Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category


China’s Economy Still Holds Good Opportunities for U.S. Firms

March 27, 2012

This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting the information available to participants in the 2012 Asia Pacific Business Outlook (APBO)

William Zarit is the Minister for Commercial Affairs, U.S. Embassy, Beijing, China.

I’m excited to be back again at the Asia Pacific Business Outlook. Yesterday, I discussed China’s country outlook. With the February visit of Chinese Vice President and heir apparent Xi Jinping, the state of U.S.-China relations is receiving a lot of attention from both countries as we continue to expand commercial activity. The success from the 22nd plenary meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) last November will help boost U.S. exports and jobs, albeit incrementally.

At the JCCT, the Chinese eliminated some protectionist policies and made progress toward better enforcement of intellectual property rights in China.

Best Prospects

A number of obstacles still exist for U.S. firms doing business in China, including protectionism; high labor costs; duplicative, costly and slow certifications and approvals; a frequently unclear regulatory environment; and poor IPR enforcement.  With China’s GDP growth projected to be at or above 7.5 percent through 2013, there is still potential for U.S. exports in many sectors, including:

  • clean energy
  • green building
  • renewable energy
  • water and water pollution treatment systems
  • travel and tourism
  • medical devices and healthcare
  • railroads and metro transit
  • aviation
  • information and communications technology
  • marine industries
  • agriculture; and
  • Chinese outbound foreign direct investment

Making Your Move in the China Market

U.S. companies need to take advantage of key trends in China such as massive urbanization, a growing middle class, U.S. export growth to 2nd and 3rd tier cities, and Chinese disposable income predicted to double in eight years.  Also, almost 50 percent of the Chinese population is forecast to belong to the middle class by 2020.

Don’t Go It Alone in China – Visit the Commercial Service

The Commercial section in the Embassy is part of a global network of trade professionals dedicated to U.S. commercial interests worldwide.  We connect U.S. business to opportunities in China. With almost 100 staff in five offices in China:  Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Shenyang, we also serve U.S. business in 14 second tier cities, working in partnership with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

We can help in many ways, including:

  • finding distributors and agents for U.S. exports;
  • screening potential Chinese agents, distributors, and partners;
  • promoting your firm to target markets;
  • supporting multi-city U.S. government-led trade missions and trade shows;
  • and organizing and leading Chinese buying delegations to the U.S.

Go to to learn more about us and what we can do for your company in China.


Joint Statement Released at Major Privacy Conference Highlights Importance of U.S.-European Union (EU) Safe Harbor Framework

March 20, 2012

Krysten Jenci is the Team Leader for Electronic Commerce in the Manufacturing and Services unit of the International Trade Administration.  Her Team administers the U.S.-European Union and U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor Frameworks.

At this week’s EU Conference on Privacy and Protection of Personal Data held in Washington, D.C., Secretary Bryson and EU Commission Vice President  Reding released a joint statement on privacy which highlights the importance of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework.

The statement notes that “In line with the objectives of increasing trade and regulatory cooperation outlined by our leaders at the U.S.-EU Summit, the United States and the European Union reaffirm their respective commitments to the U.S.-Safe Harbor Framework…Since its inception, over 3,000 companies have self-certified to the Framework to demonstrate their commitment to privacy protection and to facilitate transatlantic trade…The EU and the United States remain dedicated to the operation of the Safe Harbor Framework – as well as to our continued cooperation with the Commission to address issues as they arise – as a means to allow companies to transfer data from the EU to the United States, and as a tool to promote transatlantic trade and economic growth”.

Since significant changes to the EU Data Protection Framework were announced in January 2012, many U.S. companies have asked about the status of the Framework.  This statement gives companies very useful reassurance that the program will continue as a tool to promote transatlantic trade and economic growth.

The Department’s International Trade Administration administers the Safe Harbor program.  The program allows U.S. companies to meet the requirements of the EU Data Protection Directive.  It allows cross border data flows to continue in a way that places a high value on the protection of personal data without unduly hindering trade and economic growth.  This is important because it facilitates uninterrupted transfers of personal information from the EU to the United States that support billions in trade.

The program has been a very important critical tool for thousands of companies who rely on it to help protect personal information while also facilitating international trade.  More than 60% of the companies in Safe Harbor are small and medium-sized enterprises, and Safe Harbor gives them an effective and efficient means to meet the requirements of the EU’s Data Protection Directive.

We strongly believe the Framework supports the goals of the President’s National Export Initiative by reducing regulatory barriers to trade.  This program also reinforces the trade and regulatory cooperation objectives noted by our leaders at the November 28, 2011, U.S.-EU Summit.

