the time to start getting some answers. Register now for the July 24th Trade Finance Webinar for U.S. Aerospace Exporters and gain expert insight about topics such as:

  • Dos and don’ts of export finance;
  • Methods of payment from overseas customers;
  • How the Export-Import Bank and the Small Business Administration (SBA) can help finance aerospace exports, and;
  • Ways the U.S. Department of Commerce is helping aerospace manufacturers learn about export opportunities and how to take advantage of them.

Companies in southern Ohio are welcome to participate in-person in Cincinnati, where you can meet one-on-one with finance experts from the Export-Import Bank, SBA, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, and PNC Bank, who can answer any questions you may have.

Both webinar and in-person attendees will leave this event better prepared to succeed in global business.

You can register or find more details online, or contact Howard Thompson of the Ohio Aerospace Institute at (440)-962-3237.

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Keeping the United States on Top of Manufacturing Innovation

June 9, 2014
A manufacturing worker works on an automobile engine.

The Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Council wants the United States to remain a manufacturing leader.

Michael Laszkiewicz is the Chair of the Manufacturing Council. He is the Vice President and General Manager of Rockwell Automation.

I serve as chair of the Manufacturing Council, which advises Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on the manufacturing industry. The Council is composed of representatives from large and small manufacturers from across the United States.

Our objective is to identify and recommend ways the U.S. government can respond to the challenges facing U.S. manufacturers to ensure our competitiveness at home and abroad.

At our most recent meeting, the Council adopted three letters of recommendation focused on workforce development best practices; a national campaign to address the misperceptions around manufacturing careers; and a shale gas study to inform liquid natural gas export policy decisions, and opportunities in manufacturing, innovation, and research and development.

We believe these recommendations will better position the United States as a leader not just in manufacturing productivity, but in manufacturing and science innovation. Having the right technology, the right workforce, and the appropriate level of respect for the manufacturing industry is crucial to protecting U.S. jobs and the long-term health of the economy.

Below is a summary of our recommendations.  For more information, you can read the Council’s full recommendations at: http://trade.gov/manufacturingcouncil/.

Recommendations for Manufacturing Innovation, Research and Development:

  • Designate federal manufacturing innovation programs as an Interagency Science and Technology Initiative.
  • The Administration strengthens the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the role of the national labs.

Recommendations to Improve Workforce Development and the Public Perception of Manufacturing:

  • Develop a national manufacturing perceptions campaign to reset America’s manufacturing mindset.
  • Realign Workforce development programs for Advanced Production Technologies.

Recommendation for Manufacturing Energy Policy: 

  • Lead a study evaluating the implications of natural gas exports on jobs and economic growth.
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