Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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SEMA and ITA Partner to Expand Exports of Automotive Specialty Equipment

September 18, 2012

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

Liz Couch is an International Economist with the Office of Transportation and Machinery’s Automotive Team

The U.S. automotive specialty parts industry is known for being innovative and creative, and the industry association that supports these companies is no different. The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) recently came up with a new, resourceful way to help its members to increase their exports. SEMA, with the help of a partnership with the International Trade Administration (ITA), has purchased and imported a Toyota HiLux truck as part of a new SEMA program to offer members access to vehicles that are popular for customizing and sold worldwide, but are not sold in the United States.

The program will give SEMA’s members the opportunity to take measurements needed to develop, manufacture and export customized aftermarket products to over 100 countries where the HiLux is sold. What makes this program so valuable is that the majority of SEMA members are small and medium-sized companies, and they would not typically have access to vehicles only sold overseas. SEMA has already held three group measuring sessions and the vehicle will be transported over the next year to individual company sites for those requiring more time.

I had the opportunity to recently attend a two-day measuring session in California where 36 companies participated. It was great to witness the development process first-hand and to hear manufacturers’ enthusiasm for this program.

SEMA members inspect the Toyota HiLux during a recent measuring session held in California. (Photo Commerce)

SEMA members inspect the Toyota HiLux during a recent measuring session held in California. (Photo Commerce)

Last year, SEMA received ITA’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP) award, which provides non-profit industry groups with financial and technical assistance over a 3-year period to go towards projects to help U.S. companies begin or expand their exports.

Award recipients contribute a minimum of two-thirds of their project’s cost, and agree to sustain the project afterwards. SEMA’s MDCP award enabled the Association to embark on its measuring program.

In addition, SEMA, in partnership with ITA, has educated its members about exporting to China and the Middle East, and organized Business Development Conferences to both regions. SEMA’s projects have had the support and assistance along the way from my office, both our domestic and overseas Commercial Service offices, and our country desk specialists.

This has truly been a public-private partnership working towards increasing exports for small and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers and supporting the National Export Initiative (NEI). The potential for U.S. specialty parts manufacturers to expand their reach and share their ingenuity and passion for customized vehicles with the world is truly exciting!

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Promoting the RV Lifestyle in China: Recreation Vehicle Industry Association Receives Cooperator Award

September 12, 2012

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

Charlie Rast is an International Trade Specialist in the Office of Consumer Goods Industries within the Manufacturing and Services division of the International Trade Administration.

Returning from a recent trip to Shanghai and Beijing, representatives of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) had great things to say about the potential for U.S. RV manufacturers in the growth and development in the Chinese RV industry. RVIA’s trip to China June 19 to July 1 was the association’s fourth trade mission to the country.

The U.S. RV industry believes there is great potential for RVs in China. RVs and RV camping are becoming increasingly popular in the country, and U.S. exports of RVs to China are growing. In 2011, U.S. RV exports to China exceeded $24 million, an increase of 78 percent since 2009. China is the third largest market of U.S. RV exports, following Canada and Mexico.

An important issue towards advancing the growth of the RV industry in China is the development of Chinese standards that are compatible with U.S. standards. Among the key achievements during its recent trip was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between RVIA and the China Automotive Technology and Resource Center (CATARC) to work together on RV standards issues.

RVIA President Richard Coon signs CATARC agreement. (Photo RVIA)

RVIA President Richard Coon signs CATARC agreement. (Photo RVIA)

“This Memorandum of Understanding with CATARC is a significant step toward developing a more formal RV standard for China that is harmonized with our North American standards, which would be a boost to U.S. RV manufacturers and suppliers interested in doing business in the Chinese RV market” RVIA President Richard Coon said in a recent press release.

Among the other organizations and agencies RVIA met with during the trip included the China Ministry of Transportation, to discuss road use regulations affecting RVs, and the Shanghai Tourism Administration to talk about RV and campground projects.

RVIA also met with officials from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers to discuss the association’s role on a new RV committee formed by the organization, as well as China Travel Services to talk about how the company can work with RVIA and its members.

RVIA also met with officials and staff from the U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, who are assisting U.S. industry’s efforts in the country.

In addition to RVIA’s achievements during the recent trip, ITA recently announced that the association has been selected to receive a Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP) award from ITA for its programs and initiatives in China, as well as Japan. The RVIA initiative financial award is $300,000 over a three year period.

