Archive for the ‘Trade Agreements’ Category

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2015: A Year of Achievement for Trade and Investment

January 13, 2016

Stefan M. Selig is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

At the beginning of 2015, the President declared during the State of the Union that “the shadow of crisis has passed and the State of our Union is strong.”  Trade and foreign investment play an important role in making our nation strong. The successes we achieved last year to advance our trade and investment agenda prove that very point.  And for many of the successes that occurred in 2015, the International Trade Administration played a critical role.

Under Secretary Selig meets with the Council of the Americas in Mexico to discuss US-Mexico commercial partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Under Secretary Selig meets with the Council of the Americas in Mexico to discuss US-Mexico commercial partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

One headline accomplishment from 2015 was our leadership in securing the first Trade Promotion Authority in 13 years, which will enable the President to conclude important trade agreements. One of these agreements represents another headline achievement: successfully completing negotiations for the largest trade deal in history in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will increase access for U.S. businesses to 11 Pacific Rim markets representing 40% of global GDP.

Last year’s achievements also include the first ever U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, which will serve as the signature bilateral forum for our two countries. We carried out the second “reimagined” U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade(JCCT), where we brought private sector stakeholders into our talks and worked throughout the year to secure real commercial gains. The second ever SelectUSA Summit took place, which convened 2,600 participants from 70 countries to highlight investment opportunities in the U.S. We assisted in concluding the first international tariff liberalizing agreement in nearly 20 years, which will reduce tariffs on U.S. information and communications technology exports valued at $130 billion annually. Finally, after the second cabinet-level meeting of the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue, several border infrastructure projects that will enhance our collective commercial and security interests were completed or nearly completed.

But by focusing solely on these and other major achievements, we run the risk of overlooking how ITA accomplished its day-to-day responsibilities: advancing the trade and investment interests of the American business community and supporting American jobs. In this case, the numbers alone tell the story.

Last year, ITA assisted more than 25,000 companies with their exporting needs. We supported 42 overseas trade missions to 28 countries, which included the participation of over 500 companies. ITA supported 35 domestic trade shows that brought in 13,500 foreign buyers, while arranging 8,000 meetings during those shows. We initiated a record 62 anti-dumping/counter-vailing duty investigations helping to secure a level playing field for American businesses. Clients of our SelectUSA program—which works to attract foreign direct investment into the U.S.—announced nearly 120 “greenfield” or new investment projects totaling an estimated $7.5 billion and accounting for tens of thousands of jobs. Because of our advocacy efforts on behalf of U.S. businesses, we successfully won 79 public-sector contracts with overseas governments, with those projects valued at $45.5 billion with $31.2 billion of U.S. export content. Clients who were directly assisted by ITA saw their exports increase by an average of 23%.

These successes contributed to a U.S. economy that saw a record number of jobs supported by exports (11.7 million as of 2014), which pay 18% higher wages on average, while 6.1 million Americans work for foreign-owned affiliates. All of these successes definitively prove why trade and investment continues to matter to our economy.

So as we look back at 2015, I believe we will see it as our inflection point; the year our country took that dramatic step towards embracing trade and investment as an enduring part of our economic agenda. Perhaps more important than what we accomplished last year, however, was how we accomplished it.

At the same time that we delivered these gains, we maintained our focus on providing best-in-class client service to American exporters: whether it is providing counseling and business matchmaking services, creating top-class commercial intelligence that businesses can access at no cost, leading trade missions, advocating to win projects in foreign markets, or maintaining a level playing field for American businesses here and abroad. Advancing the interests of American workers and businesses is and will remain central to ITA’s mission, and we looking forward to building on our success and working in service of that mission in 2016 and beyond.

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New Opportunities with TPP – Increasing U.S. Exports to Brunei

November 19, 2015

Craig Allen is the U.S. Ambassador to Brunei with the Department of State.

When I arrived as U.S. Ambassador to Brunei in early 2015, my main goal was to strengthen the economic ties between our two countries. What I have since discovered is that Brunei is a little country with big potential. Its small, well-educated population enjoys a high standard of living thanks to oil and gas reserves. Brunei is also strategically located in the heart of Southeast Asia. Each year, more than $5 trillion in trade passes through this region, including $600 million in trade between the United States and Brunei last year.

