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Nicole Lamb-Hale is Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services.
Monday, February 15
It was a great honor and joy to be confirmed by the Senate late Thursday night and sworn in late Friday afternoon to serve as the United States International Trade Administration’s Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services. And I have hit the ground running! I left on Sunday evening for my first official assignment – to lead a trade mission to Algeria and Libya. This important trade mission is not only my first – it is the first one in history for the U.S. government to these two countries. These exciting hallmark initiatives, as well as the fact that ITA has also placed its first permanent commercial officer in Algeria, demonstrate the importance that the United States places on the trade relationship with North Africa. U.S. businesses can find tremendous opportunities here, and Algeria and Libya can develop their technology, infrastructure, product availabilities, employment opportunities and overall economy. I will be joined by 24 companies representing a wide-range of industries – from construction, transportation, and telecommunications, to water purification, aerospace, and medical devices. Some of the companies are global giants – others are small businesses. Some are already doing business in these countries, others have never operated in the region at all. Some are looking for local partners and distributors, others for local government contacts. Whatever their past or current standing and experience, this diverse group of companies understands the significant potential to increase U.S. exports and investment in the region. Ever since landing at the Algiers airport this afternoon, I have received a very warm welcome and we are all excited for this historic trade mission.
Tuesday, February 16
My first full day in Algeria has been great. The highlight of my day was visiting a local “Access School,” a program funded by the U.S. embassy here in Algeria. This is one of many schools in the country and region where disadvantaged youth, ages 14 – 17, have the opportunity to learn English and develop their leadership and civic skills. I was so impressed with the students – all of them now speak at least 3 languages (French and Arabic are spoken in Algeria), and they spoke English beautifully. Even more inspiring than their linguistic abilities were their thoughtful, engaging questions on the commercial and cultural ties between our two countries. Ranging from questions on the economic recession to the impact of trade, the students offered smart questions and ideas – and it was great prep for the press conference tomorrow! Many of the students were involved with local service projects, and all of the students demonstrated a clear desire to serve their country. I know the future of Algeria is in good hands with these talented, young leaders.
The remainder of the trade mission participants arrived today, and we have been discussing the various goals of each company – I am excited for our official meetings to begin tomorrow.
Wednesday, February 17
This morning I visited a Pfizer manufacturing plant here in Algiers, representing one of the largest investments made by a firm in the country outside of the hydrocarbon industry. One of the main goals of the trade mission is to diversify our commercial relationship with Algeria, which currently is dominated by the oil and gas industries. The plant, which produces a variety of pharmaceutical products, ranging from anti-cholesterol medication to anti-depressants, is managed entirely by Algerians, and the 47 employees generate over $100 million in revenue each year. Everything about the operation impressed me and every member of the delegation. In the afternoon, I was honored to meet with His Excellency, Minister of Commerce Djaaboub. We agreed on the importance and mutual benefits of strengthening and diversifying our trade relationship and creating an environment to attract more foreign investment. To that end, we agreed to resume the next round of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks soon, and we committed to helping them with their goal of joining the WTO. These goals would make it easier for U.S. companies to invest in the exciting opportunities in this developing and growing market.
Thursday, February 18
Today I had more productive bilateral meetings, speaking with the Ministers of Trade, Foreign Affairs, and Finance, each in their respective ministries. We discussed how we could strengthen the commercial ties between our countries and make the region attractive for U.S. investment. Our participating companies are also finding great success in their meetings. Each of the representatives of the 24 companies is operating on a schedule that we have designed for them individually to help them achieve their goals on the trade mission. Let me share one of the many success stories that I have already enjoyed hearing: Marco Costalonga is on the trade mission representing Electrolux – the company that makes all of those wonderful washing machines, refrigerators, vacuums, and other household appliances, among many other things. Electrolux generates about 6 BILLION in sales from U.S. offices alone, and they are here on this mission to find distributors for their products in Algeria. We set up four meetings today for Marco to meet with local distributors. He told me that two were very successful, and with very good potential for partnering on their products. These new distributors would open up the potential for millions of new dollars in sales, according to Marco, while providing the Algerians with high quality, much desired products at home. These connections and new opportunities are what this trade mission is all about.