Russia-Ukraine War: Perspectives U.S. Exporters Need to Know

June 22, 2022

Evan Johnson and Agnes Pawelkowska are international trade specialists at the International Trade Administration’s Office of Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.

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Russia’s latest unprovoked attack on Ukraine, and the Western sanctions that have followed, have had profound impacts on the global economy and forced businesses operating in Russia to re-think their way forward. Although numerous U.S. companies have successfully operated in Russia for many years, many are deciding to either withdraw from the market or suspend their operations in Russia, regardless of the significant economic losses incurred.

In a series of market intelligence pieces, we’ll try to address some of the pressing questions, offer insights, and share updates on how the International Trade Administration and its U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service are working to support U.S. exporters as they navigate these complex considerations.

What is the current economic situation and is it sustainable to do business in Russia since its invasion of Ukraine?

The United States first levied sanctions after Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, seizing Crimea and supporting separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.  During the 2014-2021 period, most businesses outside of a few targeted sectors were able to adjust over time. However, the new international sanctions adopted beginning in February 2022 have been much more swift, severe, and comprehensive, forcing companies to reconsider their business operations in the Russian market. Payment transactions, letters-of-credit, insurance, foreign exchange operations, profit repatriation, new investment, international travel and staffing, and logistics all have become much more complicated. In light of these developments, U.S. companies with regional headquarters in Moscow have had to consider alternative arrangements to sustain their presence in the broader Eurasia region. Although some companies have chosen to stay in Russia while temporarily suspending operations, others have found that the already challenging business environment in Russia has become increasingly unstable and unpredictable virtually overnight. Complicating matters further, Russia has threatened Western companies with retaliatory measures, including proposals to seize the assets of Western companies that decide to leave Russia.

Close up of Central Asia on a colorful world map.

What are U.S. companies doing?

As it becomes increasingly difficult to conduct and plan business in Russia, there are a number of relocation alternatives and alternative markets to consider for companies who would like to sustain their presence in the Eurasia region. Some Russian citizens and businesses have already started to move to Central Asia and the Caucasus. Multilateral development banking institutions have shown renewed interest in supporting regional renewable energy, infrastructure, and agricultural projects.

U.S. companies rethinking investment positions in Russia may want to consider industries ripe for growth in Central Asia. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are currently courting U.S. companies in the extractive industries, and firms able to supply the engineering, mining, oil and gas, construction, and infrastructure sectors have good opportunities to expand their presence in the region. These nations not only possess an abundance of natural resources, but both countries are touting their political and economic reforms as selling points that could appeal to U.S. companies looking to shore up footholds in a region made difficult by the sanctions and export controls imposed against Russia.

Opportunities are also ripe for U.S. exporters in agriculture/agribusiness, environmental technology and healthcare sectors.

How is the U.S. government able to help?

Whether U.S. companies are looking to understand the complexities of sanctions and export controls or considering reorienting their regional sales plans or operational footprints, the U.S. government has resources to assist companies conduct due diligence and to consult directly with the agencies responsible for developing and implementing these actions.

For example, the Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Asset Control (OFAC) offers consultations on specific sanctions questions. Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) export counselors can also consult on specific questions regarding a business’ products and the export control lists that BIS administers. Furthermore, the Commerce Department’s Consolidated Screening List search tool is the most comprehensive due diligence tool for checking entities and individuals against the U.S. government’s sanctions and export control lists.

An upcoming segment will take a look at the current business environment in Ukraine. The U.S. government continues to coordinate humanitarian and other relief to Ukraine. To learn more or get involved, visit our Ukraine: Support and Engagement page.


Indo-Pacific in the News: Tremendous Opportunity Awaits Exporters

June 17, 2022

Pamela Phan is ITA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia

Families who immigrate to America sometimes do so under the most dire of circumstances. I would consider my family’s journey to achieve the American Dream to fall into that category. More than 40 years ago, my family witnessed the ravages of war and had to make the difficult decision to leave behind a country that was in tatters, forced to rebuild from the ground up. I was very young – a mere child refugee fleeing Vietnam – when this happened, but my family’s heart-wrenching journey has inspired my career in international relations, and ultimately, to public service to help countries like Vietnam set sights on a brighter future.

Last week, I had the opportunity to return to Vietnam – this time, as head of a U.S. government-led trade mission aimed at building bridges between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments and businesses in the area of clean energy. Like many other countries in the Indo-Pacific region, Vietnam is looking ahead and embracing bold new initiatives to ready itself for the global economy of the future. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its plans for a clean energy transition and for smart, sustainable development.

