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Doing Business in Burma – A Webinar Highlighting Key Opportunities and Challenges

January 21, 2015

Eduard Roytberg is a Senior International Trade Specialist at the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Ontario, California, and a member of U.S. Commercial Service’s Global Asia Team.

Geoffrey Parish is a Commercial Officer currently assigned to the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Boston, Massachusetts and is a member of the U.S. Commercial Service’s Global Asia Team.

In 2011, the Government of Burma embarked on a series of reforms aimed at opening Burma’s economy to the global marketplace. In response to this reform effort, the United States waived many of its economic sanctions on Burma. These policy changes opened the door for U.S. businesses to trade and invest in the country.

The United States supports the Burmese Government’s ongoing reform efforts, and believes that the participation of U.S. businesses in Burma’s economy can be a model for responsible investment and business operations, encouraging further change, promoting inclusive economic development, and contributing to the welfare of the Burmese people. Increasing U.S. trade and investment in Burma—a key priority for the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon—brings substantial benefits to both countries.

Last year, ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service opened its first-ever office in Rangoon, Burma. With U.S. merchandise exports to Burma more than doubling from 2012 to 2013, Burma is becoming a rapidly growing market for American products and services. Establishing a permanent ITA presence in Rangoon will enhance the critical role that ITA plays in supporting U.S. businesses seeking to grow and expand in foreign markets, and also supports the Commerce Department’s Open for Business Agenda.

A country of 51 million people, Burma boasts a rich natural resources base, a young labor force, and a prime geographic location. It has attracted strong interest from the international business community and our global competitors are already focused on the unique opportunities the country presents in a variety of sectors.

To help U.S. exporters better understand the business opportunities and challenges in this dynamic market, the U.S. Commercial Service will host a webinar on doing business in Burma on Wednesday, February 4, at 7:30pm EST. The webinar will provide a market overview and highlight key opportunities and challenges to help U.S. exporters working in a various industries.

The webinar will be led by James Golsen, the Senior Commercial Officer at the newly opened U.S. Commercial Service office in Rangoon. Golsen and his team are ready to assist U.S. exporters with market entry or expansion through a range of services, including market intelligence, international partner searches, trade counseling and business matchmaking with potential partners.

To register or for additional details about the webinar, visit http://go.usa.gov/MrmY.

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Greater Seattle: Marshaling Export Success for Future Gains in Direct Investment

January 15, 2015

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

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan Selig delivers remarks to the Annual Seattle Economic Forecasting Conference on January 15, 2015.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Stefan Selig delivers remarks to the Annual Seattle Economic Forecasting Conference on January 15, 2015.

“Trade and investment is an expression of American greatness. It is not a threat to it.”

That was one of the messages ‎I delivered today at the 43rd Annual Economic Forecast Conference, held by the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County.

The Seattle Metropolitan area has already established itself as an elite export hub. In 2013, this part of the country sold more than $57 billion in goods exports, making it the fifth largest metropolitan export region in the country.

But today’s event was an opportunity for me to learn about how the Greater Seattle region is planning on marshaling that export prowess to attract foreign direct investment.

When Greater Seattle  ‎puts together their toolbox for attracting investment, they will find plenty of tools from ITA.

That includes SelectUSA, the first ever whole-of-government program to attract FDI.‎ Their experience and success in connecting foreign investors with economic development organizations, as well as their advocacy and ombudsman services are why companies ‎ from China, India, Germany, and South Africa among other countries are setting up shop in the U.S.

Another ITA tool is our work to make the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership a reality. While these are largely seen as trade agreements, they will also unlock also remove barriers to investment, which should boost FDI for the Greater Seattle region and the country.

Finally, we hope to bolster their public support efforts by doing our part to remind people that trade and investment is a platform for the best goods and services in the world, made by the best workforce.

On behalf of ITA, I would like to once again congratulate the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County for this plan, which will surely make the region a leading hub for FDI. You can be sure that we will be there to help along the way.

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Swiss Executives Announce $3 Billion Investment in the United States During Meeting with Secretary Pritzker

January 14, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Swiss Executives Announce $3 Billion Investment in the United States During Meeting with Secretary PritzkerToday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, NEC Director Jeff Zients and Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, hosted a delegation of Swiss business leaders, who are making significant U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. The eight executives announced plans to invest $3 billion in their U.S. operations in 2015. The participants also discussed the importance of job-driven workforce training initiatives, which enhance the United States’ attractiveness as a destination for investment by better enabling employers to hire workers with the necessary skills and providing employers with the technical assistance needed to launch training programs.

The U.S.-Swiss diplomatic relationship dates back more than 160 years and currently, the U.S.-Swiss trading relationship totals nearly $100 billion annually. The total value of Swiss FDI in the U.S. has more than doubled between 2009 and 2013, growing from $65 billion to $140 billion, making Switzerland the 6th largest source. Additionally, Swiss investors are the top international source of R&D investment in the United States, spending nearly $9.4 billion in 2012. U.S. subsidiaries of Swiss firms employed over 472,200 U.S. workers in 2012, with an average annual salary of over $99,091. The apprenticeship model has become a major tool for developing a skilled workforce. Today’s meeting provided an opportunity for Swiss business leaders to share their experiences with apprenticeships and how that model can be expanded in the U.S. By partnering with Swiss companies to expand and start new registered apprenticeship programs, the pipeline of U.S. workers for in-demand jobs will be strengthened.

