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American Competitiveness and the Global Race for Export Success

June 30, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Post by Fred P Hochberg, Chairman and President, Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Photo of Fred Hochberg and two unidentified men in hard hats, safety vests and ties.

American Competitiveness and the Global Race for Export Success

This week, I had the opportunity to participate in Foreign Policy’s inaugural summit on American competitiveness, an event that brought together leaders from the worlds of business, security, and government to discuss a range of issues related to America’s capacity to thrive in today’s challenging global climate.  David Rothkopf and the Foreign Policy team put together a vibrant and informative event, which included conversations with Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Financial Services Roundtable CEO and former Governor Tim Pawlenty, and a host of economists, CEOs, and global policy experts.

In a speech closing the event, I took the opportunity to focus on one critical element of American competitiveness—one that is very much at risk today: the global race for export success.

EXIM Bank, which equips American businesses with the financing necessary to compete for export sales when the private sector is unable or unwilling to do so, will see its Charter lapse next Wednesday for the first time in its 81-year history.  After 16 bipartisan reauthorizations, the support of 13 consecutive U.S. presidents, and a sterling record of service to the American people—including supporting 164,000 U.S. jobs last year while generating a $675 million surplus for taxpayers—it’s hard to believe that EXIM would be allowed to lapse.  That’s particularly true when clear majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have expressed support for EXIM’s reauthorization; in this day and age, that sort of consensus doesn’t happen very often.

For the last few months, I’ve been asked over and over again: what’s going to happen on July 1st if you aren’t reauthorized?  But frankly, I don’t think that’s the right question to be asking.  Because the damage caused by the debate over EXIM has already cost real Americans their jobs, and harmed long-term U.S. global leadership—and we’ll be feeling the consequences for years to come.

General Electric, one of the largest employers in America, does a lot of exporting without EXIM—but they count on the Bank to handle the deals that private financiers can’t.  A few weeks ago, we learned that GE is at risk for losing out on a major locomotive project in Angola.  This deal was expected to generate 1,800 U.S. jobs across 12 states, but because of the uncertainty surrounding EXIM, the deal is at risk—and China has agreed to step in with state-sponsored financing for their state-owned locomotive manufacturer.

That’s 1,800 American families that won’t be able to count on a dependable paycheck—1,800 jobs that should be going to folks in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Illinois that are instead going to end up in China, all because a vocal minority wants to put ideology ahead of American workers.

Of course, even though GE families are already being hurt by this, most of the pain will be reserved for small businesses that historically find it difficult to obtain export financing in the commercial sector.  On Monday, I went to Delaware to meet with one of them, a small, family-owned company called Acrow.  They manufacture modular steel bridge kits—a core product for developing countries that want to build a reliable infrastructure.

EXIM is guaranteeing a $73 million commercial loan that will empower Acrow to sell 144 bridges to Zambia.  This project will support 200 good-paying jobs at Acrow’s manufacturing facilities in Pennsylvania and Delaware, as well as at their suppliers across ten states.  It was only possible because they had access to financing that let them compete and win against their Chinese and European rivals.  Without EXIM guaranteeing the loan, no private bank was ready to finance a sale like this to Zambia.  That’s just not something that commercial banks do anymore—that’s the exact gap that EXIM was designed to fill.

Buyers in Zambia and around the world want to buy American—they want to buy the best.  But if EXIM isn’t around, they won’t always have that option.  U.S. businesses deserve better than to be cut off from critical tools that empower them to succeed in global markets.  After all, they’re already facing an alarmingly competitive world out there.

In my time as Chairman of EXIM, I’ve met a whole lot of entrepreneurs and workers across America—and I’ve never come across one who wanted a handout.  All they want is a level playing field.

When U.S. exporters go into global markets armed with financing from EXIM, they have an opportunity to compete on their merits.  When they do, they usually win.  And that means more jobs for U.S. workers, and a more competitive American economy.  We owe it to them to break down barriers to export success—not to tie their hands.


U.S. Goods Exported to Trade Agreement Partners Supported 3.2 Million Jobs in 2014

June 18, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Today, Secretary Pritzker and the Commerce Department released a report showcasing that in 2014, nearly 3.2 million jobs—44 percent of all jobs supported by goods exports—were supported by the export of goods to our Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners.

In 2014, the United States reached record levels in goods and services exports for the fifth consecutive year totaling $2.34 trillion. Since 2009, goods exports to our current FTA partners grew 64 percent versus 45 percent to the rest of the world. The United States continues to have a trade surplus in manufactured goods, $56 billion in 2014, with the countries in which we have trade agreements.

