Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum: China’s Shale Gas Exploration

October 8, 2015

Julius Svoboda is in the Office of Energy and Environmental Industries at the International Trade Administration

After a four hour bus ride through China’s Chongqing countryside, I came to China’s first and only commercially producing shale gas well at Fuling–not something a lot of foreigners get to see. The hillside roads were tight and windy. Our medium-sized tour bus had to stop a number of times and back up to let other cars or trucks squeeze by. When we reached the shale site, it was not only a marvel of technological development (China’s shale sits about three miles down while shale in the United States is a mile or less), but it was also a feat of logistics. How in the world the frack trucks, millions of gallons of water, hundreds of tons of sand were able to traverse the steep terrain, narrow roads, and hairpin turns in such a remote part of the country is a mystery! It’s certainly not the flat, straight, and vast countryside most Americans think of around Texas’ Eagleford or North Dakota’s Bakken shale formations.US & China Flags China holds the most shale gas of any country in the world, and the Chinese government wants to “usher in a golden age of shale gas.” After the bus ride, I was left wondering: how they were going to get it from such a remote part of China and delivered to market?

The site visit was part of the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum (OGIF)  — the most prominent and long-standing forum for the United States and China to talk about oil and gas regulatory and environmental issues. It’s a chance to talk with the Chinese government about what’s going well in their oil and gas sector and what might go better. Discussions focused on innovation, sustainability, and efficiency for shale development, but that’s only part of the story. The presentations also demonstrated some very cool technology coming out of the United States and how it can reduce costs and improve the economics of shale gas, even in challenging topographic and geologic areas like we saw around Fuling.

In addition to regulatory and environmental issues, OGIF is also a chance for the U.S. government to hear from U.S. companies working in China’s oil and gas sector. We heard that things, while improving in some ways, are still quite challenging. Companies have started to step away from developing shale in China because the regulations on foreign investment and operatorship are overly restrictive. Geological data below 1000 feet is a state secret. Companies are only able to buy spare capacity in natural gas transmission pipelines and foreign intellectual property is too often “localized” for the benefit of Chinese companies. From my standpoint working for the International Trade Administration, I thought it was ironic that the Chinese government is placing a priority on greater foreign investment in its shale sector while maintaining such heavy restrictions on foreign companies.
As the shale gas revolution on the other side of the Pacific begins to take off, and I’m certain it will, the speed to which it will be developed is uncertain. In the United States, we went from almost no shale gas production in 2007 to 50 percent of U.S. natural gas production coming from shale today. By contrast, China’s shale gas exploration started in 2010, and five years later, production levels are only equivalent to what the United States was producing in the late 1990s–which is to say, not much.

For China to succeed in “ushering in the golden age of shale”, the Chinese government will need to rethink its foreign investment policies. Because as it stands now, U.S. companies will be more inclined to keep their distance, and all that really cool technology that we saw at OGIF may be nothing more than presentation slides.


Insight on Crafting an e-Commerce Strategy for Europe

September 16, 2015

Anna Flaaten is a Senior International Trade Specialists at the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

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

Earlier this week, ITA hosted a webinar to gain insight on crafting an e-commerce strategy for Europe. Participants included experts in the fields of supply chain management, payment services, search engine optimization, and direct on-line marketing.  Here are a few takeaways on the unique aspects of e-commerce in Europe:

