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The U.S. Commercial Service helps Western Shelter Systems export, reduce time to market and avoid mistakes

November 4, 2015

This is a guest blog by Brice Barrett, Director of Sales for Western Shelter Systems and a client of the Commercial Service U.S. Export Assistance Center in Portland, Oregon.

Since 1988, Western Shelter Systems, based in Eugene, Oregon, has manufactured shelters that are easy to transport, simple to erect, and weather-secure for operations in remote locations. The shelters are used by fire, rescue, medical, military, and disaster response teams.

About 15 years ago, we exported our first shelter system to an Australian distributor to be used by wildfire firefighting teams. Our firm made other international sales through the years, mainly in response to inquiries from foreign buyers. The U.S. market for our products is seasonal and exporting became very important to us to achieve our long-term strategic growth objectives.

When I joined the company in 2013, my first priority was to identify the most appropriate export markets for our products in Latin America. I contacted the U.S. Commercial Service (CS) for assistance. I worked with Latin America specialists in Washington, D.C., and CS trade specialists in Portland to develop a data-driven methodology for selecting export markets. We analyzed key criteria across a number of markets and determined that Brazil, Chile, and Argentina represented the best prospects for us in Latin America.

CS Staff in Portland and Brazil organized more than 10 meetings for me with qualified distributors in three cities. As a result of the trip, we signed distributors in Brazil, Chile, and Argentina and have already realized significant sales in in all three countries.

We wouldn’t be where we are today in Latin America without the help of the CS and the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The team helped us get to market 12 months faster than would have been possible if we were going it alone.

We recently decided to enter the Korean market, and I again called upon the CS to help arrange meetings with key players in this new market for us. There is no way we could have made these connections without the CS. We’re working on significant opportunities with our new Korean distributor, and we have product demonstrations scheduled throughout the next year. We’re progressing pretty quickly.

We now sell our products in more than 20 countries, and I admit that exporting can be a difficult and long process, particularly in a country where you don’t know the language or the market. Before you export, you need to do your homework and there are people out there to help you. I urge you to take advantage of the CS’ local expertise in foreign markets. The CS saves me from making a bunch of mistakes.


Welcome and Congratulations to Lufthansa Technik!

November 2, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blogPost by Vinai Thummalapally 

There are few things more exciting than the moment when a multi-year project truly becomes a reality.  I had the honor of witnessing that this weekend, when I joined Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla; Dr. Johannes Bussmann, Chairman of the Executive Board of Lufthansa Technik; Simone Menne, member of the Executive Board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG; German Ambassador Dr. Peter Wittig; and hundreds of new Lufthansa employees to celebrate the completion of the Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico (LTPR) maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility.

Dignitaries celebrate

Dignitaries celebrate the completion of the Lufthansa Technik Puerto Rico (LTPR) maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility.

Congratulations and thank you to the teams from Puerto Rico and Lufthansa Technik.  Back in April 2014, I also had the pleasure of joining them when the deal was first announced.

The work undertaken by these teams, which began well before 2014, is impressive:  Puerto Rico competed effectively to win the deal and bring these jobs to the United States.  Lufthansa Technik has invested significantly in this project, which it completed on time.  Local contractors have been building the facility itself.  Companies like Spirit and JetBlue made commitments to use the facility for heavy maintenance support.  And of course, newly minted LTPR employees have been working hard and preparing to grow the business – and their careers – here.  Many even spent six months training in different Lufthansa Technik locations in Europe.

The results:  A gleaming new 215,000 square foot hangar that is serving short and medium haul aircraft, with more than 200 people employed on site.  Lufthansa has also built the foundation for a long-term workforce development partnership with the University of Puerto Rico and the Commonwealth’s Department of Education. Lufthansa anticipates offering high-skilled jobs for 400 local employees by early 2017, with an estimated economic impact of $2.2 billion during the next 30 years. This investment is creating new jobs with valuable training and opportunities for growth, and that means a lot to the families here.

That’s why SelectUSA was created.  Our job is to help U.S. locations compete for investment globally, and to serve as a single point of contact for investors, like Lufthansa, at the federal level.  We help investors find the information they need to make decisions; connect to the right people at the local level; navigate the federal regulatory system; and find solutions to issues related to the federal government.  We aim to make it easier for companies to set up operations in the United States and create high-quality jobs.

To facilitate this investment, SelectUSA coordinated an effort across the federal government, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the President’s Taskforce on Puerto Rico, and many others, to present Lufthansa with the case for locating their investment in the United States.

