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New Search Tool Driven by API Helps U.S. Companies Comply with Export Laws

November 20, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog. screenshot from consolidated screening list tool

Starting today, U.S. companies can use a simple tool to search the federal government’s Consolidated Screening List (CSL).

The CSL is a streamlined collection of nine different “screening lists” from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, and the Treasury that contains names of individuals and companies with whom a U.S. company may not be allowed to do business due to U.S. export regulations, sanctions, or other restrictions.

If a company or individual appears on the list, U.S. firms must do further research into the individual or company in accordance with the administering agency’s rules before doing business with them. It is extremely important for U.S. businesses to consult the CSL before doing business with a foreign entity to ensure it is not flagged on any of the agency lists.

The U.S. agencies that maintain these lists have targeted these entities for various national security and foreign policy reasons, including illegally exporting arms, violating U.S. sanctions, and trafficking narcotics. By consolidating these lists into one collection, the CSL helps support President Obama’s Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative, which is designed to enhance U.S. national security.

In addition to using the simple search tool, the CSL is now available to developers through the International Trade Administration (ITA) Developer Portal (http://developer.trade.gov).

The Consolidated Screening List API (Application Programming Interface) enables computers to freely access the CSL in an open, machine-readable format. By making the CSL available as an API, developers and designers can create new tools, websites or mobile apps to access the CSL and display the results, allowing private sector innovation to help disseminate this critical information in ways most helpful to business users.

For example, a freight forwarder could integrate this API into its processes and it could automatically check to see if any recipients are on any of these lists, thereby strengthening national security.

During the process of creating the API, the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration and Bureau of Industry and Security worked with the Departments of the Treasury and State to form an authoritative, up-to-date, and easily searchable list with over 8,000 company and individual names and their aliases.

These improvements provide options to the downloadable CSL files currently on export.gov/ecr.

In early January, ITA also will release a more comprehensive search tool. This new API, along with Monday’s announcement of a new Deputy Chief Data Officer and Data Advisory Council, is another step in fulfilling Commerce’s “Open for Business Agenda” data priority to open up datasets that keep businesses more competitive, inform decisions that help make government smarter, and better inform citizens about their own communities.

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Major Infrastructure Projects in Mexico: Exporting Opportunities for U.S. Firms

November 14, 2014

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency blog. It also contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Gabriela Morales-Richards is an MBDA Business Development Specialist.

aerial rendering of mexico's airportRecently the Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) National Deputy Director, Albert K. Shen, met with Carlos Marron, Senior Investment and Trade Commissioner of ProMexico, to discuss ways to collaborate on upcoming infrastructure projects throughout Mexico.

Over the next four years, the Mexican Government plans to invest more than $600 billion to modernize transport, telecommunications, water, energy, and environment sectors. These infrastructure projects present minority-owned businesses with a unique opportunity to leverage cultural and familial ties, and language capabilities as strong competitive advantages in Latin America markets.

The expansion of the airport in Mexico City was the focus of MBDA’s discussion with ProMexico. The Aeropuerto Internacional de la  Ciudad  de  Mexico (AICM)  is  the  primary airport  in  Mexico,  accounting  for  35 percent of air passenger trips. With two passenger terminal buildings and two non-simultaneous primary runways AICM transports 32 million travelers per year. Foster + Partners of London will design this state-of-the art airport; a company credited with designing airports in China, Jordan, Kuwait, Panama, and the United Kingdom.

The project scope is broken into two planned phases. Phase 1 will include the construction of a new terminal building and three parallel runways capable of simultaneous operation – creating the capacity to support 50 million passengers and 550,000 flights per year. Phase 2 will add three runways for a total of six runways capable of simultaneous operation. The full expansion will support an additional 450,000 flights per year and 70 million additional passengers per year.

The $10 billion mega project is expected to create significant opportunities for U.S. firms. AICM maintains a formal register of pre-qualified vendors. Registration requires substantial documentation including historical financial data, organization charts, lists of past and present Mexican government contracts, and resumes of key personnel. This project has its own website, hosted by the Government of Mexico at http://www.aeropuerto.gob.mx.

If you are interested in receiving additional information, please contact Gabriela Morales, in the Market Access Unit of MBDA’s Office of Business Development.  Also, download the Mexico Project Resource Guide that provides U.S. companies and exporters with an overview of Mexico’s infrastructure sectors, the sector development plans in place through 2018, and to provide profiles of a sample of specific, upcoming projects of potential interest.

