Archive for the ‘Market Access and Compliance’ Category

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Burma is Opening for Business

July 17, 2013

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.

After decades of political and economic isolation, Burma is slowly opening to the world. The U.S. government has issued a general license making it easier for American companies to do business there.

While a trade relationship formalizes between the United States and Burma, the International Trade Administration office in Bangkok, an hour’s flight away, will assist U.S. companies with market intelligence and business matchmaking in Burma. Senior Commercial Service Officer Mike McGee recently met with U.S. business leaders interested in exporting to Burma. While in town, he talked with International Trade Specialist Doug Barry of the Global Knowledge Center.

Barry: What are opportunities that you see now in Burma for U.S. companies?

McGee: Burma has a wealth of needs. After 50 years of stagnation and isolation, pretty much everything that the country and the people desire is in need of updating or introducing. So you have a huge opportunity there for everything from consumer goods to infrastructure to medical equipment. There’s almost no sector that does not have tremendous need for introducing new companies and products into the market.

Barry: What are the major challenges of doing business there?

McGee: You can imagine the challenges with a country that has been of off the map, so to speak, for 50-plus years. There are a lot of challenges in the regulatory and legal framework. There are so many areas where the legislation is 50 to 100 years old, and for a better part of the last 40, 50 years, it hasn’t been enforced. Updating these statutes regarding introducing a product into the country, getting it registered, and getting protection for intellectual rights, are all challenges that we’re doing our best to try to support.

Barry: It sounds like an uphill climb.

McGee: The good side is that in many ways Burma is a wealthy country; it is very rich in resources. It is geographically located in one of the most important places in the world, and will have a huge bearing for many years in the Southeast Asia and East Asia Pacific regions. It is, in many ways, the linchpin for so many things.

Barry: The opportunity to get in on the ground floor in this market can be a pretty exciting prospect for U.S. companies, right?

McGee: Yes. We have been advising companies that are interested in this market to identify distributors that can help them introduce their products into the country – and most of them are doing this. One of the big sanction difficulties was financial services. With the recent easing of sanctions by the U.S. government, financial services are now available and U.S. companies can get paid.

Barry: What about distributors?

McGee: Finding the right distributor, finding the right representative for businesses is a little bit of a challenge, but we’re doing our best to try to provide some of the services that people need in order to find the right kind of partner.

The biggest element that we have going is the due diligence process because there still is a fairly sizeable list of people who are prohibited from doing business with us. It’s called the Specially Designated Nationals List managed by the U.S. Treasury Department. We offer our clients an International Company Profile service that allows us to ensure potential Burmese partners are credible and have the appropriate abilities and experience.

Our goal is to help U.S. companies steer clear of partners that may end up causing more problems than assistance.

Barry: What’s the private sector like now? We hear a lot about businesses that are run by the Burmese military. Then there are people of Indian ancestry. There are ethnic Burmese, as well as other ethnic groups.

McGee: The Burmese are a very resourceful people. While there were many sanctions that inhibited doing business with the country, exports from the United States were only sanctioned in certain elements.

There’s a lot of effort on the part of our embassy and the U.S. government in general to persuade the Burmese military to get out of the formal economy because they do manage a huge chunk of it. But there are a lot of other areas where there are businesspeople who are looking for the best products at the best price and the quality that the Burmese people need and want.

Barry: How is the U.S. perceived?

McGee: There’s the highest level of receptivity for U.S. products. We have a very, very positive image in the country. So you’re finding people – whether they’re ethnic Burmese, one of the minority groups, or from the Indian population – they are all seeking the best product lines and want to represent U.S. companies as quickly as possible.

Barry: What was it like for you on your first visit there? Plane lands, door opens…

McGee: It was a lot more vibrant than I expected. There is a great sense of pride among the Burmese people.

However, nearly 75-80 percent of the country is without electricity. Large portions of the nation’s agricultural farms are worked with no machinery. There are beautiful sections of the country – like Bagan in the north – that are ripe for travel and tourism development. The opportunities for U.S. companies to showcase their products and services are limitless.

Barry: What’s your advice for U.S. small- and medium-sized enterprises? Wait a while until things play out and settle down a bit? Or cautiously enter? Or forget about it entirely?

McGee: Begin to learn about it. Visit our website, export.gov/thailand. There’s a section on Burma. We continually update a database that provides links to resources and information our team has gathered about doing business in Burma. You can contact my team through the website to learn about the market, its opportunities, and how to get started. We want to work with U.S. companies to be able to give them the advice from our experience and to make sure that their business is successful and that they don’t run afoul of something problematic.

Barry: Can people contact you directly?

McGee: We are 12 time zones ahead of Washington, and so email me – that’s the best thing to do.

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Ensuring the Right Business Conditions for U.S. Companies to Thrive in Russia

June 21, 2013

Joe Wereszynski is an International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.