Although Brunei is a small market, opportunities for U.S. businesses – big and small – abound. The success stories are all around me.

Every day, hundreds of international passengers step off brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Royal Brunei Airlines was the first country in Southeast Asia to fly Boeing’s newest passenger aircraft. They continue to expand their fleet, creating and sustaining high-skilled jobs in Everett, Washington and North Charleston, South Carolina.

During Brunei’s National Day celebrations, I proudly watched as the Royal Brunei Armed Forces flew new Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters over thousands of excited celebrants. I knew that for each helicopter I saw in the air that day, thousands of Americans back home had benefited economically. Whether it is Brunei’s state-of-the-art Cancer Center being furbished with sophisticated U.S. radiotherapy medical equipment, or Brunei’s national university partnering with IBM to host the first Blue Gene/P supercomputer in Southeast Asia, Brunei offers many opportunities for U.S. manufacturers.

The successful conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations last month represents a new opportunity to increase exports. In particular, TPP will benefit American machinery exporters, as 80 percent of U.S. machinery exports and 100 percent of U.S. transportation equipment exports will become duty-free when the agreement enters into force.

Now is the right time to do business in Brunei. This little country is making big efforts to diversify its economy away from oil and gas. And with the TPP coming into force, U.S. companies are poised to seize new opportunities. My staff and I at the U.S. Embassy in Brunei are ready to welcome U.S. exporters interested in this small but promising market. We stand ready to help and look forward to hearing from you.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: A Win for American Businesses and Workers

October 5, 2015

Stefan M. Selig is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Trans-Pacific Partnership logoWith the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) completed, today is an important day for American businesses and workers. I would like to commend our negotiators, the Department of Commerce and International Trade Administration professionals who assisted in the negotiations, and all other involved parties for their tireless efforts to find consensus on this historic agreement.

TPP is an historic agreement precisely because of the opportunity it represents for U.S. exporters. By reducing or eliminating tariffs as well as non-tariff barriers, TPP will give our businesses improved access to 11 Pacific Rim markets collectively representing 40% of global GDP. Additionally, the majority of middle class consumers over the next 15 years (3.2 billion people according to the OECD) will reside in the Asia-Pacific region, which is also estimated to generate nearly half of global economic growth over the next 20 years.

TPP will also remove market ambiguities, producing the transparency and predictability that facilitates global commerce. The agreement will commit partner nations to stronger intellectual property protections as well as clear rulemaking to prevent the rise of burdensome regulations. At the same time, TPP will protect the right of all partner nations to regulate their markets while ensuring that U.S. investors enjoy the same rights and protections as their competitors.

But trade agreements alone do not create business realities. And a historic agreement like TPP requires a first-class infrastructure that maximizes its potential. That infrastructure exists in the Department of Commerce generally, and more specifically in the services and programs provided by the 2,200 trade and investment experts of ITA; all of whom are committed to maximizing the benefits of TPP for American businesses and workers.

Our infrastructure begins with our Commercial Service. We already have a strong presence in all 11 TPP partner markets with 170 Foreign Commercial Service officers and staff in U.S. embassies and consulates. Our on-the-ground presence will connect U.S. businesses to TPP partner markets and help secure important connections with distributors, manufacturers, and other potential partners. That international infrastructure is complemented by our Commercial Service staff in more than 100 cities in the U.S., who will assist exporters throughout the country.

ITA is also committed to increasing opportunities to connect U.S. companies directly with potential business partners. Through our International Buyer Program, we will stand up domestic trade shows to create matchmaking opportunities with recruited delegations of qualified buyers and sales representatives from TPP countries. We will also work in coordination with administration officials to arrange and participate in trade missions focused on specific industry sectors. And through our Advocacy Center, we will work with senior administration officials to assist U.S. firms in winning government contracts.

But optimizing trade agreements also means enforcing them when necessary. That is why U.S. businesses can rely on the protection of our Enforcement and Compliance experts, who will monitor, investigate, and ensure TPP compliance among all of our partner markets.

With demand and growth exploding in the Pacific Rim, TPP is vital to ensuring that U.S. companies compete and win in the global marketplace. Both ITA and I stand ready to make sure that all businesses fully benefit from the historic opportunity this agreement provides.

