Posts Tagged ‘USTR’

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Recent GAO Report Validates Optimization of ITA’s Manufacturing and Services Unit

October 25, 2011

Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale is the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services.

In the summer of 2010, the Manufacturing and Services unit (“MAS”) of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (the “Department”) International Trade Administration (“ITA”) began an optimization process with the goal of leveraging our in-depth industry and analytical expertise in the development and execution of actionable, value-added trade policy and promotion strategies. Senior leadership initiated this process because of its belief that MAS’s mission and direction needed a sharper focus to more effectively serve the needs of U.S. industry, the White House and our interagency partners. This was especially critical in the context of implementing President Obama’s National Export Initiative (“NEI”) which aims to double exports by the end of 2014 to support several million jobs. As our optimization process was underway, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) began its review of MAS.

The GAO completed its review as MAS was submitting its optimization plan to the Department. We are pleased that the GAO identified many of the same opportunities and challenges that were identified by MAS senior leadership in our optimization process. Indeed, the GAO report validates the improvements that MAS is making in the focus and impact of our work. As an initial matter, the GAO report delineates the unique value add that MAS brings to trade policy and promotion as gleaned from the GAO’s review of the work in MAS’s portfolio and its interviews with MAS’s client agencies. The GAO notes that “[w]hile MAS conducts activities that have similarities to activities of other agencies, officials from MAS’s client agencies stated that MAS can provide analysis that combines industry and trade expertise that is not readily available elsewhere in government.” GAO Report 11-583 at 13. Indeed, one of the highlights of the report was the observation of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) that MAS contributes significant expertise and analysis to the U.S. trade policy process that cannot be found in other government agencies or in the private sector.

The GAO notes the value that MAS brings to the development of trade policy and promotion strategies and makes recommendations that are consistent with our current focus. MAS is providing more insightful and outcome oriented analysis of issues that impact the international competitiveness of U.S. industry for use by other U.S. government agencies and by industry. MAS is also improving our value add through the development and execution of actionable strategies to advance the global competitiveness of U.S. industry. Moreover, MAS has developed decision criteria for our employees to use as a guide to determine areas of focus and the concomitant allocation of resources. These operational changes, among others, will enable MAS to more clearly communicate our mission, priorities and activities to our constituents. Further, such changes will enable MAS to obtain feedback from our constituents and track our successes.

MAS is energized by our new orientation and welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with our constituents to help U.S. industries succeed internationally.

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Expanding the Wine Trade in the Asia-Pacific Region

September 29, 2011

Jamie Ferman is an international trade specialist focusing on the consumer goods industry.

I have always loved my job.  Since 1999, I have worked in the Office of Consumer Goods in the Manufacturing and Services division of the International Trade Administration and have covered numerous industries, with a primary focus on toys.  But in January, I was asked to take on a special project for the U.S. host year of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to organize and implement the first meeting of the APEC Wine Regulatory Forum (WRF).  Last week in San Francisco, it all came together as one of the projects of the third Senior Officials Meeting.

Grapes in the Concannon Vineyard

Grapes in the Concannon Vineyard

With 110 wine regulators and industry representatives from 18 APEC economies, we discussed the sharing of best practices on wine certification, laboratory testing, and labeling.  We had 30 speakers from 13 different economies, with a major focus on encouraging economies to get involved with the international organizations that focus on wine, especially World Wine Trade Group, an informal group of government and industry representatives including the United States, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Georgia, New Zealand and South Africa which works to facilitate wine trade. 

APEC delegates tour the grape crusher at Concannan Vineyard

APEC delegates tour the grape crusher at Concannan Vineyard

In the past decade, wine trade in the 21-nation APEC region has grown significantly, accounting for 26 percent of all global trade in 2010, up from 21.8 percent in 2000.  More than one-fifth of APEC members’ global wine trade is conducted within the region, which has tripled to $3.6 billion in value over the last decade.

Given the importance of wine trade to some of our cosponsoring economies, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and Peru, it is not surprising that our event drew some big names, like our key-note speaker, former World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General and current New Zealand Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Moore.  In his remarks, Ambassador Moore noted that the APEC  wine trade, while quickly growing in significance, is burdened by different and sometimes conflicting regulatory requirements which are estimated to cost APEC economies and businesses approximately $1 billion USD per year.  Ambassador Moore also explained how New Zealand developed its wine industry from being small and domestically focused, to becoming a major international player by opening the market to imports and streamlining the regulations.