Under the award, RVIA will work with ITA to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Establish an office in Beijing;
  • Pursue adoption of RV and campground industry standards compatible with U.S. standards;
  • Pursue the inclusion of RV definitions in the China motor vehicle code and removal of regulatory obstacles;
  • Pursue adoption of China Compulsory Certification (CCC) requirements that take into account the unique issues faced by RV manufacturers;
  • Pursue reduction of RV import duties and tariffs;
    Establish a website in Chinese and use social media and trade shows to promote RVing in China with an emphasis on U. S. products;
  • Serve as a resource for growing the RV market and campground development in China;
  • Demonstrate how to operate an RV and tow a trailer; and
  • Pursue opportunities to provide Japan with RVs for the country’s post-disaster assistance efforts.

Through this collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the RVIA, more U.S. made recreation vehicles will find their way to the highways and byways of China.

(This article was edited on May 8, 2013 to correct the title of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.)

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Russian Entrepreneur Touts ITA Training Program ‘Life-Changing’

September 12, 2012

Justyna Kottke and Tracy Perrelli are International Trade Specialists at the U.S. Department of Commerce

At a reception honoring alumni of ITA’s Special American Business Internship Training (SABIT) Program held in St. Petersburg, Russia on August 2, Dr. Oleg Prokhorenko, a Russian entrepreneur and small business owner, told Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez that participation in a SABIT internship “changed his life and career.” 

(L-R) U.S. Consul General Bruce Turner, Under Secretary Sánchez, and Oleg Prokhorenko during the SABIT Alumni event held in St. Petersburg, Russia August 2. (Photo Vladimir Grigoryev)

(L-R) U.S. Consul General Bruce Turner, Under Secretary Sánchez, and Oleg Prokhorenko during the SABIT Alumni event held in St. Petersburg, Russia August 2. (Photo Vladimir Grigoryev)

Dr. Prokhorenko grew his company, Laboratory of Glass Properties, after participating in a SABIT internship in the United States in 1995 to learn about glass manufacturing at Ford Motor Company’s Scientific Research Laboratory.

His company provides testing and data analysis of glass and glass material qualities, and has invented a system to check energy efficiency methods used during the manufacturing of windows, car glass, and optical glass. Dr. Prokhorenko attributes the growth of his small business to the knowledge and experience gained during his SABIT Program internship. 

“I built this business based on what I learned during my SABIT internship.  I now employ more than 60 people and my company is growing,” he told Sánchez. 

Earlier that day, Prokhorenko participated in a training seminar on corporate leadership ethics for SABIT alumni.  The attendees for the training included past SABIT program participants and leaders of small and medium enterprises; both groups found the training very useful for their businesses.

SABIT Program Impacts Small Business Development

Since the SABIT Program was founded over 20 years ago, the program has trained more than 5,000 mid-to-senior level professionals and business leaders from the countries of the former Soviet Union. These participants are selected through a highly competitive application process for industry-specific technical assistance programs, which bring them to the United States for three to four weeks during which they meet with federal, state, and local government, associations, academia, large corporations and small and medium businesses.  These programs typically begin in Washington, DC, and then take the delegations to various locations in the continental United States, chosen for best fit with their industry. 

Upon returning to their home countries, SABIT Program participants have reported many successes, including the establishment and growth of industry associations, cooperation with participants from their countries and other regions, opportunities to make positive improvements to the protection of intellectual property, promotions to decision-making positions within their government, and development of new business relationships with U.S. companies that they met during their training. 

In fact, the SABIT Program has facilitated over $850 million in U.S. exports over the last 20 years. These types of outcomes are very beneficial to both the SABIT participants and their countries and to U.S. companies, many of which are small and medium firms that interact with the SABIT trainees during and after their training. 

For small and medium companies, the opportunity to meet with SABIT Program delegations is very appealing as a chance to learn about their industry in a different geographic area, and meet with industry leaders and potential business partners without having to travel to these countries.

The SABIT Program provides valuable benefits to U.S. companies and organizations and to its alumni. Dr. Prokhorenko is a great example of one of the thousands of SABIT Program alumni who have been able to significantly better their businesses and lives thanks in part to ITA.