Finally, the program was cited in the Administration’s February 23 Privacy Blueprint, Safe Harbor is highlighted as an early example of interoperability that has had a meaningful impact on transatlantic data flows.  Safe Harbor created a framework for interoperability that has bridged the differences between our regulatory regimes.

We are so pleased that Secretary Bryson and Vice President Reding took advantage of this important conference to highlight our shared privacy objectives and to underscore the importance of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework.


Top 25 Metro Areas Increase Exports by 21 Percent

March 7, 2012

Elizabeth Clark is a Senior Economist in the Office of Industry Analysis within the International Trade Administration

In 2010, merchandise trade exports to the world for the 377 (only 369 areas are available due to Federal disclosure regulations) U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) totaled $1.13 trillion, with merchandise exports from non-metropolitan “rural” areas totaling an additional $151.5 billion. Since the launch of the President’s National Export Initiative, merchandise exports from MSAs have increased 15.4 percent over the 2009 U.S. export figure of $975.7 billion.Top 25 metropolitan export markets for 2010

Although the value of U.S. exports is concentrated in the top metropolitan areas, exporting is an important economic driver in nearly every metropolitan area. In 2010, more than one-third of U.S. metropolitan areas exported more than $1 billion in merchandise to the world. Eight of these metropolitan areas exported merchandise worth more than $25 billion with a further 19 metropolitan areas exporting more than $10 billion.

Among the top 25 MSA exporters, merchandise exports increased 21 percent between 2009 and 2010. This growth rate was consistent across the three largest metropolitan area exporters: New York up 22 percent, Houston up 22 percent and Los Angeles up 21 percent.

Fourth-ranked Detroit leads metro areas in terms of growth, with 55 percent due mostly to the substantial recovery of the auto industry, as Detroit’s exports of transportation equipment grew 62 percent in 2010 to reach nearly $29 billion.

Trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA-DR have had a positive impact on exports from MSAs. While agreements with even the smallest countries may have only a marginal impact at the national level, these agreements can have a large impact at the local level when a metro area has geographic proximity and economic or cultural ties to a particular country or region.

For example, the Central American Free Trade Agreement or CAFTA-DR is a region where the U.S. has an agreement and close trading relationship with six countries, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. U.S. merchandise trade with these six countries totaled only $24.3 billion in 2010, less than 2 percent of total U.S. merchandise trade. However, the CAFTA-DR markets represented a significant share of exports for a number of MSAs. The CAFTA-DR markets represented more than 5 percent of exports for 20 MSAs with these areas concentrated in the Southeast United States. The largest of these areas was Miami, Florida, where exports to the CAFTA-DR region totaled $3.8 billion, representing 11 percent of Miami’s exports to the world. Miami actually exports more to the six nations of the CAFTA region than it exports to our NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico combined.

Trade agreements will be increasingly important to small U.S. metropolitan area as the latest agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama enter into force. Agreements like these will further help to strengthen the export potential for U.S. firms.

Find more information on MSA exports, including data and fact sheets for the top 50 exporting MSAs in 2010 is available on the Office of Industry Analysis home page.


New Foreign Trade Zone Regulations Help U.S. Firms Compete

March 6, 2012

Andrew McGilvray is the staff director for the Foreign-Trade Zones Board, an interagency board chaired by the Commerce Department. He has been with the International Trade Administration since 1988.

On February 17, the White House and the International Trade Administration announced new regulations for the Foreign-Trade Zones (FTZ) program. This first overhaul of FTZ procedures in more than 20 years is designed to enable the program to keep pace with businesses and their decision-making processes.

Since use of a FTZ can reduce the cost of U.S. operations, fast and simple access to the program can encourage investment in U.S. facilities. The new procedures accelerate and simplify the application procedures, and promise to further facilitate U.S. companies’ use of the program to help them compete internationally.

FTZs are designated locations in the United States where companies can use special customs procedures that help encourage U.S. activity and value added – in competition with foreign alternatives – by allowing delayed or reduced duty payments on foreign merchandise, as well as other savings. Several thousand companies already use the FTZ program, helping to support more than 300,000 jobs and about $30 billion in exports each year.

For example, the Mercury Marine factory in Wisconsin operates under FTZ procedures, employing more than 2,400 American workers and exporting about $125 million in finished marine engines each year.

The new regulations’ procedures will now make it much quicker and simpler for individual companies to access the FTZ program – like Mercury Marine did starting in 1999. Dramatically reducing costs and timeframes for access is likely to make the FTZ program an even more crucial tool for U.S. companies and workers to compete in the global marketplace.