This report highlights the importance of trade agreements in supporting the U.S. economy and American jobs. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside of our borders and the demand from overseas middle-class markets will continue to grow. The Asia-Pacific region  is expected to be home to 3.2 billion middle-class consumers by 2030. American businesses want to sell more products internationally and foreign citizens want more access to U.S. products and services.

In 2014, nearly 3.1 million jobs, or 43 percent of all jobs supported by goods exports, were the result of goods exports to the countries engaged in the current Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. While Canada and Mexico represent the largest portion of U.S. jobs supported by exports among TPP member countries, goods exports to the five new potential FTA partners in the Asia-Pacific—Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam—supported nearly 460,000 jobs in 2014.

Passage of fair trade legislation, such as Trade Promotion Authority and the TPP, is a critical step toward enabling our country to negotiate modern trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific and Europe that reflect our values, open up new markets, level the playing field for our businesses and workers, and support more high-paying American jobs.


Explore Brazil’s Education and Travel & Tourism Sectors – Top Prospects for U.S Exporters

June 18, 2015

Tom Hanson is a Commercial Officer for Commercial Service Brazil, posted in São Paulo.

Commercial Service (CS) Brazil wants to spread the word that Education and Travel & Tourism rank among its highest-yielding “Best Prospect Sectors” for U.S. exporters.  Educational institutions of all sizes and specialties, as well as destinations and tour operators enjoy year-upon-year growth for these consumer-based services.

According the Institute of International Education’s 2013/14 report, Brazilians now make up 1.5 percent of the foreign student population in the United States, on par with students from Mexico and Japan (respectively, 1.7 and 2.2 percent). Presidents Obama and Rousseff place a high priority on educational exchanges in Science, Technology, Math and Engineering, and English-language teaching programs.  In 2014, CS Brazil promoted services of dozens of U.S. colleges, universities, and vocational schools, who arrive in Brazil on a regular basis to attract students and motivate local recruiters.

One of Commercial Service’s largest trade promotional programs,VisitUSA, wrapped up its three-city tour to Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Campinas, wherein tour operators met one-on-one with more than 70 U.S. destinations. Meanwhile, Brazilian tourists arrive in the United States in ever-growing numbers. In 2014, more than 2 million visited the United States, spending more than $12 billion collectively. Our two countries have a bilateral agreement to issue travel visas that are valid for 10 years; Consulate São Paulo alone issued more than 572,000 visas in 2014.

Brazil has a large and diversified economy that offers U.S. companies many opportunities to partner and to export their goods and services, and U.S. exports are increasing rapidly. Doing business in Brazil requires intimate knowledge of the local environment, including both the direct as well as the indirect costs of doing business in Brazil (referred to as “Custo Brasil”). Such costs may include government procedures and a complex tax structure.

The team at CS Brazil is standing by to guide U.S. exporters on uncovering new markets in these high-profile Service Exports sectors. For more information, please review CS Brazil’s Country Commercial Guide.


Brazil’s Growing Agriculture Sector is Ideal Market for U.S. Exporters

June 17, 2015

Tom Hanson is a Commercial Officer for Commercial Service Brazil, posted in São Paulo.

Commercial Service (CS) Brazil is letting the world know about our top industry prospects for U.S. exporters in Brazil. This post focuses on the Agriculture Equipment industry. Brazil leads the world in the production and/or exporting of numerous agricultural products, including soybeans, sugar, coffee, beef, chicken, orange juice, and corn.

The Brazilian growers are an ideal target market for U.S. exporters of sophisticated, high-technology self-propelled machinery; post-harvest machinery, including field refrigeration units/storage for tropical fruits; GPS and precision devices; poultry equipment; irrigation equipment; and fertilizers. Brazil is also one of the few countries still capable of increasing its planted area. Large portions of Brazil’s cerrado (savannah or prairie lands) are still available for cultivation, leaving considerable room for growth of the country’s commercial agricultural sector.

Brazil has world-class research and development labs and graduate-level studies, which signals the development of new enterprises that work to boost crop yields through increased efficiency.  The United States and Brazil have a growing bilateral trade relationship in agribusiness. Brazilian growers and land owners have come to rely upon the quality and innovation of marquee brands such as John Deere and AGCO (Massey Ferguson/Valtra/GSI Agromarau), which have been a part of many Brazilian communities for decades.