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Connecting Entrepreneurs to the Global Marketplace

November 13, 2014

The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration works hard to help companies that are ready to export compete and succeed in global markets.

We want to emphasize that it’s never too early for entrepreneurs to start thinking about exporting – determining financing needs, targeting markets, conducting research, etc.

As we’ve worked with global startups, we’ve learned it can be difficult for entrepreneurs to connect to existing resources to help them go global. We realize that start-ups differ in their capabilities at various stages of the business development process, but want to help young businesses incorporate export plans into their business model as early as possible.

One great way to get started is to be a part of ExporTech, which can help your company develop its export plan, then have it vetted by a panel of experts. More than 575 companies have participated in Exportech, with an average sales increase or retention of $770,000.

Here are four more tips for the busy entrepreneur to help address specific needs to start exporting:

  1. Secure Access to Capital: Many local and state governments have seed capital and investment programs just for their states’ entrepreneurs and start-ups. Many states have small business development programs or start-up-specific outreach programs designed to assist entrepreneurs to access capital — as well as educate them on best practices. On the federal level, there is the Small Business Administration, which has programs like the U.S. Small Business Investment Company program. A list of other loans directed towards helping small businesses go global can be found here.
  2. Secure your Intellectual Property: In order to increase the confidence a startup requires for going global, we need to ensure they know about what our U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is doing to protect American start-ups’ intellectual property. Here are five simple steps to get started, and you can find more information at stopfakes.gov.
  3. Do your Research: One important thing you need to figure out is the right target market for your exports. Understand the market trends and figure out your company’s competitive advantage. You can find market research reports on export.gov or by visiting your nearest Export Assistance Center. Here are some other important questions you should answer from the start.
  4. Find the Right Partners: Every market is different, and having a good partner on the ground — whether it’s your legal representation, a distributor, or a sales representative – can make a huge difference in your company’s success. Consider ITA’s Gold Key Matchmaking Service to help you find the right partner for your needs.

By helping America’s high-growth start-ups go global, trade will become a broader part of doing business in the United States. The International Trade Administration and the Department of Commerce are committed to enabling our next generation of globally fluent businesses.

Contact your nearest Export Assistance Center to get started.

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Commercial Officers Use Superpowers for the Good of U.S. Business

November 12, 2014

Frank Joseph is an Officer for the International Trade Administration’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

Note: The International Trade Administration plans to hold an assessment in 2015 through which it will hire a new class of Foreign Commercial Service Officers. We’ll publish a series of articles about ITA’s Foreign Commercial Service to answer questions from people who may be interested in this career opportunity.

If a Marvel movie about a raccoon can make $300 million, why not make one about a Foreign Commercial Service Officer like me? And it’s not just because I have a mammal’s good looks or a plant’s silver tongue. Rather, my superpowers include imperviousness to 90 degree heat and 100 percent humidity and an ability to drink insanely strong coffee. All earned after three years as a Commercial Officer living in Ho Chi Minh City, working to create opportunities for U.S. exporters.

Vietnam wasn’t on my Foreign Service bucket list, but I assure you, I had it wrong.

Professionally, Vietnam was an amazing experience, and I have no regrets. Here you have a country that endeavors to build its very first subways in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, an integrated highway system that some compare to President Eisenhower’s 1950’s American highway initiative, and an international airport from scratch. Add to those scores of hospitals, billions of dollars dedicated to water treatment projects, and major initiatives to meet energy demands. It is a promising market for U.S. exporters and a fantastic opportunity for a Commercial Officer.

Helping drive American jobs by accessing these sorts of sales opportunities gets my blood pumping. It’s why I joined the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. I worked with an outstanding team of locally hired staff led by some of this organization’s best Commercial Officers. As a team, we positioned our companies in front of key decision makers, set up sales networks and advised on market “nuances” among other duties.

Nuances – that’s where the rubber hits the road. Almost daily we coached companies how to:

  • Find further clarity to handle un-transparent regulations;
  • Sell to cash strapped buyers who make financing the beginning and ending of conversations;
  • Bid on government projects that involve foreign government “tied” aid – meaning that the country that provides funding support requires Vietnam to purchase its country’s products;
  • Convince Vietnamese buyers not to buy the least expensive solution;
  • Understand state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that make up 35 percent of GDP. SOE decision-making can be political as much as it is profit-driven; and,
  • Avoid corruption — an unfortunate fact of life in Vietnam. Many locals accept it as a necessary part of business. Our firms need to raise this and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act first thing when interviewing local partners.