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Realizing the Economic Strength of Our 21st Century Border

September 10, 2012

Peter Bowman is an international economist in the Market Access and Compliance unit of the International Trade Administration.

Cars crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.  The U.S. and Mexico had half a billion dollars in two-way trade in goods and services in 2011, and more than 6 million jobs in the United States depend on trade with Mexico. (Photo Commerce)

Cars crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. and Mexico had half a billion dollars in two-way trade in goods and services in 2011, and more than 6 million jobs in the United States depend on trade with Mexico. (Photo Commerce)

The U.S.-Mexico trade relationship is a critical pillar of both nations’ economies. The two nations reached nearly half a billion dollars in two-way trade in goods and services in 2011, and more than 6 million jobs in the United States depend on trade with Mexico. In September the U.S. Department of Commerce and the North American Center for Transborder Studies (NACTS) at Arizona State University will host a high-level U.S.-Mexico conference on how to create jobs and enhance education in the United States and Mexico; discover industry opportunities in renewable energy, aerospace, tourism, and logistics; export your ideas, goods and services to the U.S. or Mexico, and attract investment and enhance local economic development. 

The “Realizing the Economic Strength of Our 21st Century Border” conference will gather thought leaders and innovators from throughout the border region to jointly design a roadmap to define strategies and execute regional initiatives to create jobs and enhance economic growth. Attendees will be invited to share best practices and identify future opportunities for bi-national collaboration.

The international conference is set to take place September 23-25, 2012, at the Fiesta Resort Conference Center in Tempe, Arizona.  The conference will focus on identifying regional solutions to border related challenges and priorities such as:  workforce needs and educational development; trade facilitation and supply chain solutions for cross-border trade; border infrastructure needs and regional border planning; public/private partnership opportunities and new innovative technologies; and identifying cross-border economic development and job creation strategies.

The U.S.-Mexico border region is one of the most important trade corridors for North American businesses, representing a $461 billion economic relationship between the two countries.  The border region represents 92 million people  and is a critical staging point for U.S. commercial activity with Mexico where approximately 80 percent of U.S. exports pass through or originate in that region. It is, therefore, the key to unlocking the true potential of the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

Unique Blend of Policy and Business
The international conference, organized jointly by Arizona State University and the U.S. Department of Commerce, will include officials from government and academia, pioneers in the business community, and representatives from civil society and international organizations. The invited keynote speakers include:  Ricardo Salinas, President and CEO of Grupo Salinas; Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; and Nina Vaca, CEO of Pinnacle, Chairman of the Board for U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  As Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance Michael Camuñez noted, “strengthening our ties between U.S. and Mexican companies and encouraging cross-border trade will bolster our global efforts to increase U.S. exports and create good jobs here at home.”

For More Information
Additional information on the “Realizing the Economic Strength of Our 21st Century Border” conference, as well as registration instructions, can be found on our website at: trade.gov/borderconference

 

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Miami Ushers in New Commercial Opportunities

September 6, 2012

Claire Maggio works in the Office of Public Affairs within the International Trade Administration. She holds a degree in political science from the University of Rochester.

Miami is known for a lot of things. The picturesque beaches, the exotic nightlife, and an incredibly vibrant culture are just a few of the things that make this city so unique. Yet there is far more than meets the eye. The city of Miami is also a bustling commercial hub with nearly limitless potential.

2010 saw Miami named the fifth largest metropolitan export market in the United States, with merchandise shipments totaling $35.9 billion. Helping to build on that strong performance, the Department of Commerce has announced the approval of PortMiami’s application for a Foreign Trade Zone(FTZ) that will not only serve the port’s facilities but allow quick FTZ access throughout the northern half of Miami-Dade County. As a result, the new FTZ will be able to help support trade-related activity and jobs at many South Florida businesses.

In 2010, the Port of Miami handled $36 billion in merchandise exports. The new foreign trade zone will boost this figure in the future (Photo PortMiami)

In 2010, the Port of Miami handled $36 billion in merchandise exports. The new foreign trade zone will boost this figure in the future (Photo PortMiami)

For purposes of customs duties, FTZs are treated as if outside U.S. territory. All goods entering the FTZs remain tariff free, with exports shipped from zones avoiding duty payments while shipments to the U.S. market only face duties when they leave the zones. So, for example, if a South Florida business sells both U.S. and foreign-made products to customers around the world, that business can use the FTZ to receive, warehouse and re-export products duty-free, reducing its costs and helping it to compete better with foreign-based rivals.
 