To find a FTZ in your state, visit the Foreign Trade Zone Board web site.


The National Export Initiative: Making Progress and Striving for More

March 6, 2012

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

Francisco Sánchez is the Under Secretary for International Trade

This month marks the second anniversary of President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI).  Launched in 2010, its goal is to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014.  In real terms, that means doubling our exports from $1.5 trillion at the end of 2009 to $3.1 trillion at the end of 2014.

As we reach this milestone, I’m proud to report that to date the NEI has been a resounding success.

U.S. exports have grown 34 percent since the President implemented the initiative.  Last year, U.S. goods and services exports reached a record $2.1 trillion.  As a result of these successes, we are making progress toward the President’s goal.

Why is this important?

Under Secretary Sanchez tours the Larsen & Toubro engineering facility in Chennai

Under Secretary Sanchez tours the Larsen & Toubro engineering facility in Chennai (Photo Larsen & Toubro Limited)

Because, even as the nation’s economic recovery accelerates, there is still a lot of work to be done.  Too many Americans are still looking for work.  Too many businesses find themselves with too few opportunities.

Exporting addresses these challenges, providing companies with new opportunities to sell their goods abroad, which is where more than 9 out of 10 of the world’s potential customers live.  When a business reaches more customers, it can lead to more sales, more revenues and ultimately more jobs.

The overall economic impact of exports has been tremendous; they comprised nearly 14 percent of GDP in 2011 — yet another record.

Naturally, as the Under Secretary of International Trade, I’m pleased with this success.  Certainly, I’m proud of the contributions that the International Trade Administration (ITA) — particularly it’s talented staff — has made to this progress.

For example, last year alone, ITA helped 5,600 American companies export for the first time. This is great news. But I want to be clear: We are not satisfied.

With new economic challenges emerging in pockets throughout the world, in Europe for example, we realize that we have to work harder to keep the momentum of the NEI going.

That’s why we continue to push for progress in a number of ways.  Here are four specific areas of focus:

1. Policy: The United States – Korean Trade Agreement will take effect later this month.  It is estimated to create roughly 70,000 jobs and add billions to the U.S. GDP.  The agreement will create new opportunities for U.S. companies in the world’s 12th largest economy, which is sure to boost exports and enhance the nation’s competitiveness.

We look forward to supporting our colleagues at the Office of the United States Trade Representative to resolve the outstanding issues involved with the free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia.

2. Promotion: We continue to actively link U.S. companies with promising growth markets and industries around the world.  For instance, as you’ll read about in this edition of International Trade Update, I just returned from India where I accompanied twelve U.S. companies on the first-ever ports and maritime trade mission.

Recently, the Indian Government announced infrastructure investments of nearly $100 billion in the port and shipping sectors.  U.S. companies offer cutting-edge products and services that would be a valuable asset to this development.  Recognizing this enormous opportunity, I urged all sides to come together and create mutually beneficial partnerships. I’ll continue to do that in different industries and markets all over the world.

3. Enforcement: We’ll continue to fight to level the playing-field for American firms seeking to do business overseas.  One exciting new effort to do this is President Obama’s Interagency Trade Enforcement Center. Working with colleagues from across the U.S. government, we will take unprecedented steps to remove the barriers to free and fair trade.  American businesses deserve a fair chance to compete.  We’ll keep working to give them that chance.

4. Partnerships: With efforts like the New Market Exporter Initiative and our work with the Brookings Institution, we will continue to leverage our partnerships to maximize opportunities.  In fact, on March 12, the actual date the NEI was launched, I will be at the Port of Baltimore celebrating their great contributions to U.S. exports.

With these and other measures, all of us at ITA remain focused on ensuring that the future of the National Export Initiative is as successful as the past — if not more so. Additional stories, successes and achievements will be detailed in the special NEI anniversary edition of the International Trade Update due out later this month.

We look forward to working with all our stakeholders to increase U.S. exports and expand opportunities for Americans across the country.

We won’t stop working until every American is working.


Saudi Arabia’s Electricity Market

February 29, 2012

Jennifer Derstine and Kira West work in the Office of Energy and Environment within the Manufacturing and Services division of the International Trade Administration

Saudi Arabia’s electricity market is growing rapidly, and will provide significant opportunities U.S. exports. Rising incomes and a growing population are driving both increases in electricity consumption and investment in energy-efficient transmission and distribution infrastructure. Additionally, high levels of solar radiation make the Saudi market a potential area of growth for solar energy technology and services.