  • The UK is the largest e-Commerce market for US goods and services.
  • The e-Commerce market in the EU is worth $472B USD – relatively split equally between goods and service exports.
  • Smaller countries import more than larger markets! For example 88% of Nordics shopped online last year.
  • Service providers in the logistic space that will know how to set up distribution in Europe.
  • Direct online marketing is easiest to start by creating a Google-friendly site
  • Using analytics and Search Engine Optimization is critical- with “search” it’s about telling you that the potential customer is already interested in your product.
  • Many countries also have their own search engines that are popular in those markets.
  • It’s helpful to translate keyword searches in languages for the markets your company wants to target – for example, if you’re targeting France, translate the keywords into French.
  • Credit cards are still the most popular payment alternative in both Europe and the US by a market share of approximately 40%; however, payment methods vary greatly between countries in the EU and offering multiple payment methods is helpful.
  • One of the most common reasons people drop out of the checkout process if they can’t find their preferred payment method- not localizing payment methods can result in the loss up to 50% of potential sales.
  • Regarding logistics, how e-Commerce works in the EU is very different than the US as parcel rates vary by country or even within a country
  • Varying shipping rates can be challenging for international pricing – use “mixed set up” meaning using one supply chain company for certain countries and a different one for other.
  • Non-EU countries like Norway and Switzerland have different customs documentation requirements.
  • Set up distribution where there’s the shortest lead time to consumers.
  • Although duties are uniform across the EU members, VAT taxes vary by country.

A special thanks to our speakers:

  • Jan Paul Olijslager, Sr. Manager Supply Chain Solutions, Holland International Distribution Council (HIDC)
  • Andreas Thim, U.S. Director, Klarna
  • Justin Seibert, President, Direct On-line Marketing
  • Commercial Specialist Heming Bjona

We will continue this discussion at our upcoming DGM e-Commerce Seminar October 8-9 in Dallas/Ft.Worth, Texas. You don’t want to miss it!



How Trans-Pacific Partnership Benefits U.S. Trade

September 15, 2015

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

This morning, Under Secretary Stefan Selig interviewed with Bloomberg Business on how the Trans-Pacific Partnership will benefit American businesses. “For U.S. companies to be successful, we have to engage in the global economy,” says Selig. “That is where the growth is..that’s where the customers are..that’s where the markets are. We need to give U.S. companies everything they need to compete successfully.” You can watch the full interview here.


Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews Promotes Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Pittsburgh

August 14, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Earlier this week, Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews traveled to Pittsburgh to engage with the city’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs and see how the Steel City has become an innovation hub by bringing together its research institutions, incubator and accelerator partners, and technology associations.

To begin the day, Deputy Secretary Andrews joined leaders from Pittsburgh’s innovation sector in launching the next installment of Startup Global, an initiative designed to help more startup firms think global from the earliest stages of a company’s growth. The event was hosted by Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute, Idea Foundry, Innovation Works, Pittsburgh Technology Council, and Thrill Mill and attracted dozens of early-stage companies looking to gain technical assistance on selling their goods and services worldwide.

In his remarks, Deputy Secretary Andrews stressed that 96 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders and that early-stage companies should plan for international success from the start. The Startup Global pilot initiative aims to help more American startups scale their businesses quickly and internationally by collaborating with local partners. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced Startup Global in February, and Pittsburgh is the third in the pilot program’s series of educational events.

Deputy Secretary Andrews then met with leadership from Innovation Works, the single largest investor in seed-stage companies in the region. In addition to being a member of the Pittsburgh Startup Global Steering Committee, Innovation Works was also a recipient of a Commerce Department’s Economic Adjustment Assistance grant and an i6 Challenge winner. During the discussion, he stressed the vast resources the Commerce Department can offer and how Commerce can work alongside new businesses to shape the next great era of American entrepreneurship and innovation.

Later in the day, Andrews joined Congressman Mike Doyle on a tour of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute highlighting the technical leadership role the Robotics Institute has had in fostering innovation and incubating entrepreneurs in the robotics industry.

Andrews and Congressman Doyle then met the CEOs of 4Moms, Blue Belt Technologies, and Astrobotics,  companies who developed their company from technology shared at CMU, and are now promoting business and job growth not only in the Pittsburgh area, but across the nation and around the world. During a roundtable discussion with the three companies, Deputy Secretary Andrews highlighted ways in which the Commerce Department can continue to support the development of an advanced manufacturing sector in Pittsburgh.