In addition to ordinary FTZ activities like storage, packaging, testing, labeling and repairing, businesses can conduct manufacturing in FTZs after a case-by-case approval process conducted by the U.S. FTZ Board (which has authority to bar activity that would not be in the public interest). U.S. Customs and Border Protection oversees all companies using FTZs to ensure that security and accounting requirements are met.

There are already nearly twenty foreign trade zones across the state, and the new FTZ in Miami is sure to boost investment and commercial activity in Florida. While the state had many profitable shipping centers and hubs, Miami alone accounted for two-thirds of all of the state’s merchandise exports in 2010 while 14 percent of all manufacturing workers in Florida depended on exports for their jobs in 2009. That’s a lot of valuable jobs that can help contribute to our economic recovery, and underscores just how important exports are to the Floridian and national economies.

The new Miami FTZ will provide Florida business with enhanced opportunities to minimize costs as they conduct international trade. To learn more about FTZs in Florida or anywhere else across the country, as well as to find information about other key tools for U.S. exporters, I encourage you to visit our website, www.trade.gov.

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Science Without Borders: Brazil is Building the Future by Encouraging Students to Study Abroad

September 5, 2012

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

Cory Churches is an Outreach and Communications Specialist in the Office of Public Affairs within the International Trade Administration

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is making advanced education for future workers a high priority. In 2011, she launched the Science Without Borders initiative whereby more than 100,000 Brazilians will spend a year studying abroad by the end of 2015. They will be studying subjects such as biotechnology, ocean science and petroleum engineering which the government regards as essential for the nation’s future.

Students attending the EducationUSA Fair in Brasilia learn about Brazil's Science Without Borders initiative (Photo CJT Online)

Students attending the EducationUSA Fair in Brasilia learn about Brazil’s Science Without Borders initiative (Photo CJT Online)

The Institute for International Education or IIE is administering this initiative for the United States. The program will provide a substantive exchange experience at a U.S. college or university to a diverse group of emerging Brazilian student leaders to widen the academic and research exchange between the U.S. and Brazil. This initiative is the result of joint efforts from two sponsoring organizations, CAPES, the department within the Brazilian Ministry of Education devoted to the evaluation and expansion of higher education in Brazil and CNPq, the department within the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology devoted to the advancement of scientific research and technology and to the development of scientific research-related human resources..

Until now, few Brazilians have studied abroad. Last year there were only about 9,000 Brazilians on campuses in the United States (excluding language students). And those Brazilians who have foreign degrees have had a disproportionate influence back home. In the 1960s and 1970s, the government paid for PhDs abroad in oil exploration, agricultural research and aircraft design. Brazil is now a world leader in all three fields.

This week, representatives from 66 U.S. colleges and universities are participating in an education-focused trade mission to Brazil led by Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez. Education and training rank among the top 10 U.S. services exports. Tuition and living expenses from international students and their families brought in nearly $21 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2010-2011 academic year.

This trade mission will play an important role in helping participating colleges and universities boost the number of Brazilian students from 9,000, and in doing so, will support those institutions with full tuitions costs – as well as foster important cultural ties between the next generation of the world’s leaders.

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The Secret Is Out! Learn More About the Value of Trade Secrets to the U.S. Economy

September 5, 2012

Christine Peterson is an International Trade Specialist in the Office of Intellectual Property Rights within the Market Access and Compliance unit of the International Trade Administration

When I was in law school, I took all the intellectual property (IP) law and international trade law courses I could cram into my busy schedule.  Unfortunately, everything I learned about trade secrets I learned in two days of an introductory IP course. 

But, if you think that the number of trade secret law courses out there was an accurate reflection of the importance of trade secrets to U.S. businesses and the U.S. economy, think again. Many companies rely on trade secret protection for their innovations. 

Odds are you even have some products protected by trade secrets in your own home—like the Coca-Cola recipe or the compound used in WD40 or OLED display technology in a Samsung television. 

Legal protection for certain business confidential information has existed in the United States since the nineteenth century, but has often been overshadowed by the more well-known forms of intellectual property—patent, trademark, and copyright. 