The investor delegation also covered the importance of SelectUSA, a government effort to attract, retain and expand business investment to and within the United States. SelectUSA leads the Interagency Investment Working Group to ensure investors, get the answers and assistance they need across the federal government. SelectUSA provides services to international investors of all sizes and U.S. state, regional and local economic development organizations (EDOs). The upcoming Summit will showcase investment opportunities from every corner of the United States, while high-profile business and government leaders share their insight on the latest business trends.

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One Year Later, Look South Looking Brighter

January 9, 2015

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

Joe Matthews recently completed an internship in the International Trade Administration’s Office for Export Policy, Promotion, and Strategy.

As yet another polar vortex bears down on much of the United States, we in the trade community can still find some sunshine in the fresh trade data through November 2014. Our export numbers are up globally, and some bright spots are appearing for trade with our friends to the south one year after launching the Look South initiative — they include:

  • U.S. goods exports to Look South markets (our 11 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partner countries in Latin America) increased by $16.0 billion through November 2014, which accounts for more than one-third of the increase in U.S. global exports over the same period in 2013.
  • Despite most being small- and medium-sized economies, these 11 trade partners represent 20.3 percent of total U.S. good exports through November 2014, up from 16.7 percent in 2009.
  • In 2012 (the latest data available), more than 89,000 American companies exported to Look South markets. This is an increase of more than 2,600 from 2011.
  • In particular, Mexico stands out as an excellent place for U.S. companies to look for new opportunities as 1,700 of those 2,600 new firms entered the Mexican market.

Mexico is one hot destination, as goods exported to Mexico rose more than $13 billion through November 2014, an increase of 6.5 percent.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects Mexico’s economic growth at 3.5 percent in 2015, which is a sizeable increase from the IMF’s 2014 prediction of 2.4 percent and bodes well for U.S. exports.

Colombia is an emerging export market thanks to the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement that entered into force in 2012. U.S. exports to Colombia have increased by $1.8 billion through November 2014, a 10.8 percent increase over the same period 2013. Colombia was also a recent winner in the World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business reports, jumping from 53 to 34 to take the top spot for all of Latin America.

The popularity of Latin American FTA markets as export destinations is heightened by improvements in economic growth. According to IMF estimates, in 2014, the top four economic growth performers in the region are Panama, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Colombia, three of which have FTAs with the United States. Strong growth in both the United States and these countries will positively affect one another, helping encourage trade.

Through November 2014, our progress with the Look South Initiative shines. So grab your warm weather gear and Look South for bright new opportunities—don’t forget your shades!

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How Trade Stats Can Help US Businesses Expand Abroad

January 9, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Guest blog post by Dale Kelly, Chief of the International Trade Management Division, U.S. Census Bureau

International markets provide an opportunity for U.S. businesses to increase sales and overall competitiveness, but knowing how to get started and learning about foreign markets can be daunting The U.S. Census Bureau can help.

Although known most widely as the home of the decennial Census of U.S. households, the Census Bureau also is responsible for collecting, compiling, and publishing monthly trade statistics on all goods imported and exported from the United States. Every month, the Census Bureau releases information on the import and export of commodities such as soybeans, corn, rice, chemicals, steel, aircraft, and lumber. Together with the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which collects similar data on services imports and exports, the Census Bureau releases the  “U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services” report. This report provides detailed information on import and export of merchandise by commodity and end-use category as well as by the multitude of countries and areas with which the U.S. conducts international trade. All of these reports are available at the Census Bureau’s foreign trade web page.

How can this information help U.S. businesses? The Census Bureau provides detailed information on more than 9,000 export commodities and 18,000 import commodities. Easily accessible online, this information assists U.S. businesses in making informed decision by tracking the global marketplace for their product and identifying possible opportunities to expand to new markets.

In addition to data, the Census Bureau provides resources and tools to help businesses export. The Census Bureau’s International Trade Management Division conducts outreach and training around the country. Training includes webinars, seminars, workshops, and blog posts on using trade data, understanding foreign trade regulations and utilizing the Automated Export System, which allows the electronic filing of export information directly to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. These same data are the source of the Census Bureau’s merchandise export and import statistics. The next two-day training on the Automated Export System begins on January 21 in Houston, Texas.  Trade is a vital part of our economy, and the Census Bureau plays an important role in providing detailed timely information to U.S. businesses to make informed decisions.

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2015 SelectUSA Investment Summit is Now Open for Business

January 8, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.
This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy.

Guest blog post by Secretary Penny Pritzker 

SelectUSA Investment Summit Washington, DC March 23-24, 2015In my first year as Secretary, one of my proudest moments was welcoming international investors to the 2013 SelectUSA Investment Summit. Alongside President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, we made it clear that America is “Open for Business.”