As “America’s Innovation Agency,” the Department of Commerce prioritizes its support of startups, entrepreneurship and business incubators through intellectual property protection, collection and dissemination of data that helps build businesses, and investments in local economic development. We are constantly evolving to operate at the speed of business, and providing resources at each step of the business lifecycle to ensure our nation’s entrepreneurs succeed.


Brazil’s Water Challenges Calls for Enhanced Bilateral Commerce

August 11, 2015

Commercial Specialist Teresa Wagner and Commercial Officer Tom Hanson assist U.S. exporters of environmental technologies industry solutions at the U.S. Commercial Service in São Paulo.

Last week, Commercial Service (CS) Brazil  counseled United States exporters during FENASAN, one of Latin America’s most influential trade events in the water and wastewater industry. The central theme of the event was “The Water Crisis and its Consequences in the 21st Century”. With more than 200 million citizens and the world’s eighth largest economy, the continent-sized nation of Brazil is enduring profound drought conditions, the worst in over 80 years. It is affecting the wealthiest, most populous and industrial regions including Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.


FENASAN is one of Latin America’s most influential trade events in the water & wastewater industry

The Association of Engineers of the Sao Paulo state water utility has been organizing FENASAN for the past 26 years in an effort to showcase system technologies and equipment for aeration, automation, control/measurement, pumps and centrifuges. Joining the list of international exhibitors at last week’s event were Commercial Service Brazil clients Xylem, GE Water, and Koch Membranes.The leading trade association of water quality professionals, Water Environment Federation (WEF) also participated, hosting an international pavilion.

Despite the downturn of the Brazilian economy this year, the high number and quality of both exhibitors and visitors confirms the increased importance of sanitation in Brazil, due to the drought in the southeastern region of the country.  Historically, the sanitation sector has not been a priority and has received little investments, creating a significant repressed demand for new technologies, often not available in Brazil.  A challenge for technology suppliers is to educate the utilities in Brazil of the benefits    of their products, vis-à-vis the traditional water and wastewater ponds. Here is where Commercial Service Brazil’s team, located in five offices countrywide, can counsel U.S. exporters on the great opportunities to be found amidst Brazil’s giant water challenges.

The demand for infrastructure expansion and modernization, crisis management, and conservation is high and comes during trying economic times. Yet, this brings opportunities for US experts with proven success in industrial, agricultural, and urban supply strategies. Brazil has, without a doubt, a dynamic Water and Wastewater industry.

The team at CS Brazil is standing by to help U.S. exporters tap into this new opportunity. ITA’s Top Markets report on environmental technologies is one of many useful resources we have available for U.S. exporters looking to expand.

For more information on opportunities for companies in the United States with water technology solutions, read an article that we co-authored in WEF’s international trade publication, World Water; and refer to CS Brazil’s Country Commercial Guide.


Startup Global Pittsburgh: Preparing Early-Stage Exporters for the Global Marketplace

August 10, 2015

Evi Fuelle is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Office.

Shark Tank is no longer the only place where startups can go with the hope of expanding their business.

Announced in February, the Startup Global pilot program is a series of seminars held around the country that provide focused export assistance and information to early-stage companies. In collaboration with U.S. incubators and accelerators, the International Trade Administration (ITA) provides workshops—organized through local U.S. Export Assistance Centers—to address the most pressing global issues startups face.

The next installment of Startup Global will be held tomorrow in Pittsburgh, where U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews will deliver the keynote remarks to kick off the event. Several of Pittsburgh’s research institutions, incubator and accelerator partners, and technology associations are coming together for the August 11 event.

Attendees will hear from peer startup companies that have found success in the global marketplace, as well as specialists from ITA’s global network, including Foreign Commercial Officer Richard Stanbridge, currently based in the United Kingdom, who will provide a pan-European overview of market opportunities. Topics for the workshop include intellectual property protection; legal considerations when exporting; international e-commerce; and trade financing, including guidance on how to manage different currencies and international transactions.