Brazil has a large and diversified economy that offers U.S. companies many opportunities to partner and to export their goods and services, and U.S. exports are increasing rapidly. Doing business in Brazil requires intimate knowledge of the local environment, including both the direct as well as the indirect costs of doing business in Brazil (referred to as “Custo Brasil”). Such costs are often related to distribution, government procedures, employee benefits, environmental laws, and a complex tax structure.

The team at CS Belo Horizonte is standing by to guide U.S. exporters on uncovering new markets in the agri-business sector. For more information about export opportunities in this sector, please review the Country Commercial Guide.


Export Success Series: Texas’ Polyguard Products Wins “E” Award for Expansion into Colombian Market

June 16, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Decorative graphic representing U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement

Export Success Series: Texas’ Polyguard Products Wins “E” Award for Expansion into Colombian Market

Colombia is a major trading partner with the United States, and we have many mutually beneficial business collaborations. One American business that has profited from engaging in trade relations with Colombia is Polyguard Products, resulting in a partnership that has grown steadily within the last nine years.In 2006, the North Texas U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), which is part of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), assisted Polyguard Products in locating partners around the globe, and in helping with day-to-day export issues. Nathan Muncaster, the company’s global business development director, says that Polyguard has worked with Commerce “to enter many of the markets where our products fit easily… We now approach the point where the road steepens in our international journey, an incline where market access issues are becoming prevalent and important.” As Polyguard commissions the USEAC as well as the Department of Commerce for business-to-business matchmaking services, finding solutions to international export difficulties have been crucial to the company’s success. Polyguard won the 2010 President’s “E” Award for achieving outstanding exporting results, having sent products to both Colombia and Turkey. Additionally, by growing their export sales by 70 percent from 2010 to 2013, generating more than $3 million, Polyguard received the 2014 President’s “E Star” Award as well.

Polyguard Products has become a leader in remediating difficulties associated with international expansion. The company’s work is also an excellent example of how efforts to teach exporting methods to other companies can exponentially increase innovation and globalization. Companies who have similar interests in expanding their business can find information at To learn more about the President’s “E” Awards, companies can also visit The “E” Awards recognize companies for their contributions to increasing U.S. exports. In 1961, President Kennedy signed an executive order reviving the World War II “E” symbol of excellence to honor and provide recognition to America’s exporters.

Many of the “E” Awardees are able to conduct business internationally as a result of the 14 trade agreements the United States currently has in force with 20 countries. The Obama administration is working closely with Congress to pass trade promotion legislation, which outlines Congressional priorities on trade agreements, so that the deals currently being negotiated can be put in place. Trade promotion legislation is critical to the completion of new, high-standard trade agreements that will strengthen our economy, level the playing field for our businesses in markets around the world, and promote American values.


Newest Class of Commercial Service Officers Sworn-in By Secretary Pritzker

June 15, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Secretary Pritzker Swearing in 27 Foreign Commercial Service officers and one Intellectual Property Attaché from the Patent and Trademark Office to the Commerce team.

Secretary Pritzker Swearing in 27 Foreign Commercial Service officers and one Intellectual Property Attaché from the Patent and Trademark Office to the Commerce team.

Today, in a formal swearing-in ceremony, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker welcomed 27 Foreign Commercial Service officers and one Intellectual Property Attaché from the Patent and Trademark Office to the Commerce team.  The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.  The new officers will use their unique skills to match U.S. companies with foreign partners, reduce trade barriers, fight intellectual property rights violations, and attract investment to America’s shores.  Stefan Selig, Under Secretary for International Trade, Arun Kumar, Assistant Secretary and Director General of Global Markets and Shira Perlmutter, United States Patent and Trademark Office Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs were also in attendance.

For their first assignments, 14 officers have been selected to go to overseas posts, 9 will work in domestic field offices around the country and 5 will serve here in Washington, D.C.  The Commercial Service officers went through a rigorous screening process and were selected from over 2,800 candidates. Most of the new officers cultivated their expertise in international trade from previous federal or state government service, while others previously held positions in the private sector in fields such as energy, financial services, pharmaceuticals, publishing, entertainment, and consulting. These new officers bring a wealth of knowledge, skills, and real world experience to their positions that will assist them in helping U.S. companies capitalize on global opportunities.  For example, new Commercial Service Officer Suzanne “JK” Platt will leverage her many years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry to help American businesses compete and sell their goods and services worldwide.  She spent the last five years with a manufacturer, supporting their exports to Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, where she worked on commercial flows into and with the EU, while also supporting new distribution channels and operations.