We have continued to work with Lufthansa and Puerto Rico.  During the past two years, we have sincerely appreciated their spirit of cooperation and their willingness to share their experience and best practices with other investors and U.S. economic developers.

This spirit was evidenced throughout this weekend’s event, including one particularly unique element.  The company brought the Lufthansa Orchestra, composed entirely of Lufthansa employees, to provide music for the event.  This underscores the investment they are making in their people, and that now includes the people of Puerto Rico.


Powerful Connections: Introducing U.S. Businesses to Unprecedented Opportunities in Japan’s Electricity Market

October 30, 2015

Lilian Lee is an intern with the International Trade Administration’s Renewable Energy team

The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami impact on Japan’s nuclear power sector revealed inherent challenges in Japan’s electricity market when metropolitan areas experienced rolling blackouts for the first time in half a century. These events spurred significant reforms in Japan’s electricity market, which until now has been dominated by the country’s 10 vertically integrated power companies. The reforms are opening new opportunities for U.S businesses to tap into the liberalization of a $67 billion Japanese retail market.

Earlier this month, the International Trade Administration (ITA) and the International Trade Center hosted members from the U.S. and Japanese public and private sectors in Washington, DC to discuss their perspectives on Japan’s changing electricity market and what the reforms mean for U.S. businesses.

Attendees heard about Japan’s roadmap for full liberalization of the retail electricity market and learned about resources available from both the U.S. and Japanese governments to assist them in engaging in this market.

Kaname Ogawa, Director of the Electricity Market Office in the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy in the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, Industry, and Investment (METI), outlined the reform process that began April 2015. The first part of the reforms established an organizational body to facilitate power interchange among Japan’s 10 regions that previously operated as independent units. Participants noted that U.S. businesses will encounter the most opportunities when the next two phases are deployed—in April 2016, the residential sector will open up to full retail competition; and by 2020, the transmission and distribution sector will be fully separated from the generation and retail sectors.

Daiki Nakajima, a Project Manager at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) shared information about some key resources available to U.S. businesses, including the Technology Partnering Program, interpretation services, free consultation, and office space. Skipping Stone, a U.S. energy consulting firm already operating in Japan, shared best practices and addressed myths about doing business in Japan.

As Maureen Smith, ITA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis, noted in her opening remarks, there are many ways for U.S. firms to partner with Japanese utilities, government, and businesses and lend their experiences and innovations in a deregulated electricity market. She commented on the opportune timing of this development, as the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, of which Japan is a key member country, recently concluded in Atlanta, Georgia.

Peter Weigand, CEO and Founder of Skipping Stone, called Japan’s energy reforms an “unprecedented” market development opportunity. His comments were echoed by the Executive General Manager of International Business and Affairs at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Hirokazu Yamaguchi, who highlighted in his remarks the launching of the TEPCO Open Innovation program. This program is encouraging conservative energy product, service and technology companies from the United States to apply for partnerships with TEPCO to capitalize on this market opportunity and provide their advanced services and technology to consumers in Japan.

The Commerce Department is facilitating these partnerships and working on multiple fronts to connect U.S. businesses to opportunities in Japan. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker led a trade mission to Japan in 2014 that included U.S. energy companies looking to provide solutions to help Japan restructure its energy mix. Commerce has also increased cooperation to support the development of new and renewable sources of energy. For the past three years, the ITA has co-chaired the U.S.-Japan Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy Roundtable with Japan’s METI and the U.S. Department of Energy.

This month’s seminar discussion was well-aligned with the objectives of the Roundtable and trade mission. Japan’s energy reforms present significant opportunities for international business partners with interests in the country’s electricity market and smart grid development.  To learn more about opportunities in the Japanese electricity market for U.S. business, please see ITA’s 2015 Top Markets Reports on Smart Grid and Renewable Energy.


Aerospace: a sector that can elevate our collective international interests

October 27, 2015

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

Today, I attended the first industry specific all-of-government effort to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) into the United States, the National Aerospace FDI Expo in California. The event reminded me of the evolution of this industry and the abundant potential in the global aerospace market.

Stefan Selig

Under Secretary Stefan Selig talks about the future of the Aerospace industry.

Aerospace has historically been the keystone of American leadership in the 20th century, leading into the 21st – from the defense technology that helped create the strongest military in history, to the space technology we pioneered, to the resulting services and products that have improved people’s lives here and around the world.