Russia is an evolving market and its World Trade Organization (WTO) membership is positively influencing bilateral cooperation and business opportunities. We at the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Office of Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia have been working hard to help American businesses navigate Russia’s business climate. On May 30, under the auspices of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, we partnered with U.S. and Russian experts to hold a widely attended forum in Moscow on standards and conformity assessment.

Standards and conformity assessment barriers represent the largest trade barrier by volume in the world. With Russia’s newly inked WTO membership, we saw clear value in cooperating with Russia early in the nation’s implementation period to prevent barriers from arising.

The forum was co-led by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the World Trade Center Moscow. It attracted more than 300 participants and featured presentations by standards and policy experts from the public and private sectors including the U.S. Department of Commerce, the American National Standards Institute, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Underwriters Laboratories, the International Medical Device Manufacturers Association, the U.S.-Russia Business Council, the Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Federal Agency on Technical Regulation and Metrology (Rosstandart).

Matthew Murray, the U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia, stressed the importance of standards in global markets, and highlighted the benefits that cooperation on standards can have to U.S.-Russian economic relations. He announced that the Commission’s working group on Business Development and Economic Relations adopted a plan that, “identifies areas in which the United States and Russia envision a new chapter of economic cooperation, including capitalizing on new trade opportunities presented by Russia’s accession into the WTO.

“We are developing a common language, mutual understanding and consensus on appropriate commercial standards for regulating our products and services… while ensuring the right business conditions are in place to create fair, and predictable globally competitive markets for both U.S. and Russian companies to thrive.”

The forum brought together U.S. and Russian standardization bodies to foster greater understanding of each other’s systems and facilitate cooperation. As a result, both countries may increase cooperation to improve transparency and interoperability, by developing regulatory guides and creating a standards portal to help companies better understand market conditions and standards requirements.

Director General Vladimir Salamatov of the World Trade Center Moscow commented on this cooperation, saying, “developments in innovation in our two countries, and the world as a whole, have reached a level where it is necessary to devise common strategies and solutions in order for the economy to develop more effectively and to support the growth of production.

“We can confidently say that we have reached a mutual understanding on all the questions and also have made big plans for collaboration on future projects.”

A major theme of the forum was ensuring regulatory conditions do not unnecessarily hamper trade. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin set out the goal of improving Russia’s rating on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report from 120 to 20 by 2018.

U.S. Department of Commerce trade agreement expert Bryan O’Byrne explained that the principles of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT) can improve Russia’s ease-of-doing-business outlook by increasing transparency through notice-and-comment of new regulations to the WTO. Notice-and-comment provides companies with an advanced warning on regulatory changes and allows companies to provide feedback to regulators on implementing less trade restrictive measures, while meeting the same level of safety or higher.

Another key TBT Agreement principle is the need to use globally relevant standards in regulation, which are more commonly used by companies around the world.  This provides greater market access, and can help domestic companies become more competitive. During sector-focused panel discussions, Russian regulators responded positively to a U.S. private sector recommendation to consider adopting a globally relevant standard to increase fire safety for the petroleum industry.

For more information on the event and our partner organizations, go to: http://wto.wtcmoscow.ru/en/novosti/1004

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Reaching Out to U.S. Businesses to Do Business in Russia

June 10, 2013

Joe Wereszynski is an International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. 

DAS Murray, Jim Ross CEO of Ross Laboratories, and Karen Taylor Seattle USEAC look at Ross Lab’s innovative marine technology while discussing market access opportunities.

Jim Ross of Ross Laboratories (center) demonstrates  some of Ross Labs’ marine technology for Karen Taylor of the Seattle Export Assistance Center and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe Matt Murray during a discussion of market access opportunities.

As we discussed last week, we at the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia have been working hard to tell American businesses about doing business in Russia. Since last year, we’ve held a series of webinars, visits and consultations to help businesses understand our new trade relationship.

We will also participate in this month’s International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg. This forum will have participants from around the world and one of the key focuses will be the importance of capitalizing on new opportunities.

We see the Russian market as a new opportunity for many businesses and are working hard to make sure our trade relationship stays on the right path and American businesses understand how to navigate it.

“Standards and conformity assessment barriers are the number one trade barrier by volume around the world,” says Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Murray. “We see clear value to getting ahead of these issues, identifying problems early, and making sure U.S. exporters are aware of the rights and resources at their disposal.”

Our team has given presentations on our evolving trade relationship with Russia, and how ITA can help businesses overcome trade barriers and do business with Russia.

One such presentation was in late September, on the margins of the 2012 Russian-America Pacific Partnership (RAPP) forum held in Tacoma, Washington. Mr. Murray spoke in a series of events and held one-on-one meetings with companies across the state.