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Nearly 50 Countries Reach Historic Agreement to Eliminate Tariffs on Information and Communication Technologies

July 24, 2015

Stefan M. Selig is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Today, representatives from 47 countries reached the first tariff-cutting agreement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 18 years. After negotiating one of the largest agreements in recent history, the countries—including the United States, the EU, and Japan, among others—agreed to expand the scope of products that receive duty-free treatment under the WTO Information Technology Agreement (ITA). As a result, numerous countries will eliminate tariffs on roughly 200 information and communication technology (ICT) products which have a value of more $1 trillion in global trade.

I am proud to say that the International Trade Administration has played a critical role since the negotiations began. Our industry and policy experts helped shape U.S. negotiating proposals, reviewed hundreds of product proposals from other countries, delved into the commercial relevance for each item, and ensured that products exported by small- and medium-sized companies were factored into the mix.

The ITA expansion will open overseas markets for Made-in-America ICT exports without the imposition of costly and burdensome tariffs, and will support thousands of well-paying U.S. manufacturing and technology jobs. Last year, exports of goods and services directly and indirectly supported an estimated 11.7 million U.S. jobs, of which 6.2 million jobs were supported by manufactured products exports. We want to see these numbers continue to grow—and this agreement can help do just that.

The agreement today is a step in the right direction. Addressing barriers and opening markets, as the ITA expansion agreement will, are the central forces that drive President Obama’s trade agenda, which will spur economic growth, create jobs, and level the playing field for American businesses and their workers. This is why the United States has been a staunch supporter and leader in the effort to expand the product coverage of the ITA.

The Information Technology Agreement will provide new opportunities for U.S. companies, and the International Trade Administration is committed to helping U.S. firms reap the benefits of the agreement. Now, U.S. ICT companies will be able to export their products duty-free to some of the largest markets in the world including Canada, Malaysia, and China. Medical equipment, GPS devices, video game consoles, computer software, and next generation semiconductors are among the high-tech products that will see tariff elimination. These and other highly competitive U.S. ICT products worth over $100 billion will no longer face high tariffs in key markets.

For example, U.S. exports of loudspeakers face tariffs of up to 30 percent. Next generation semiconductors face tariffs of up to 25 percent, medical devices such as MRIs and CT scanners face tariffs up to 8 percent, and printed matter/cards to download software and games face tariffs up to 10 percent. And, in some countries, certain U.S. ICT exports are effectively shut out of the market because of those high tariffs. Thanks to the new agreement, all these tariffs will be reduced to zero.

I look forward to making sure these negotiating wins translate into meaningful commercial realities for U.S. firms. With more than 100 U.S. export assistance centers across our nation and staff in the ITA expansion agreement countries, the International Trade Administration stands ready to help U.S. ICT companies take advantage of the new opportunities from the expansion of the WTO Information Technology Agreement.

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E Star Award Winner Volk Optical Saving Sight and Supporting Exports

July 7, 2015

This is a guest blog post by Pete Mastores, President, Volk Optical

ophthalmic lenses In May, the Department of Commerce hosted the 52nd  Annual President’s “E” Awards honoring U.S. companies for their contributions to increasing our nation’s exports. The awards are broken into two designations: “E” Award for Exports for first time winners and “E” Star Award for Exports for previous recipients who continue to demonstrate significant contributions to the expansion of U.S. exports.

Having received a first time “E” Award for Exports in 2011, Volk Optical was recognized this year with an “E” Star Award for Exports for the continued success of our exports program. One of only 4 product manufacturing exporters awarded this distinction, Volk has seen steady growth in export sales since its first “E” Award.

Our company manufactures ophthalmic lenses, portable diagnostic imaging products, and surgical ophthalmic viewing systems and lenses that are used to diagnose and treat conditions of the eye. Eye doctors globally use Volk’s products provide the best possible eye care, thus improving vision.

ophthalmic lensesIt’s gratifying to have our export strategy recognized with a second President’s “E” Award and Star distinction. Our focus, strategy, and personnel additions have allowed our export business to grow consistently for 8 years.  Volk takes the proven approach of focusing on a single region for a one year period, establishing distributors, attending regional tradeshows, and securing the necessary regulatory product registrations and approvals. We concentrate our efforts on entrenching our core product line of ophthalmic diagnostic, laser treatment, and surgical lenses, after which that region is expected to grow organically. After the initial year, Volk turns its eye to growing demand for our more technical and capital-intensive products such as eye imaging cameras and surgical systems. These products require more education and effort to sell, so training of our worldwide distributors was critical. They take time and effort to sell, so the commercial approach requires established, trained, savvy boots on the ground.