And yes, we did sample some of the best wine in California.  At the close of the first day, the event’s private-sector cosponsor, the Wine Institute, hosted a reception at the historic Ferry Terminal overlooking San Francisco Bay which featured wines from the Napa Valley Vintners Association.  After a regulators-only breakfast on the second day, we boarded a bus for the Livermore Valley and held our remaining sessions at the Concannon Vineyard and Winery. 

After agreeing in the Outcomes Statement to meet again to discuss critical issues like streamlining paper certifications for wine, which were documented and presented at the meeting by our U.S. regulatory partner, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau (TTB), we went on a tour and tasting of the Concannon wines.  The grapes were still about two weeks away from harvest, so we sampled them right off the vine.  We ended the day by a tour of the TTB wine testing lab in Walnut Creek, CA where scientists in white lab coats gave us a glimpse of the hard science behind their regulatory mandate. 

All in all, this assignment was one of the best I have had during my time at Commerce. I am especially thankful for the chance to work with Tom LaFaille, Director of International Trade Policy at the Wine Institute and to the great U.S. government APEC team led by Julia Doherty, from the U.S. Trade Representative and Jennifer Stradtman from the International Trade Administration.  

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The presentations and other key documents from the WRF including the Outcomes Statement are available on the Wine Institute’s website.

APEC was established in 1989 in response to the growing interdependence of Asia-Pacific economies and the advent of regional economic blocs in other parts of the world.  It fosters growth and prosperity by facilitating economic cooperation and expanding trade and investment throughout the region.  APEC’s member economies today account for 55% of global gross domestic product, 61% of all U.S. export goods and 44% of world trade, and comprise a market of 2.7 billion consumers.

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The MAGIC of New Trade Opportunities and Partnerships

September 9, 2011

After being buffeted by fierce competition in recent years, the U.S. textile and apparel industry is positioning itself for success in the 21st century. Ample evidence could be found at a recent trade show in Las Vegas.

by Greg Bell, a writer in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.

Francisco Sánchez, under secretary for international trade (left), and Chris DeMoulin, executive vice president of Advanstar Fashion Group and president of MAGIC International (right), cut the ribbon that officially opened the Sourcing at MAGIC show on August 22, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (photo courtesy U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel)

Francisco Sánchez, under secretary for international trade (left), and Chris DeMoulin, executive vice president of Advanstar Fashion Group and president of MAGIC International (right), cut the ribbon that officially opened the Sourcing at MAGIC show on August 22, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (photo courtesy U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel)

Summer days in Nevada can be hot. But they are nothing compared to the economic activity that was recently heating up in Las Vegas on August 21–24, 2011, at the fashion industry’s preeminent trade event: Sourcing at MAGIC.

This twice-yearly show has become a must-go-to event for the industry, bringing together representatives from the world’s top apparel producing countries, who are always in search of new partnerships to address their production needs. This year’s show, however, was unlike any other from the past. For the first time, the U.S. and Western Hemisphere supply chain served as the focus, with a pavilion and summit, “Sourcing in the Americas,” organized by the Department of Commerce.

The U.S textile industry along with apparel brands and retailers had the idea of focusing on the supply chain. Although they each represent different and often competing interests, they recognized the mutual benefits of this effort. Brands and retailers want to source closer to home, which results in improved quality and increased speed to market. And, naturally, the textile industry wants to increase its exports of yarn, fabric, and other products along the supply chain. It is a win–win for all parties, which is why the Obama administration was so eager to support the initiative.

New Opportunities for U.S. Producers

The International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) partnered with the organizers of MAGIC to hold the “Sourcing in the Americas” summit and pavilion. During a three-day period, exhibitors showcased their quality products by highlighting the incredible new opportunities in the region.

To mark the significance of this unique effort, Francisco Sánchez, under secretary for international trade, joined Chris DeMoulin, president of MAGIC, and others in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 22. Sánchez spoke about the importance of seizing the moment. “I feel an incredible amount of excitement and energy in the room. That’s because we all see the possibilities that this new event will lead to new partnerships, new ideas, new markets for your products, and new opportunities for success.”

Efforts such as the pavilion and summit will lead to job creation. Despite all the challenges facing U.S. textile and apparel companies, the industry continues to play an important role in the economy. In 2010, it generated more than $20 billion in exports, which supported nearly 600,000 workers and made the industry one of the largest manufacturing employers in the United States. Such job creation is especially important for rural areas, such as those located in the Southeast.