ITA launched Startup Global to bring together startups and private companies from all across America that have one thing in common: they are all on the cutting edge of innovation. More than 25 startups participated in the first event in June at 1776 in Washington, D.C., and last month, 40 budding companies joined an event with the Nashville Entrepreneurship Center.

Each pilot event features panel discussions and Q&A sessions on topics including finding buyers and partners, lessons learned from local companies, intellectual property protection, and global trends.

Startup Global participants acknowledge that their perspectives change after attending pilot events. In fact, many were surprised that the U.S. government has an array of services and information available to help companies grow their business internationally.

The Startup Global program grew from the Obama administration’s broader national export strategy, the National Export Initiative (NEI)/NEXT, which aims to make the export process easier and help more U.S. companies start exporting or expand international sales. The NEI/NEXT strategy prioritized the launch of the Startup Global pilot initiative because many technology-enabled businesses are in a reactive position when international sales opportunities arise, and many are unaware of where to go for assistance and best practices.

By engaging early-stage exporters, Startup Global demonstrates the Obama administration’s commitment to ensuring American entrepreneurs have the tools they need—and know where to go for help—to prepare for global business from day one.


Get Real: A Discussion About e-Commerce

August 5, 2015

Anna Flaaten and Martin Herbst are Senior International Trade Specialists at the International Trade Administration’s Export Assistance Center in Phoenix.

Last week, ITA hosted a webinar featuring speakers Aparna Lahiri from eBay’s Global Shipping Team and Chris Ko, Owner and Managing Partner of Nationwide Surplus. The webinar is a result of a strategic partnership between ITA and eBay. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker formalized the agreement to use strategic resources to support U.S. exporters last year.

e-commerce strategies

Join us Oct 8-9 in Dallas to learn about e-commerce strategies

“International e-commerce is at the heart of what we do here at eBay” and “enabling cross-border trade is key to our success” said Lahiri during the webinar. About 190,000 entrepreneurs on eBay are selling to four continents and those that are export-oriented grew a whopping 91% versus businesses that focused only on the domestic market at 58%. Here are some interesting facts we learned during the webinar:

  • Selling internationally isn’t as complicated as you think – the emergence of the internet can simplify the process. Intermediary partners including online marketplaces, secure payment collection, shipping and customs support can make life easier for the entrepreneur.
  • Mobile is here to stay– buyers are purchasing goods more from their smart phones than the traditional PC. A seamless presence across various devices is critical, especially for consumers in emerging markets.This is especially true in China and India, and eBay is seeing similar trends in Latin America where mobile usage has tripled over the past year.
  • There is tremendous demand for just about everything in the global online marketplace. Buyers online are finding inventory more affordably from US sellers and/or looking for a variety of products that are not available to them locally.

Nationwide Surplus, a company that specializes in refurbishing computers and electronics, provided the small business perspective on marketing and selling products online. The company exports 21% of their products to over 100 countries. Ko started his business in a small warehouse with a desk and a computer. He now has 47 employees and is opening a second warehouse location.

Here are some of his insights:

  • Photos, photos, photos – include detailed photos online including 360 degree angles if possible. Nationwide Surplus even disassembles their products to capture interior component images.
  • Understand the international marketplace – purchase prices overseas can exceed those of the US market if the international consumer does not have local access to certain products. AND, there may be a demand for your products internationally even if there is no US consumer demand.
  • Handling returns – understand and plan for returns as they can be expensive depending on the duties, taxes, and shipping costs, etc… involved.
  • Correct paperwork is critical – accurately identifying harmonized tariff codes, for example.
  • Export assistance – “I didn’t realize how much export assistance is out there” stated Mr. Ko, and of particular value is the assistance provided by the US Department of Commerce.

To learn more about international e-commerce, network with other entrepreneurs and US Commercial diplomats, register for our upcoming Discover Global Markets: E-Commerce Strategies event taking place in Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX on October 8-9, 2015. Early bird discount ends August 14th.

The content will resonate with any company interested in e-commerce and social media as key drivers for international business development.


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