ITA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia Pamela Phan sits at a conference tables alongside participants of the U.S. Clean EDGE Asia Trade Mission. On the table is a placard with her name, and she is speaking with members of the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Pamela Phan, ITA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Asia, speaks with the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, about collaboration opportunities with the U.S. public and private sector.

Southeast Asia’s energy challenges and ITA’s mission to help

Within the Indo-Pacific region, Southeast Asia is home to some of the fastest growth in the world, which drives increasing energy demands from active customers, as well as from 65 million people who are waiting for access to electricity. Over the next five years, electricity demand is expected to grow more than five percent annually. By 2040, the International Energy Agency estimates more than $2.7 trillion will be required for cumulative energy investment in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states.

These are the drivers that led ITA to organize a trade mission under the banner of Clean EDGE Asia, a whole-of-government effort to advance U.S. clean energy interests in the Indo-Pacific region. Through Clean EDGE Asia, the U.S. government seeks to mobilize private sector investment in clean energy, accelerate regional decarbonization efforts, and support energy security and access through the adoption of clean energy solutions. This trade mission focused on three countries: Vietnam, one of Asia’s fastest growing energy markets; Indonesia, where plans are underway for the green, smart, and sustainable new capital city of Nusantara; and the Philippines, where an increasing population (currently 110 million), an infrastructure boom, and some of the highest electricity costs in Southeast Asia have all converged to present formidable energy challenges.

ITA brings U.S. companies to the table

Because of climate change, all three countries struggle with rising sea levels, soil salinization, and extreme weather, which profoundly affect their communities. To build the infrastructure necessary to maintain growth and assist with energy transition, while accounting for the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation, all three countries urgently need additional support and investment. Our trade mission was there at the right time, in all the right places, to offer cutting-edge U.S. solutions from 11 industry-leading organizations in the sectors of renewable energy and fuels, energy storage, hydrogen, smart grid, nuclear energy, and liquefied natural gas.

The companies that joined us on this trade mission met with foreign buyers, distributors, investors, industry organizations, and government leaders in the four booming cities of Jakarta, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Manila. Industry and market specialists from ITA and our U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service arranged for customized business-to-business matchmaking meetings, individualized country briefings, market data presentations, and important dialogues with influential foreign government and policy leaders.

Skyline of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, was the third city visited on the Clean EDGE Asia Business Development Mission.

More trade missions to come

This trade mission was the U.S. Government’s first to the region since last month’s launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). IPEF is designed to tackle 21st century economic challenges that include managing energy transition and investing in quality, modern infrastructure. Through IPEF, the United States is partnering with 13 economies that represent around 40 percent of world GDP, span two oceans from India to Fiji, and include advanced democracies, developing nations, and a diversity of history, culture, and opportunity — all with the shared goals of creating good-paying jobs, competing in the global economy, and being good stewards to our environment.

If you have a business invested or interested in trade with the Indo-Pacific region, now is an exciting and important time to follow the progress we are making through IPEF and our other regional initiatives. In September, we’ll be returning to the region for a Healthcare Sector Business Development Mission to Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. This will be followed one month later by our Advanced Manufacturing Trade Mission to Indonesia and Singapore, with an optional stop in Japan. Finally, please mark your calendars for March 2023 for Trade Winds ASEAN in Bangkok, Thailand, which is the U.S. government’s largest trade mission and business development forum. Businesses of all shapes and sizes in the United States and Asia will convene at Trade Winds ASEAN to explore new markets, build international networks, and achieve success while supporting businesses, communities, and nations.

There is much to look forward to in the months ahead, for communities and businesses on both sides the Pacific. We hope that your company’s journey with us will begin now.


Trade Mission 101: Why Your Business Should Go

May 12, 2022

Gemal Brangman is the Director of the International Trade Administration’s Trade Events Task Force

In a given year, the U.S. government leads or facilitates around 14 trade missions throughout the world—bringing U.S. businesses (quite literally) to the table with foreign governments and companies potentially interested in their products and solutions. Trade isn’t simply about exports and imports: transactions can’t happen without trust, and trade missions are an important conduit to build and facilitate relationships between individuals. But what exactly does a trade mission entail, who is involved, and where do they happen? The short answer: It varies, so let us break it down for you.

An image of business people engaged in a conversation
Participants of a trade mission consult with ITA’s commercial diplomats to gain insights and identify market opportunities.