And that coaching helped create success for U.S. companies. Our promotion effort to secure a $90 million sale of wind turbines is a great example of the work we do. In this case, we did that by facilitating communications between the U.S. supplier, the local Vietnamese buyer and the various Vietnamese government agencies that regulated the sale. We also helped introduce the Export-Import Bank to finance the deal as competing foreign governments introduced favorable financing to support their companies. Then, we offered up a signing ceremony witnessed by a U.S. Secretary to demonstrate how important the sale was to the U.S. government.

It was just part of the exciting work we do as Commercial Officers, and it’s what you can be a part of if you join the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service. Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below. Or you can sign up to receive email updates from our team.

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Coming Soon to Louisiana: $8.1 Billion and Thousands of Jobs

October 31, 2014

Vinai Thummalapally is the Executive Director of the SelectUSA Program.

Under Secretary Hyatt (center) joined Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (left) and Sasol CEO David Constable to celebrate the announcement of Sasol's new facility in Louisiana.

Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Ken Hyatt (center) joined Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (left) and Sasol CEO David Constable to celebrate the announcement of Sasol’s new facility.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting Lake Charles, Louisiana to congratulate South African energy giant Sasol Limited on the firm’s final investment decision to build an $8.1 billion ethane cracker and derivatives complex. Sasol has also confirmed an additional $800 million investment in infrastructure, utility improvements, and land acquisition.

When making the announcement, Sasol President and CEO David Constable anticipated that the new complex will triple the company’s chemical production capacity in the United States and create 500 permanent jobs in the state of Louisiana, in addition to thousands of indirect jobs. Construction of the complex will employ an additional 5,000 people between now and 2018.

This decision represents an historic investment for the company, for the State of Louisiana, and possibly for the United States. This project was initially announced in 2012, along with a gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility. If the GTL project also moves forward, the entire complex would be one of the largest foreign direct investments (FDI) in manufacturing the United States.

I was also thrilled to congratulate the state and people of Louisiana for their efforts to attract and support this investment. Louisiana Economic Development (LED), the Southwest Louisiana (SWLA) Economic Development Alliance and the Port of Lake Charles began to work with Sasol to identify sites back in 2011. Their hard work has continued throughout this venture.

Our team at the U.S. Department of Commerce has worked with Sasol and LED since 2012 to encourage Sasol to create these jobs in the United States. SelectUSA, the U.S. government-wide investment-promotion program housed in the International Trade Administration, coordinated within Commerce and with other federal agencies to identify resources and address questions or issues related to federal regulations. President Obama established SelectUSA in 2011 to serve precisely this purpose: to act as a single point of contact for investors, as well as for state and local governments, to facilitate job-creating investment.

For example, SelectUSA brought the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, as well as Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and Minority Business Development Agency to the table to assist with workforce development information and resources. Every day we hear from companies about the importance of workforce development, and we have been impressed by the innovation we’ve seen in the Lake Charles community.

Sasol, the State of Louisiana, and several local partners cooperated to develop tools to support both Sasol’s investment success as well as the long-term economic vitality of the region. In December 2013, the Southwest Louisiana Workforce Resource Guide and a corresponding mentoring program were launched as part of a collaborative community effort. This fall, Sasol and the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana unveiled the next step: a pilot scholarship fund for job training. The SWLA Economic Development Alliance leads the Resource Guide Steering Committee, which will continue to collaborate with the Foundation to extend the program to support other key industries in the region.

Sasol has demonstrated its strong commitment to the U.S. market, to this project, and to the people of Louisiana. Their investment is also a testament to our strong economic climate, and shows the opportunities for companies from around the world to operate, grow, and succeed in the United States.

For more information on how SelectUSA can assist investors or economic development organizations, please visit www.selectusa.gov and follow @SelectUSA on Twitter! Make sure to mark your calendar for the SelectUSA Investment Summit on March 23-24, 2015 and sign up on our website for updates.

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Exporting Might Be the Only Thing Better Than College Basketball

October 30, 2014

The ACC is to college basketball what the Americas are to global export markets.

Chris Higginbotham is a Public Affairs Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs, and a proud UNC alumnus.