Washington plays a vital state role in conducting foreign trade; it’s the 7th-largest state export volume and was the 5th largest state exporter to Russia. The state’s increase in exports to Russia from $247 million in 2010 to $445 million in 2011 directly supported over 1,400 American jobs.

During 2012 and 2013, our office helped to organize additional roundtable events with U.S. companies on the benefits of Russia’s WTO membership in eight cities including New York, Moscow and Boston. In June 2012 hosted a webinar that reached over 100 participates across the United States.

We continue to listen. If you want to learn how to do business in Russia, please contact your nearest Export Assistance Center for assistance. We look forward to helping American business sell their goods and services in Russia, taking advantage of our new trade agreement.

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U.S. Department of Commerce Reaches Out to U.S. Companies on the Benefits of Russia’s WTO Membership

May 29, 2013

Joe Wereszynski is an International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. 

What better way to recognize World Trade Month than by expanding to the Russian market?

On December 14th, 2012, President Obama signed into law legislation extending Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia, establishing a promising trade future with a growing economy. We at the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia are working to help U.S. companies understand and take advantage of this relationship.

Our team has worked to inform U.S. industry about changes that will take place due to PNTR and Russia’s accession to the WTO. Our goal is to make sure that all U.S. businesses understand the agreement and are able to take advantage of this new trade relationship.

The U.S.-Russian Business Development and Economic Relations Working Group, which was established in 2009 by President Obama and then-Russian President Medvedev as part of the U.S.-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission, is informing American companies of their new trading rights and business opportunities stemming from U.S.-Russian cooperation. The Working Group signed a plan that will guide and shape bilateral economic cooperation efforts between the two governments.

One specific area where work is under way is the realm of standards and conformity assessment. As tariff barriers fall, non-tariff barriers tend to rise. We’re working with interested industry groups and companies from both countries to prevent unnecessary trade barriers. Familiarizing companies and regulators with the rules-based WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade can help to increase transparency and facilitate greater trade and investment.

Later this week, we’ll meet with government and industry representatives from both countries for the U.S.-Russian Standards and Conformity Assessment Forum in Moscow. We’ll discuss how to prevent trade barriers and cooperate on standards for fair trade. More than 500 attendees have registered for the event.

We continue to reach out to U.S. companies about doing business with Russia, and I hope you’ll check back next week when we provide an update on outreach activities.

If your business is interested in exporting to Russia, the entire Department of Commerce team is ready to help. Your nearest Export Assistance Center can help you understand how to take advantage of our updated trade relationship. If you’ve run into a trade barrier with Russia or any other country, you can report it to ITA’s Trade Compliance Center.

This World Trade Month and all year long, we’d love to help you sell your goods and services in the Russian market.

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Recognizing the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia TPA

May 15, 2013

Julie Anglin is the Desk Officer for Colombia and Panama in the International Trade Administration’s Office of South America. 

Image of a street in Colombia with a map in the background.

The tariff rate on many U.S. goods sold in Colombia has gone down dramatically since the trade agreement took effect.

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement – commonly called the “Colombia TPA” – took effect one year ago on May 15, 2012.

Prior to the TPA’s entry into force, the average Colombian tariff rate on U.S. industrial goods was higher than 10 percent. Today, the average Colombian tariff on these goods has fallen to only 3.4 percent.

That’s a tremendous benefit for U.S. exporters, as it helps them compete on a more level playing field in the Colombian market. U.S. farmers see even greater benefit, as more than half of current U.S. farm exports to Colombia are now duty-free.

The TPA includes commitments on strengthened protections for intellectual property rights benefiting American creators and innovators, as well as commitments opening Colombia’s $166 billion services market.

U.S. exporters are taking notice. Since the Colombia TPA has been in place, U.S. exports to Colombia are up 19 percent, compared to the same period the previous year.

U.S. companies are now well-situated to participate in numerous Colombian infrastructure projects to be undertaken in the next four years, valued at $26 billion. In fact, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank is in Colombia right now, leading a trade mission of 20 U.S. companies seeking to learn more about upcoming airport, seaport, rail, highway, and mass transit upgrades.

For a country that already appreciates the value proposition of U.S. goods and services, the TPA now allows U.S companies to be even more competitive in this fast-growing market. Colombia’s economy is forecast to grow 4.1 percent in 2013, and 4.5 percent annually on average from 2014 to 2018.

A web-based resource created by the International Trade Administration, the FTA Tariff Tool, is a great way to see the tariff elimination or reduction for your product under the agreement.

To ensure that your company’s product will benefit under the agreement, you will also need to determine that the product meets one of the rules of origin criteria in the Colombia TPA and claim this when importing. You can contact an Export Assistance Center for help with this.

And sometimes, despite the trading partner’s best endeavors to implement trade agreements correctly, U.S. exporters and investors can encounter problems. The International Trade Administration’s Trade Agreements Compliance Program can help sort out market access problems arising from foreign government-imposed trade barriers. Report a trade barrier at www.trade.gov/tcc.