About the Office of Textiles and Apparel

The International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) administers programs and strategies to improve domestic and international competitiveness of the U.S. textiles, apparel, footwear, and travel goods industries. For U.S. manufacturers, suppliers, or exporters, OTEXA can help plan market entry through a variety of services, such as trade promotion events, online resources and personalized counseling, market research, and trade missions and shows. It also works with industry representatives to identify and resolve trade barriers in foreign markets and unfair trade practices. To learn more about the services that OTEXA makes available to U.S. exporters, visit its Web site at http://otexa.ita.doc.gov.

Promoting Western Hemisphere Trade

The Western Hemisphere accounts for roughly two-thirds of all U.S. textile and apparel exports—the largest of any market. In 2010, the United States exported nearly $13 billion worth of textiles and apparel to the region. (photo © skowa/iStock)

The Western Hemisphere accounts for roughly two-thirds of all U.S. textile and apparel exports—the largest of any market. In 2010, the United States exported nearly $13 billion worth of textiles and apparel to the region. (photo © skowa/iStock)

The Western Hemisphere is critical in promoting such U.S. exports. It accounts for roughly two-thirds of all U.S. textile and apparel exports—the largest of any market. In 2010, the United States exported nearly $13 billion worth of textiles and apparel to the region, which is an increase of nearly 20 percent over 2009.

Organizers of MAGIC highlighted the value of countries in the Western Hemisphere and the United States as trading partners and brought together regional businesses and retailers to showcase what each offers. More than 90 countries from the region were represented, including Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru. Preliminary feedback from participants indicated that the meetings held because of the show have led to incredible progress.

Textile Exports and Haitian Recovery

Haiti was a prominent presence at the show. With the help of USTR and funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, several large Haitian apparel manufacturers attended MAGIC. The manufacturers reported interest from nearly 200 potential customers, including representatives from some of the world’s most prominent clothing companies, who are looking for sourcing alternatives because of rising costs in Asia.

Contacts and sales generated from the show will make significant contributions to rebuilding Haiti, which was devastated by the 2010 earthquake. The apparel sector accounts for 90 percent of Haiti’s exports to the United States, and growth of this industry is critical to the recovery and expansion of the Haitian economy. Increased textile exports will lead to employment growth and new hope for many of its people.

Global Challenges and Solutions

Haiti is just one example of the strides made because of the exchange of ideas and experiences at “Sourcing in the Americas.” And it can be a model for the future of exporting. Sánchez remarked to attendees that the MAGIC event and the “Sourcing in the Americas” summit are recognition “that today’s global challenges require global solutions. In other words, all of us are going to have to work together—across city lines, state lines, borders, and oceans—to position ourselves for success in the 21st-century economy. We’ve got to be in constant search of fresh ideas, opportunities, and partnerships.”

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Visit to Memphis

October 15, 2010

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James Golson is a Commercial Officer in the U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service‘s Strategic Partnership Office.

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and U.S Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk were warmly welcomed by the Memphis business community during their visit here this past week.

The Secretary and Ambassador started their trip with a late night visit to FedEx’s global hub to see firsthand the millions of packages that make Memphis the world’s busiest cargo airport and an important center for U.S. exports.

Early the next day, the group traveled to Memphis based Smith & Nephew, a high tech manufacturer of orthopedic equipment.  Smith & Nephew export half of what they produce in Memphis and employ hundreds of people in the Memphis area to support those exports.  This venue provided an excellent backdrop for the Secretary and Ambassador to address a town hall meeting of nearly 50 Memphis based exporting companies.  The meeting focused on the President’s National Export Initiative and how the Department of Commerce, USTR and business can work together to achieve the President’s goal of doubling exports in five years.  The business community was energized by the speech and many in the audience were able to ask questions about the NEI and how they could take advantage of the program.  The Secretary highlighted that the U.S. Commercial Service has partnered with Memphis based FedEx through the New Market Exporter Initiative to identify SMEs that currently export to one market, and that by working together we would assist these companies to find additional markets overseas.

Following the town hall meeting, local Commerce Department staff, including myself, were approached by many of the attendees asking for assistance.  The event was definitely a success and my calendar is booked for the next few weeks meeting with companies that want to expand their exports.