Imagine my surprise yesterday…

There I am, walking around the venue for our DISCOVER GLOBAL MARKETS: The Americas business forum, when I walk upstairs and am all-of-a-sudden surrounded by an ESPN crew.

There’s a row of radio reporters on the wall next to me. Bright lights, video cameras, and lots of tall kids.

Our forum shared a venue with the Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) college basketball media day. Players, coaches, and staff from some of the nation’s top college basketball programs were right above us.

And the appropriateness of the coincidence struck me last night, because the ACC is to college basketball what the Americas are to global export markets.

I’m an East Coast guy – a North Carolina native – so I don’t say that lightly.

Every year, the ACC is among the top conferences in basketball. Just like how every year, markets throughout the Western Hemisphere present some of the best global opportunities for U.S. exporters.

And as the basketball teams of the ACC compete through the fall and spring, I think that many of the companies here at DISCOVER will be increasing their sales by competing and winning in markets throughout the Americas.

During the next two days, we’ll be helping businesses from 31 states learn about free trade agreements, tariff rates, market opportunities, trade financing, industry trends, e-commerce, and more. We’ll give them the tools they need to gain every advantage when competing in growing markets in the region.

We’re connecting companies directly to a delegation of energy industry buyers from Mexico – a delegation of leaders who know that the quality of U.S. products and services is unmatched in the global market.

If you couldn’t make it to this event, I hope you’ll follow the action and the updates on Twitter using #DGMCharlotte.

You should also look into upcoming DISCOVER events in Atlanta Nov. 5-6, and Minneapolis Nov. 17-18.

Being a U.S. exporter won’t get you drafted in the NBA. There’s no uniform, no conference rivalries, and no fight songs.

But there is opportunity, and that opportunity can take your business to the next level of success.

I hope we’ll see you at an upcoming event, and that we’ll see your business growing through exports very soon.

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Foreign Commercial Service Officers: Assignments

October 29, 2014

Barbara Farrar is the Assignments Officer for the International Trade Administration’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

Note: The International Trade Administration plans to hold an assessment in 2015 through which it will hire a new class of Foreign Commercial Service Officers. We’ll publish a series of articles about ITA’s foreign commercial service to answer questions from people who may be interested in this career opportunity.

Barbara Farrar

Barbara Farrar is the Assignments Officer for the International Trade Administration’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

Some of the first questions Foreign Commercial Service Officer candidates ask are about the assignments process.

How does it work? Do I get to choose where I go? What options are there? What if I don’t like where I am sent?

The first thing that needs to be said is that when you become a Foreign Service Officer with any foreign service agency, you are signing up for worldwide assignment.  (If that phrase makes you smile and your heart beat a little faster, you may be the right kind of person for this job).

Technically, you can be sent just about anywhere. The Commercial Service has 75 offices around the globe, with the largest number of officers in the countries where U.S. companies do the most business and face the greatest challenges: China, India, and Brazil to name a few.

We are also present in many smaller markets, and we recently opened five new offices in Africa and Asia. Our ideal candidate is someone who will not be reluctant to serve in these new emerging markets. 

First Assignments: New officers come into the Foreign Commercial Service through a six-week New Commercial Officer Training program held in Washington, DC. At the outset of the program, we give officers a list of vacancies and an opportunity to express preferences based on their qualifications, language skills, and other considerations. All Foreign Commercial Service Officers are encouraged to serve in a domestic U.S. position for their first or second tours. During the training program, we hold a Flag Day ceremony when officers learn where they will serve their first assignment.

Other Assignments and Bidding: Following that first direct assignment, officers are able to bid on the jobs they want during an open assignments cycle that starts in the fall of each year. Using our electronic bidding system, we announce the vacancies that will open the following year. Many of these will include up to a year of language training prior to the assignment. Officers must bid on four positions at their grade, and are also allowed to bid on some positions above or below their grade.

Assignments Process: In the fall through the winter of each year, a panel meets four to five times to assign officers to their next assignment. The panel starts with the highest ranking officer and works its way through the team, carefully considering the candidates interested in each position and making assignments based on qualifications, experience, language skills, and additional considerations (family circumstances, medical clearance, etc.).

As the assignments officer, I have the fun job of working with the officers to help them realize their career development aspirations, and the important task of keeping the trains running on time, metaphorically, during our assignments process. 

Do you have further questions about our assignments process? Let us know in the comments section below!

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