Put simply, a trade mission is an opportunity for a company to join a group of other companies for a series of tailored on-the-ground meetings in foreign markets with prospective clients, buyers, distributors, foreign officials, and other significant organizations, all with the support of the U.S. Government. Through the International Trade Administration’s (ITA)’s Industry and Analysis business unit and the U.S. Commercial Service, we research markets and industries around the world to inform U.S. businesses of all sizes of potential export opportunities. Based on this information, we then begin the large logistical undertaking of planning out opportunities for U.S. companies to travel alongside our experts so companies can see with their own eyes what our market intelligence data reveals and so that actors in foreign markets can see what U.S. companies have to offer.

Relationships are the backbone of trade, and trade missions are among the best ways to help build them. Just last month, we concluded the second in-person trade mission that ITA has led since the onset of the pandemic. The Cybersecurity Trade Mission to South America brought 10 U.S. companies to Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay to introduce them to key players in rapidly expanding cybersecurity markets in those countries. Through the work of U.S. Commercial Service staff at U.S. embassies in the four countries, over 240 business-to-business matchmaking meetings took place, and now several companies are pursuing new trade leads thanks to their participation in the mission.

For example, ISG of Raleigh, North Carolina, is a minority-owned cyber solutions services provider that participated in the mission. On the value of the experience, ISG Company President and CEO Tony Marshall said, “Our meetings were all pre-arranged and we only met with companies that understand what we did, and know what we have to offer. We even found connections with some of the other businesses that were traveling with us.”

The Cybersecurity Trade Mission to South America was not the first trade mission that ITA led, nor will it be the last. Over the next two months, we will also lead our first Minority-Business Focused Trade Mission, a second trade mission to South America led by Deputy Secretary Don Graves, and the CleanEDGE Trade Mission to Southeast Asia. But you don’t have to travel internationally to start your export journey. Our U.S. Commercial Service has more than 100 offices across the 50 states and locations in more than 75 international markets to help you get started or expand into new territory.

While these missions are designed for U.S. companies exploring global markets, there are also opportunities for international companies looking to invest and create jobs in the United States through the SelectUSA Investment Summit, to be held June 26-29 just outside of Washington, DC at the National Harbor in Maryland. The Investment Summit is the highest-profile event in the United States dedicated to promoting foreign direct investment into the United States.

As such, whether you’re a U.S. company looking to expand or an international company seeking U.S. suppliers for your supply chain, the U.S. Commercial Service at the International Trade Administration is ready to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your nearest U.S. Commercial Service office if you’d like to learn more!


World Intellectual Property Day: Spotlight on Young Entrepreneurs

April 26, 2022

Michelle Sara King is ITA’s Intellectual Property Team Lead and Jessica Pomper is an International Trade Specialist.

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On April 26, inventors, creators, innovators, entrepreneurs, and intellectual property (IP) experts alike come together to celebrate World Intellectual Property Day. Each year, the World Intellectual Property Organization pursues a unique theme to celebrate and increase education, awareness and outreach about intellectual property. This year’s theme is “IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future,” focusing on our youngest inventors, entrepreneurs and innovators.

Graphic that states "IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future: World Intellectual Property Day: April 26." The graphic includes a collage featuring a young man and woman surrounded by various items to represent objects or environments, such as wind turbines, water droplets, flowers, food, laptop, bicycle, small robot, house, and birds. Image courtesy of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

As youth utilize their curiosity to solve problems around them, they should also learn about intellectual property to protect their work. Intellectual property is an ever-changing field and here at ITA, our Office of Standards and Intellectual Property manages the STOPfakes program which provides resources for entrepreneurs of all ages. The STOPfakes team hears from inventors from all walks of life about what to do next with their invention. Our response is similar for adults and kids alike: it depends on what you want to do with your invention!

For example, if you want to bring your product to market, it’s time to think about intellectual property (IP) protection in every country the product may be shared or sold in. IP protection is integral to the success of an inventor because it helps protect the work and attributes it back to its creator. Securing IP rights can help protect inventions, just as it can also protect literary and artistic works, ideas, designs, sound recordings, software, symbols, names, and images. IP rights often differ by market and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website offers more information about both the patent and trademark process including how to secure patent and trademark protection.

When IP is protected by law in the United States, with a patent, copyright, or trademark, creators can earn recognition and perhaps even financially benefit from using their invention/creation. Additionally, protecting IP by law means that it cannot be used to benefit unauthorized users.