Trade secret theft is an increasingly important issue for U.S. businesses and, as a result, the U.S. government is doing more to make sure that American innovators are not at a disadvantage in foreign markets due to inadequate trade secret protection. 

I used the following resources to educate myself and would highly recommend them to U.S. businesses and others that are interested in learning more about trade secrets.

These and other federal government resources can help you understand the importance of protecting business proprietary information to ensure that U.S. companies stay globally competitive.

ITA’s trade specialists stand ready to assemble teams of U.S. Government experts to assist U.S. companies to enforce their trade secrets and other forms of IPR in foreign markets. We can suggest strategies to evaluate IPR problems encountered abroad and will work with you to resolve problems. You can report trade barriers at STOPfakes.gov/contact.

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U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue: Fostering Increased Bilateral Trade

August 30, 2012

Maria Cameron is an International Trade Specialist and the Brazil desk officer within the International Trade Administration.

The United States and Brazil have a strong bilateral trade relationship. With a population of nearly 195 million and a rapidly growing middle class, Brazil stands out in the global marketplace for the tremendous opportunities it offers U.S. companies.

Total bilateral trade in 2011 amounted to more than $75 billion, more than twice the amount of our trade in 2000 at $29.2 billion. More impressive is the fact that Brazil’s GDP, which stood at $2.17 trillion in 2010, has increased by more than 75 percent in the last 10 years, despite one of the worst global economic downturns in history.

The 9th U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue held in Brasilia August 30, 2012

The 9th U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue held in Brasilia August 30, 2012 (Photo Commerce)

Brazil is expected to become the world’s fifth largest economy in the future and is a priority market for U.S. products and services exporters. Yet the fact remains —given the size of both of our economies and our closeness in culture and geography —our bilateral trade should be much greater.

Greater bilateral trade will be good for both of our economies, fostering economic growth, job creation and improved quality of life in both countries.

The U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue seeks to expand our trade by improving mutual understanding and use this understanding to jointly address the barriers that are preventing our bilateral trade from reaching its potential.

Unlike many formal negotiations, Commercial Dialogue discussions focus on mutually beneficial solutions to commercial problems that interfere with trade.

This week, the United States and Brazil celebrated the 9th formal gathering of the U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue, led by Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez and his Brazilian counterpart Secretary for Foreign Trade Tatiana Prazeres. The agenda reflects a focus on finding solutions to real world problems that inhibit the growth of bilateral trade.

Some of the topics discussed include:

  • Biofuel measurement standards: to ensure that bioethanol purchased from Brazil has the same quality as the bioethanol in the United States. Biofuels are finding expanded utilization in ground transportation systems, and more recently in aviation systems.
  • Patent process applications: to process application faster and more efficiently – officials shared strategies, including on workforce development issues such as telework policies.
  • Addressing health and safety issues: customs officials with health met with safety regulators to explore how to move goods more quickly across the borders while continuing to protect the health and safety of our citizens.
  • Education: increasing the number of Brazilian students studying in the United States through Brazil’s Science without Borders Program. Immediately following these meetings, Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez will lead, in Brazil the largest U.S. educational trade mission ever held to Brazil.
  • Supply chain: discuss ways to enhance global supply chains as a means to improved economic competitiveness and enhanced trade between the U.S. and Brazil.
  • Improving green business: recognizing a common objective to encourage greener and more efficient business practices, discussions on how to implement policies in a way that fosters opportunities rather than erects barriers.
  • U.S.-Brazil Strategic Energy Dialogue: discussions surrounding how to support and encourage a private sector role in the energy dialogue.

The real strength of the Dialogue is in the ongoing collaborative relationship that has grown between the United States and Brazil trade ministries. This relationship has fostered more creative problem solving and cooperation on mutual objectives with the goal of enabling our businesses to grow and thrive.

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Exports Bring Jobs to the Twin Cities Region!

August 9, 2012

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

Francisco Sánchez serves as the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. Follow him on Twitter @UnderSecSanchez

Since the 2012 Olympic Games began, Minnesotans have competed in sports ranging from basketball to fencing, proving that athletes from the North Star State can succeed on the global stage. The same can be said for Minnesota’s businesses. Today, I visited Minneapolis to meet with Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5), Mayor R.T. Rybak business and community leaders. It was a great opportunity to see and hear firsthand how local entrepreneurs are designing and manufacturing quality products that are being exported all over the world.

Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez take questions from local companies during a business round table event in Minneapolis. (Photo Commerce)

Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5) and Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez take questions from local companies during a business round table event in Minneapolis. (Photo Commerce)

For instance, I had the pleasure of visiting Accent Signage Systems, a small manufacturing company. A pioneer in innovative sign technology, Accent Signage is experiencing the direct benefits of exporting and has plans to increase its workforce by 25 percent in the near future. This is a gleaming example of a business that is successfully competing abroad, and, in doing so, is making a positive impact here at home. Stories like this are occurring throughout the Minneapolis region. The Minneapolis metropolitan area was the 9th largest export market in the United States in 2010. This success translates into jobs, because stronger businesses are more likely to expand and hire workers.

That’s why the National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, is such an important effort. When exports increase, so too does the benefits experienced by businesses and communities. Just last year, the United States economy saw a record-setting $2.1 trillion in exports, which supported nearly 10 million American jobs.

If we want to these numbers to rise, it’s imperative that American businesses know the Department of Commerce has resources to help them. Earlier this year we launched the “Build it Here, Sell it Everywhere: Commerce Comes to your Town” initiative to raise awareness about the resources available to help existing and potential exporters — with a clear focus on manufacturers.

Why manufacturers? Because manufacturing is responsible for much of America’s competitive edge on the world market. For instance, manufacturing is responsible for 70 percent of private sector research and development and 90 percent of patents — two of the most important investments to make for the future of our economy. And when you combine manufacturing and exporting, you get jobs. In fact, according to the latest data, nearly one-fifth of all manufacturing workers in Minnesota depended on exports for their jobs.

As the Under Secretary for International Trade, I have spent much of this year talking with leaders in important export and manufacturing hubs and spreading the word about the resources that Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) has to offer exporters.

International trade relationships can generate incredible economic value. These partnerships not only bring profits and support jobs, but also spur innovation and help American companies maintain their global competitiveness.

And ITA is committed to promoting trade and exports throughout America. The resources and expertise at our disposal can be invaluable to existing and potential exporters.

So reach out to us, and we’ll help you in any way we can.

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A Primer on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC

August 8, 2012

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

Tyler Voorhees is working in the Office of Public Affairs at the International Trade Administration for the summer. He is starting his senior year at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

We hope you enjoyed our month of covering transportation related exports in July. We talked about everything from the Farnborough Air Show to how remanufactured goods (including autos) can save your wallet and the environment.

During August, we will be highlighting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. APEC may not be a familiar topic outside international trade circles; however, it plays a vital role in the U.S. economy.

Under Secretary Sanchez (left) making remarks on innovation and Intellectual Property Rights at APEC St. Petersburg. (Photo APEC)

Under Secretary Sanchez (left) making remarks on innovation and Intellectual Property Rights at APEC St. Petersburg. (Photo APEC)

APEC was founded in 1989 to promote trade liberalization in the Asia-Pacific Region. Today, APEC has 21 members, including the United States and some of its largest trading partners such as Canada, Mexico, China and Japan. Together, the region is home to 40 percent of the world’s population, but accounts for approximately 54 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 44 percent of world trade.

Originally, APEC was founded because of the growing interdependence of Pacific Rim economies. Over the past two decades, this interdependence has only increased, giving the organization growing importance each year. The broad goal of APEC is to decrease trade and investment barriers, facilitate business in the region while working to raise living standards across the region through sustainable economic growth and ultimately lead to a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

Between 1989 and 1992, APEC met at a senior official and Ministerial level. In 1993, President Bill Clinton established the practice of an annual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. Since then, APEC leaders have gathered annually during “Leader’s Week” to meet and discuss economic and trade issues in the region.  In 2011, the U.S. hosted the APEC meetings on a variety of topics ranging from addressing business ethics and standards to small and medium-enterprise growth and women’s issues.

Last year, Leader’s Week took place in Honolulu, Hawaii. This year, Russia is set to host the meeting in Vladivostok, the largest Russian port in the Pacific. There have been several ministerial meetings throughout the year, but Leader’s Week is scheduled to take place September 2-9.

This year, Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez led the U.S Delegation to the Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SME) Ministerial Meeting in St. Petersburg on August 3rd. There, he discussed the importance of SMEs to economic growth and international trade. Make sure to follow our blog for a  report of the SME meetings.

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