While witnessing hundreds of businesses connecting with each other and with local Economic Development Organizations (EDOs), I thought about the innovative and productive workforce that supports this industry. It truly is a testament to the power that the aerospace sector represents. The U.S. aerospace sector produces our country’s largest manufacturing surplus. It has registered an increase in exports during the past five years of more than 50 percent, and directly employs 500,000 American workers. Utility patents in the aerospace sector are twice those of the biopharmaceuticals sector, and the operational profit per employee is consistently higher than the global average.

As the leader of the International Trade Administration, I know that the aerospace industry in the United States can serve as an engine for growth and profits for international manufacturers through foreign direct investment. FDI stock into U.S. aerospace products and parts companies totaled just under $22.5 billion in 2014, growing since 2008 at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 6.3 percent. FDI growth in the aerospace sector outpaced all other industries during that same period. The development and ascendance of the industry; in conjunction with the global explosion of growth, development, and innovation has catalyzed the very industry we see today. Throughout the entire supply chain, this industry sector is more international than we have ever seen before.

That is why work of turning growth opportunities into business realities will continue after this week’s event. The SelectUSA team at ITA is continuously working to cultivate FDI opportunities. We help companies navigate the federal government by coordinating the resources and services of more than 20 federal agencies to address investors’ concerns, including those that relate to federal regulatory issues.

This is also why ITA has an entire Aerospace Team, within our Industry & Analysis unit, dedicated to supporting the industry by creating top-rate commercial intelligence, developing strategies and technical assistance to assist the sector, and connecting companies directly with business partners. Export resources such as the Aerospace Resource Guide have helped many companies learn the basics of exporting within the industry.

And as we look towards the future of Aerospace, a finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP will offer an unprecedented opportunity to liberalize access for investment by ensuring fair and non-discriminatory treatment of investors. TPP will also strengthen and deepen aerospace supply chains. Aerospace manufacturers will have greater access to inputs gathered from all 12 TPP markets because those inputs will be considered originating and receive equal treatment as a domestically made input or product. We want to help U.S. companies tap into that potential and utilize these new benefits.

ITA is the industry’s primary export resource and should be your first point of contact when looking to sell internationally. Our team of domestic and international trade specialists, located at our Export Assistance Centers in the United States and at U.S. Embassies overseas, is prepared to assist in increasing your export sales.


UNITED STATES, APEC Economies Endorse Privacy Recognition in Support of Processors in Global Data Value Chain

October 26, 2015

Michael Rose is Policy Advisor in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Digital Services Industries 

At the recent Senior Officials Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in the Philippines, the United States spearheaded the effort to draft and endorse the governing documents necessary to operationalize the APEC Privacy Recognition for Processors (PRP) system.  The success of this effort has led to the creation of a second system in APEC to certify the corporate privacy programs of data processors and allow for data transfers between APEC economies.  The PRP System was designed to help data processors demonstrate their ability to provide effective implementation of a personal information controller’s privacy obligations and to help controllers identify qualified and accountable processors.

The PRP was conceived as a companion to the existing APEC Cross-border Privacy Rules (CBPR) system, which provides a means for data controllers to transfer personal data across participating APEC economies in a manner in which individuals may trust that the privacy of their information is protected.  The CBPR system was endorsed by President Obama and other APEC leaders in November 2011, and held out as a model for facilitating global interoperability of privacy frameworks in the President’s 2012 Privacy Blueprint.  As a participant in the CBPR system, the United States has worked with a team of experts from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, and New Zealand to support the creation of the PRP system to expand the benefits of the digital value chain to data processors in the APEC region.

The 21 member economies of APEC endorsed the CBPR and PRP systems as a means of strengthening consumer privacy protections and trust across the Asia Pacific region while facilitating trade by minimizing barriers to the cross-border flow of information.

Both the APEC CBPR & PRP systems are voluntary but enforceable systems which promote a set of mutually recognized data privacy practices for companies doing business in participating APEC economies.  With the endorsement of the PRP, the total global value chain of the digital economy is supported by for a system of robust privacy rules that enables the cross-border data flows necessary for global trade.

While economies consider taking the necessary steps to join the PRP system, businesses and potential Accountability Agents can learn more by reviewing all relevant documentation and requirements at

ITA is excited to be leading this work on behalf of the Department of Commerce and is looking forward to encouraging additional countries and companies to join both the CBRP and PRP systems.  This is cutting edge work that could lead to a system that will help all stakeholders further strengthen privacy protection and increase trade and economic growth throughout the APEC region.  For additional questions about these initiatives, please contact Michael Rose at


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!



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