The STOPfakes website and Twitter account are great places for all generations of inventors to start their research into IP. STOPfakes helps users find the resources they may need from ITA and other U.S. Government agencies. Additionally, you can explore copyright protection in the United States by visiting U.S. Copyright Office’s website.

When in doubt, we encourage innovators to come to STOPfakes, where we’re happy to point innovators of all ages in the right direction! Happy World Intellectual Property Day!


Advanced Manufacturing: What It Is and Why It’s Worth Investing In

April 5, 2022

By International Trade Specialists Diana Hajali, Office of Standards & Intellectual Property, and Jaron Bass and Amanda Lawrence, Office of Transportation and Machinery

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When you think of manufacturing, you may think of city block-sized warehouses or labor-intensive assembly lines. In reality, many of today’s factory floors in the U.S. are state of the art, high-tech spaces where workers employ all sorts of advanced technologies to build parts and products quickly and efficiently. In fact, our manufacturing industry is undergoing a digital revolution, fueled by advanced manufacturing systems.

What is Advanced Manufacturing?

Image of a worker’s hands using augmented reality on a control panel to monitor industrial robot arms welding.

Advanced manufacturing integrates machinery with digital and cloud-based technologies like artificial intelligence,  the internet of things, and augmented reality that allow workers to quickly adapt production to changing supply needs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the benefits of advanced manufacturing systems became exponentially more apparent, enabling manufacturers to change their processes to make new products and fill in supply chain gaps. For example: companies that normally produced alcohol began making hand sanitizer; car manufacturers started producing medical respirators; and some non-medical manufacturers were even able to design and create 3D-printed face masks.

Advanced manufacturing systems – also referred to as “Smart Manufacturing” – are essential in keeping manufacturing on the cutting edge. They not only support supply chain transparency and resiliency, but they also allow manufacturers to create products with a greener climate footprint. For instance, sensors can now collect and analyze all sorts of data to help producers use less energy and create less waste.

Helping U.S. Manufacturers Go Global

Innovation is key to the future of U.S. manufacturing and requires investing in the workforce and creating strategies to help American producers compete at home and abroad.  The International Trade Administration (ITA) has partnered with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) to do just that.

Through funding and support from ITA’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MCDP), NEMA researched four markets that that have untapped potential for U.S. exporters: Mexico, India, Turkey, and Indonesia. Together, our organizations are finding ways to connect U.S. producers of advanced manufacturing systems with vetted potential partners in these countries that will employ these newer, more efficient technologies. In February, NEMA hosted an Advanced Manufacturing Summit, where ITA experts in these four markets gave presentations to U.S. producers looking to expand to new markets or break into global operations.

The Summit also highlighted the importance of industry standards to a fair and competitive trading system. NEMA and ITA are working together to increase the use of advanced manufacturing standards to ensure that equipment and machinery work together and that data transfers safely and securely across devices, protecting both workers and machinery. To help guide this process, NEMA is developing a standards roadmap that will identify gaps in current standards and prioritize areas for standards adoption. Once finished, NEMA and ITA will promote this roadmap to trading partners and encourage them to adopt the same standards that are used in America. To learn more about how standards level the playing field for U.S. exporters, click here.

Coming This Fall: Advanced Manufacturing Trade Mission

ITA and NEMA are also organizing a multi-country business development mission to key markets in Asia, which includes Indonesia, Singapore and Japan, on October 17 – 21, 2022.  U.S. firms will be able to join U.S. government officials to meet directly with advanced manufacturing business partners in this region to explore potential opportunities for exporting products and services. Stops include cities like Jakarta, where in-person events will introduce U.S. firms to Indonesia’s advanced manufacturing initiatives, and Batam, where firms will tour the Batam Industrial Estate, an important industrial park. The next stop in Singapore will feature the Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific, one of the largest manufacturing trade shows in Asia. An optional stop in Japan will include business matchmaking events—including those through ITA’s Gold Key Service, which provides highly customized meetings with prospective buyers. To learn more about the mission, including application instructions for interested companies, click here.


A New Collaboration to Empower Women in Trade

March 14, 2022

Julie Anne Hennessy directs our U.S. Commercial Service office in Los Angeles (West) and Joan Morgan is a Senior International Trade Specialist for the Commercial Service’s U.S. Field.