Saudi Arabian Solar Radiation Station Maintenance

Saudi Arabian Solar Radiation Station Maintenance (Courtesy of DOE/NREL)

Other market drivers include the Saudi government’s goals of reducing reliance on fossil-fuel use for power generation, increasing reliability and efficiency of the electric grid, integrating solar energy generation, and achieving efficiency gains in residential, commercial, and industrial energy consumers. In April, Assistant Secretary Nicole Lamb-Hale will lead a Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Trade Mission to Saudi Arabia to help U.S. exporters benefit from the opportunities in this growing market.

The Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), which is majority owned by the Saudi government, owns the transmission and distribution infrastructure and most generation capacity in Saudi Arabia. In 2007, SEC also opened the market to independent power producers (IPP), offering 20-year power purchase agreements for power generation projects. The Electricity and Co-Generation Regulatory Agency (ECRA), one of three government entities that oversees the electricity sector, has long-term plans to deregulate the electricity market, separating generation, transmission, and distribution networks and introducing private competition.

SEC’s transmission and distribution network has seen considerable investment over the last decade, with SEC expanding the network by more than 50 percent since 2000. SEC also invested in energy efficiency technology, deploying 12,000 electric meters equipped with automated reading and variable rate systems in 2010.

However, the Saudi electric grid suffers from above average transmission losses, so investment in transmission and distribution infrastructure and energy efficiency technologies will remain high. Investment in the distribution system in Saudi Arabia is predicted to reach $24 billion over the next decade, and SEC has plans to further expand the transmission network within the country and to create new interconnections between GCC states.  U.S. exporters will see a wide range of opportunities in green building, smart grid, and energy efficiency technologies.

In order to support its goals of reducing oil and gas power generation, the Saudi government is also prioritizing solar energy deployment. Saudi Arabia has sufficient solar resources to meet a large portion of its growing electricity demand, and the Saudi government envisions both PV and CSP solar technologies will play a role in solar development. U.S. companies will find opportunities in this sector in consulting and engineering services for design, construction and management, as well as supplying solar technology and equipment.

More detailed information about the Saudi electricity market and opportunities for U.S. exporters is available in the Market Intelligence Brief.


The U.S.-Mexico Border is Open For Business

January 30, 2012

Michael C. Camuñez is Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance.

“The U.S.-Mexico border is open for business.” That is the refrain I and others who work on border issues tirelessly deliver wherever we can. But with the media’s relentless focus on immigration, drug-trafficking, and cartel violence, we know that we must provide and promote objective evidence to support our message. A report recently released by Arizona State University’s North American Center for Transborder Studies (NACTS) and NDN’s New Policy Institute (NPI), entitled “Realizing the Value of our Cross Border Trade with Mexico” does both.

The report only confirms the overwhelming evidence that the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) has assembled conclusively establishing that Mexico and, by extension the U.S. Mexico border, is vital to the long-term health of the U.S. economy. However, all of that evidence is for naught if Americans are not made aware of it, but instead are distracted by the media’s focus on more controversial issues.

That is why I was pleased to join the effort to promote and further publicize the NACTS /NPI report at an event hosted by the New Democrat Network (NDN), where I was joined by one of the authors of the report, NACTS Director D. Rick Van Schoik. I am convinced that it is through this kind of collaboration—that between public and private sector—that we will change the national conversation about the border.

Particularly in tough economic times we must not allow ourselves to be distracted by ancillary issues. As President Obama made clear in his State of the Union address, our focus must be on growing jobs and strengthening the American economy. Mexico and the U.S. Mexico border are essential to that effort. Mexico is the U.S.’s third largest trading partner and second largest export market. Last year, we did nearly $400 billion in two-way trade, translating to more than $1 billion dollars a day on average. Notably, even goods imported from Mexico support U.S. jobs. That is because 64% of the content of Mexican goods sold in the U.S. are made from U.S. inputs.

As in any relationship, there are challenges, but we are working hard to address them. The ITA has launched a Border Export Strategy, seeking ways to further facilitate cross-border trade. We have placed a senior director on the border full-time to increase our awareness and responsiveness to challenges U.S. companies face in the region. The ITA has also sent half a dozen trade missions to Mexico in a variety of sectors, including green energy/energy efficiency and health care, with more planned this year, such as the one I am leading this week. These missions serve to showcase the ingenuity and know-how of U.S. companies.

An “America Built to Last” is an America that plays to its strengths and leverages its most important resources. Chief among those strengths is the commerce flowing across the US-Mexico border—an asset that is, as the recent NACTS /NPI study affirms, “hidden in plain view.”


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