The Secretary and Ambassador concluded their time in Memphis at a roundtable discussion with Memphis based exporters that currently export to Asia.  They discussed the Trans Pacific Partnership and what it means for Memphis.  Many of the executives spoke positively about their interaction with the U.S. Commercial Service.  For example, Chris Schnee of Christie Medical Holdings, noted that his company had not exported two years ago, now they are in 40 countries after conducting over 35 Gold Key matchmaking services with the Commercial Service.  He attributed their export success directly to the assistance provided by the local Memphis office of the Commercial Service.

The Secretary and Ambassador left Memphis later that day but as we engage with more companies in the coming weeks to help them expand into additional markets, the legacy of their trip will live on.

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Committees Give Voice to Industry and Small Business in Formation of Trade Policy

February 6, 2010

Laura Hellstern has been with the International Trade Administration for 19 years.  She currently serves as a trade specialist in the Office of Domestic Operations, U.S. Commercial Service.  She is also the Designated Federal Officer for ITAC 11 (Industry Trade Advisory Committee for Small and Minority Business) 

At an Industry Trade Advisory Committee meeting recently, one of the members leaned forward in his seat, an earnest look on his face as he peered at the U.S. Trade Representative official at the front of the room. Speaking emphatically and slowly, he explained in detail how he felt small businesses were impacted as pending trade agreements wait to be enacted.

Most Industry Trade Advisory Committee (ITAC) 11 meetings are not quite that dramatic, but tensions can be high as members seek to help U.S. government officials understand which actions they believe will better help small and minority businesses to compete in global markets.  And they do understand!  U.S. Government policy makers rely on ITACs to identify trade barriers and provide advice on key objectives and bargaining positions for multilateral, bilateral, and regional trade negotiations, and all trade policy matters. As a result, the United States is able to display a united front when it negotiates trade agreements with other nations. Our negotiating position is strengthened because its objectives are developed with bipartisan, private-sector input throughout the negotiations.

ITAC 11 is just one of 16 ITACs administered by the Department of Commerce in joint cooperation with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.  Established under the Trade Act of 1974 to ensure that trade negotiators were consulting with the private sector, Industry Trade Advisory Committees link industry and the U.S. Government, giving industry a voice in formulating the trade policy of the United States. Currently there are 375 industry advisors, appointed by the Commerce Secretary the U.S. Trade Representative, and providing valuable input as the Administration advances its trade agenda.  ITACs advise on whether trade agreements promote the economic interests of the United States and achieve negotiating objectives, and whether the agreements are fair to all types of U.S. businesses.  ITACs reflect the manufacturing and services sectors of the U.S. economy, as well as cross-cutting issues (IPR, customs, standards).

Among the many ways that the International Trade Administration helps advance international trade, the ITAC system is an empowering tool through which U.S. businesses can provide their perspective on U.S. trade policy.   Being an ITAC advisor is not for everyone, but anyone who represents a U.S. entity or organization engaged in international trade, and who is not a federally-registered lobbyist, registered foreign agent or government employee can apply.  Advisors are, among other professions, trade consultants, lawyers, financial consultants, international sales managers, and trade organization representatives.   The companies and organizations they represent are big and small manufacturers, law firms, financial institutions, trade organizations, World Trade Centers, Chambers of Commerce – the list is long.  Applicants are appointed based on representation of their sponsoring entity or organization’s interests on trade matters, their in-depth knowledge of and experience in international trade, and the balance of each ITAC in terms of geography, size of entity represented and industry sector.    ITAC members meet several times each year, usually in Washington, DC.  Members are expected to attend as many meetings as possible, and must do so at the expense of their representative company.

Designed to represent small and minority businesses, ITAC 11 is a multi-industry committee that focuses on making sure that trade negotiations and policies don’t make it difficult for small and minority businesses to enter and sustain international business.  The U.S. International Trade Commission’s report “Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Overview of Participation in U.S. Exports,” notes that only “1% of small businesses export.”  Along with ITA and its trade promotion efforts, committees like ITAC 11 help combat that dismal statistic by opening up communications between industry and government and making government more responsive to the needs of those “engines of international trade,”  the small business.  ITAC 11 turns up the volume when small and minority business speaks.

I have been a “Designated Federal Officer” (I act as liaison between members and the Industry Trade Advisory Center) for the Small/Minority Business ITAC for more than four years, and I continue to be impressed with the effectiveness of the ITAC structure and its ability to give voice to the needs of small and minority businesses.  And the members’ passion and commitment to providing input to is an amazing thing to see.   I urge anyone interested in making an impact on trade policy to visit http://www.trade.gov/ and click on “Become an Industry Trade Advisor”  for more information.

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