Companies today are born global.  From brand new start-ups to established multi-nationals, all are looking for the next export opportunity to expand their bottom line. President Obama, the Commerce Department, and the entire Administration understand that, for domestic firms to succeed, they must reach the 96 percent of customers who live beyond our borders.

The President has made exporting a key priority of this Administration, resulting in 5 years of record-breaking levels of goods and services sold abroad..  The Obama Administration has set forth a robust trade agenda to help level the playing field for American businesses and their workers through modern, high-standard trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

As we look to complete these trade deals, the Commercial Service will be on the front lines of implementing these deals and ensuring American companies can capitalize on new opportunities in the Asia-Pacific, Europe, and elsewhere.

The new officers will join the ranks of the Commercial Service’s cadre of talented professionals working in nearly 80countries and 100 domestic locations assisting U.S. companies in exporting and increasing sales to new global markets.

Congratulations to the newest class of Commercial Service officers.

Download commerce_departments_newest_foreign_commercial_officers_are_sworn_in_by_secretary_pritzker.mp4 (17.1 MB)

Read video transcript


Future of Urban Innovation: Startups Summit

June 12, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

People sitting in chairs on a stage that appear to be having some sort of panel discussion.

Future of Urban Innovation: Startups Summit

On June 9, the U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with Columbia University, hosted the Future of Urban Innovation: Startups summit in New York City, to discuss urban innovation and how government, academia, and the private sector can work together to help startups and spur economic growth. The summit was part of ongoing efforts, by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to provide information and resources to innovators and entrepreneurs in the region.

Urban innovation is a key driver of economic growth for the U.S., with tech-based entrepreneurs helping to develop the domestic manufacturing base and the urban supply chain. Urban innovation also spurs the formation of new businesses with high paying jobs, and innovative companies that export their goods contribute to America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.

In her remarks, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker discussed the advantages cities offer entrepreneurs looking to start a business, including leading research universities; start-up incubators; financial institutions; advertising and marketing firms; the talent pool to develop new products; and a concentrated customer base. She issued a call-to-action for higher education institutions, the private sector, local governments, and other economic development stakeholders to invest in their urban innovation ecosystems. “Providing the tools for researchers and entrepreneurs to turn their discoveries into commercially viable products – whether in cities or any other setting – is a key priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama administration,” Pritzker said. Pritzker gave examples of agencies that are supporting these goals, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Economic Development Administration (EDA), and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).

To utilize these resources, Secretary Pritzker emphasized the importance of strong, cross-sector partnerships to support businesses as they move out of the research and development phase to tackling the challenges of starting and growing a company. She also outlined the wide variety of ways that the Department of Commerce invests in urban centers across America, facilitates groundbreaking research in diverse fields, and collaborates with various partners to take new ideas from the lab to market.

Through its issuance of strong patents and protection of intellectual property, the USPTO plays a key part in urban innovation efforts by promoting inventive discovery. The strength and vitality of the U.S. economy depends directly on effective mechanisms that protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity. The continued demand for patents and trademarks underscores the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs, and the USPTO is at the cutting edge of the nation’s technological progress and achievement.

“In order to be at the forefront of fostering innovation through intellectual property rights, we are not just operating from a distance, but instead need to be present where innovation happens,” said USPTO Director Michelle K. Lee at the summit. In the last three years, the USPTO has stood up four new regional offices – DetroitDenverDallas, and the Silicon Valley – designed to serve innovative communities on a more regional basis. In addition, where the USPTO does not have a permanent presence, they are partnering with local organizations, such as Cornell Tech at their technology campus in New York City. These partnerships are a force multiplier in order to increase USPTO’s reach to all innovators.

In a panel of intellectual property (IP) experts during the summit, Director Lee discussed IP strategies for technology entrepreneurs. Topics included best practices and common pitfalls relating to start-up patent strategies, tips for working with attorneys, insights into the role of IP for emerging companies, and the possible impact of pending patent reform efforts being considered in Washington. During a session on federal support for entrepreneurs, speakers from the MBDA, EDA, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) discussed opportunities for companies to receive grants, funding, and other assistance. Throughout the summit, there were startup pitches by entrepreneurs as well as networking events.

The Department of Commerce is committed to investing in urban centers across America, facilitating groundbreaking research in diverse fields, and collaborating with various partners to take new ideas from the lab to market.


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