We applied this approach first in Europe, then South America, India, China and the Middle East. Volk’s commercial expansion was supported by our parent company, Halma plc, which set up office hubs in developing markets. Having a regional base of operations helped us establish our international sales force.

Additionally, Volk has been assisted along the way by the efforts of the International Trade Administration (ITA) and U.S. free trade agreements. Some of the benefits from a U.S. Free Trade agreement is in lowering our costs of procurement of raw materials, components, etc., as well as in expanded global sales opportunities, allowing us to provide affordable optical medical devices.

Free trade agreements have helped Volk a lot and will continue to do so. We still manage everything out of Mentor, Ohio– the design, the manufacturing, the sales and marketing. The free trade agreements have allowed us to save significant time and money in going to market in foreign countries. We’ve kept and created jobs here in the U.S., as well as internationally, by putting people in the field to support our export efforts.

Volk has also benefited from the services of the U.S. Commerce Department which has been instrumental in assisting us with Gold Key programs to identify distribution channels around the world.

Volk expects export growth to continue as more and more developing countries’ eye doctors are able to afford Volk’s high quality, high performance lenses  and electronic diagnostic imaging devices to provide the best eye care to their patients.

Winning the U.S. President’s E Award in 2011 certainly excited and challenged us to continue to grow our international export business for the past 4 years in order to win this prestigious E Star Award. We’re eager to see what the next several years hold for Volk Optical.

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

June 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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San Diego/Tijuana Mega-Region Drives and Expands Bilateral Trade

April 20, 2015

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

John Andersen is the International Trade Administration’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere.

Last week, I traveled to San Diego and Tijuana to meet with companies on both sides of the border and learn about the dynamic coproduction in the U.S.-Mexico border region. More than $1.5 billion in trade crosses the U.S.-Mexico border every day and much of that value is generated in the largest metropolis between San Diego and Tijuana.

While in Tijuana I toured the Welch Allyn plant, a medical device manufacturing facility that sources more than 85 percent of its inputs from the United States. The company, which is headquartered in upstate New York, selected its Baja California location to be close to its largest consumer market, North America.

While in Mexico, I also met with the dynamic binational Smart Border Coalition, a group that works diligently to improve efficiencies along the various border crossings between California and Baja California. In our discussion, we talked about how we could work together better to hasten the development of important cross-border land ports of entry, including the Xpress Airport facility that will provide U.S. citizens with direct access to the Tijuana International Airport; the proposed Otay Mesa East crossing, which will double commercial vehicle crossing capacity in San Diego County; and reactivation of the desert railroad line that will allow regional manufacturers to export their heavy manufactured goods at a lower cost. The U.S. Department of Commerce will help facilitate these projects within the U.S. government border management process, and binationally with Mexico, to increase border capacity at new and existing ports of entry.

After returning to San Diego via the San Ysidro port of entry, the busiest land border of entry in the world, I met with several U.S. companies based in San Diego County to understand and address their export concerns. One of the companies I spoke with at length, Taylor Guitars,   successfully exports their products to several markets overseas.

Taylor Guitars shared that they have recently been battling counterfeit products imported from China. I explained that one of the Obama administration’s top priorities is to expand free trade agreements, which will establish common standards and protections for U.S. companies. Free trade agreements, not only reduce trade barriers, allowing U.S. products to enter foreign markets at lower prices, but they also ensure that U.S. companies have recourse to combat corrupt practices of competitors and provide protections for intellectual property rights for U.S. companies.

The administration is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which will link the United States with growing markets in Latin America and Asia. It is estimated that in the next two decades, nearly 50 percent of the world’s economic growth will come from the Asia-Pacific region, yielding almost one billion new middle-class consumers.

The businesses I spoke with in San Diego were supportive of the administration’s goal to expand U.S. free trade agreements and understood the importance of Trade Promotion Authority which will allow the executive branch to secure the best trade deals possible for U.S. companies. The companies expressed their hope that TPP would enable them to expand their exports into the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region and help them to better protect their intellectual property.

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