For more information, you can also contact your local Export Assistance Center. You can also find more facts about our trade relationship on our website.

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March Madness and ITA’s Trade Agreements Compliance Program

March 25, 2013

Steve Williams is the Operations Team Lead with the International Trade Administration’s Trade Compliance Center 

So far in this year’s NCAA Tournament, we’ve International Trade Administration emblemseen several underdogs knock out the proverbial Goliath. As a small business owner, you might feel at times like an underdog. Just like Wichita State, La Salle and Florida Gulf Coast, who have to compete against schools with bigger budgets and more highly touted recruits, small businesses can feel at a disadvantage when they compete overseas against companies who have a home-court advantage. It might seem intimidating, but just like these teams in the Sweet 16, you can come out on top with the right strategy.

If your company’s export goals are ever impeded by a foreign government-imposed trade barrier, you can call on the International Trade Administration’s Trade Agreements Compliance (TAC) Program to come into the game.  The TAC Program works to help remove the trade barriers you face. Since the inception of the National Export Initiative (NEI) in 2010, the Program has initiated 735 market access and compliance cases in 104 countries, successfully removing 293 specific non-tariff barriers (in 80 countries) affecting a broad range of industries.

As a recent example, the International Trade Administration (ITA) helped Johnson Outdoors, a sporting goods manufacturer based in Wisconsin, regain ownership of its trademark in Russia. A Johnson Outdoors competitor registered the Johnson Outdoors’ trademark with Russia’s patent office and then attempted to sue Johnson Outdoors for alleged violation of the trademark. ITA spoke with Russian officials about proper protection of IPR. This resulted in the Russian company dropping its suit against Johnson Outdoors and relinquishing its trademark, allowing Johnson Outdoors to maintain $100 million in annual revenue.

Our program works by assembling a small team of experts from our 400 specialists, experts both in the country and the trade agreement relevant to your specific issue.  We can assist in helping to remove or reduce discriminatory or unnecessary trade restrictive barriers related to customs, rules of origin, government procurement, investment, services or standards testing, licensing, certification requirements, or even issues related to intellectual property rights. Best of all, our services are completely free of charge!

The next time you need some help with a foreign government trade barrier, contact us and we’ll be in your court.

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Expanding Business One Year into Free Trade Agreement

March 15, 2013

Curt Cultice is a Senior Communications Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Commercial Service.

Jimmy Wu is the founder of Infinity Air

Jimmy Wu

It’s 8:00 p.m. on a Tuesday evening, and there’s excitement on Jimmy Wu’s face as he hangs up the phone. Cracking a smile, he logs an order for a replacement aircraft engine from Asia. “Business is good and continues to get better,” he says, before picking up the phone to chat with another customer in Latin America.

It’s all in a day’s work for Wu, a native of Shanghai, China, who founded Infinity Air, Inc., in 1997, and serves as its president and CEO. The firm, a Los Angeles-based manufacturer and distributor of new and refurbished aircraft parts for the commercial aerospace industry, serves thousands of customers around the world each year.

Of all the countries in which Infinity Air does business, Wu is particularly impressed with the opportunities in Korea, Infinity Air’s largest export destination. Last year, sales of everything from flight-service controls and engines to interior equipment and cockpit windows to Korea totaled more than $10 million.

In March 2011, the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement took effect, reducing barriers to trade and putting what Wu calls a “spring in the step” of his business endeavors. Infinity Air is taking advantage of the agreement to expand its business in the country.

“Korea is a huge market for us, and with the trade agreement in place, the market just got a whole lot bigger,” Wu says.

An Allflight Corporation (Infinity Air’s Repair Station) technician sands a repair of a movable flap track fairing in preparation for prime and paint.

A technician prepares a repaired aircraft part for painting.

Trade agreements play a large part in America’s recent growth trend in exports. In 2012, a year in which the U.S. achieved exports of $2.2 trillion, exports to trade agreement partners grew at nearly twice the rate of exports to the rest of the world and represented nearly half of all U.S. exports. For the U.S.-Korea agreement, the International Trade Commission estimates that the reduction of Korean tariffs and tariff-rate quotas on goods alone will add $10 billion to $12 billion to annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product and around $10 billion to annual merchandise exports to Korea.

Infinity Air is one of many companies using the agreement to its advantage. Prior to the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, servicing Korea’s aviation market required payment of Korean tariffs of up to 15 percent on spare parts. Now, almost 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Korea are no longer subject to import duties. Nearly 95 percent of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial products with Korea will become duty free within five years – with most remaining tariffs eliminated within 10 years.

As this trade agreement matures, the International Trade Administration remains ready to help American companies tap into Korea’s $1.1 trillion economy. Whether your company is looking to grow business or seek new opportunities in the market, a visit to export.gov is a great way to start.

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