As 2015 begins, we are moving full speed ahead with registration for the second SelectUSA Investment Summit, which will take place in the DC metro area on March 23-24, 2015.

In November, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released new data showing why efforts to attract international investment are so important. U.S. affiliates of foreign firms employed 5.8 million people in the United States in 2012. These companies spent $48 billion on U.S. research and development, and they exported nearly $344 billion worth of goods manufactured in the United States. In 2013, the United States attracted $231 billion in FDI, up from $170 billion in 2012.

There has never been a better time to consider establishing or expanding operations in the United States, and it is clear that investors recognize the opportunities that America offers.  We are home to an attractive consumer market, a thriving culture of innovation, and a talented workforce.  The U.S. economic recovery is outshining others, and investors are increasingly confident.  In fact, A.T. Kearney’s 2014 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Confidence Index said, “the United States tops the index for the second year in a row,” with the highest net positive rating in the index’s 16-year history.

The 2015 SelectUSA Investment Summit aims to build on the tremendous success of the inaugural event, which connected investors from 60 countries with representatives from nearly every U.S. state and territory.  At this year’s Summit, economic development organizations (EDOs) from across the United States will once again gather to showcase investment opportunities to companies from around the world. This event will bring together the tools, information, and connections companies need to grow their business here. The two-day summit will include many sessions with high-profile CEOs, breakout panels with practical tools for investors, one-on-one matchmaking meetings, and pitches on the trade show floor.

Given the incredible interest in the first event, we are doubling the size of the Summit and adding some new features, including a pre-Summit SelectUSA Academy that will cover the basics for first-time investors and the fundamentals of attracting FDI for economic developers.  We are also including sessions on rural investment, infrastructure investment, and other new features like robust online matchmaking and a more expansive trade show floor.

U.S. economic development organizations and companies that are interested in establishing operations in the United States – including reshoring and foreign investment – can learn more at the SelectUSA Summit website.

The SelectUSA team stands by to assist with investments at any time.  Learn more about their services at www.SelectUSA.gov.

SelectUSA is the U.S. government-wide program, housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce, to facilitate investment into the United States.

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U.S.-China Relations: Great for TV, but Greater for the U.S. Economy

December 11, 2014

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

Picture of the capitolFrank Underwood doesn’t understand the purpose of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT).

Maybe you know of Frank Underwood, the main character on the show House of Cards, played by Kevin Spacey. If so, you may remember how he conspired with colleagues in the White House and State Department to orchestrate a trade war with China.

How did he do it? Through the JCCT negotiations.

While Mr. Underwood is commonly known in the United States, it’s much less likely that the average American knows what the JCCT is, aside from it being some way for a fictional administration to create tension with a major U.S. international partner.

Though it isn’t a household term, the importance of the JCCT can’t be overlooked. While Mr. Underwood used the JCCT to start a trade war, the reality is that the United States and China use it to support trade peace – resolving bilateral tensions and exploring areas of mutual cooperation.

The United States and China established the JCCT in 1983 as the primary forum for addressing trade and investment issues, and promoting commercial opportunities between the two countries.

The JCCT has since resulted in significant progress on issues U.S. businesses have identified as priority concerns in China, including:

  • protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights;
  • government procurement;
  • standards, testing, and certifications; and
  • issues specific to certain sectors like information technology, energy, and travel and tourism.

Improving American businesses’ ability to compete on a level playing field in China through the JCCT and other bilateral engagements has contributed to growth of U.S. exports and business activity in China’s market, supporting the American economy and job growth. It has also helped drive important reform in China’s economy, supporting innovation and growth there as well.

The next round of high-level JCCT Meetings are in Chicago this month and we’re looking forward to using this opportunity to address bilateral trade concerns and deepen positive economic engagement between our governments and commercial sectors.

Why does JCCT matter to the average U.S. citizen?

  • China is our second largest trading partner. U.S. total exports to China have nearly tripled since 2005, reaching $122 billion in 2013.
  • U.S. goods & services exports to China support nearly 796,000 U.S. jobs.
  • Continued growth in China’s middle class will create even more promising export opportunities for U.S. companies.
  • To continue with Mr. Underwood’s example, China is now the top goods export market for his home state of South Carolina. The state’s goods exports to China reached $4.9 billion in 2013, which is nearly eight times greater than in 2005.

Lastly, not to quibble with the House of Cards writers, the show makes one important error: the Secretary of State was in charge of the JCCT discussions, and provided guidance to the U.S. team of negotiators.

In fact, that team would have been led by the Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative. Secretary Pritzker and Ambassador Froman will lead the U.S. delegation and be joined by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. The Chinese delegation will be led by Vice Premier Wang Yang.

While we have yet to see those officials portrayed in the show, we look forward to seeing them play prominent roles in upcoming seasons…

More importantly, we look forward to the 25th JCCT this month, and to seeing the continued positive effects these important meetings have on the U.S. and Chinese economies and our commercial relationship.

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