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The United States is undergoing a historic economic recovery, and one that is transformative and should continue to drive the economy. Women and women-owned businesses in the United States are an enormous economic contributor. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, these firms in 2018 alone reported nearly $1.8 trillion in sales, shipments, receipts, or revenue and employed over 10.1 million workers with an annual payroll of $388.1 billion. For reasons like this, ITA has partnered with WEConnect International to help women entrepreneurs get into the business of exporting and tapping into markets that are ripe for new products and services.

WEConnect International is a global non-profit that identifies, educates, registers, and certifies women’s business enterprises that are at least 51 percent owned, managed, and controlled by one or more women, and then connects them with large member buyers. The WEConnect International WECommunity supports and promotes women-owned businesses based in over 130 countries, including local support and certification in almost 50 countries across the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The organization also helps to develop the capacity of large buyers to source more products and services from underutilized suppliers, including women-owned businesses globally.

Working together, ITA and WEConnect International are helping create greater opportunities for women-owned businesses by collaborating on international trade promotion activities in support of women’s economic empowerment; cooperating and coordinating on trade and business investment promotion activities; providing greater awareness of ITA’s events, resources and initiatives; and supporting the development of strong and quality business connections among women-owned and women-led U.S. companies.

For example, InSync Training, a WEConnect International certified woman-owned business headquartered in Portsmouth, NH, was recently connected with ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service New Hampshire office to explore new exporting opportunities. InSync has a 20-year history of providing virtual training facilitation and production services and has begun expanding into Europe and Asia. As part of its strategy to expand globally, InSync joined WeConnect International’s virtual conferences and matchmaking sessions. Through this newly established partnership, women-owned businesses like InSync will now be more aware of the resources of ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service to further support their export growth.

Trade shows, conferences, trade missions, and matchmaking are also ITA’s bread and butter, so naturally, this collaboration between WEConnect International and ITA makes sense to leverage the best of what each of our organizations has to offer women in business.

While this is just one example among many, partnerships like this expand the businesses that ITA is able to support, particularly as we seek to increase our engagement with women-owned and other historically underserved businesses. Learn more and get involved about ITA’s Women’s Global Trade Empowerment program, a resource for women entrepreneurs who wish to grow their business into new markets.


Cups and Conversations: How a Coffee Chat Built a Global Networking Powerhouse for Women in Trade

March 7, 2022

Camille Richardson is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Middle East and Africa

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How did a chat over coffee between a Kenyan businesswoman and women business owners in the United States become an initiative helping hundreds of women-owned U.S. companies export abroad?

Headshot of Camille Richardson, ITA's Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Middle East and Africa.
Camille Richardson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Middle East and Africa

Last year, my team and I met with a Kenyan businesswoman who built a thriving cosmetics business using products imported from the United States. Listening to her speak, I realized that she had much to share with other women business owners, and knew that real stories, told by an entrepreneur herself, could be valuable to other women navigating similar challenges. As such, I worked with my team to invite several businesswomen across the United States to listen in on the conversation, and it was a great success. Little did we know, this informal virtual “coffee chat” would become the model that launched Women Empowered Leave Legacies through Trade and Investment, or WELLTI, for short. Since then, the WELLTI program has hosted coffee chats across nine countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Each event boasts over a hundred participants and the attendance of CEOs and executives.

One of the keys to business success is a strong network. WELLTI connects women from around the world with one another, inspiring U.S.-based women entrepreneurs to explore trade opportunities in the Middle East and Africa. Helping women grow resilient businesses is vitally important to creating equitable economic opportunity; globally, women are more likely to face disadvantages starting businesses and are less likely to be entrepreneurs or corporate leaders. Since companies that trade are more resilient, grow faster, and have better bottom lines, encouraging women to trade helps women succeed economically.

Today and tomorrow, Commerce will host our inaugural WELLTI Summit in partnership with OWIT, WeConnect International, and a host of bureaus within the Department.  This year’s Summit is particularly special as it is in conjunction with the Trade Winds 2022 Business Forum in Dubai, UAE and features ITA’s first woman Under Secretary, Marisa Lago, to help us kick off the festivities and celebrate International Women’s Day! Tune into the livestream and see how Commerce is putting resources to work for women and businesses in underserved communities. Programming includes hearing from the Commercial Law Development Program, the Business Council of International Understanding, and Women-In-Tech on topics ranging from commercial rights of a company to women’s role in the digital transformation, to the importance of technology in business.

Illustration of text that reads: "Women Empowered Leave Legacies Through Trade & Investment (WELLTI) @ Trade Winds Middle East and Africa, Dubai, UAE, March 2022. Learn more: #TradeWinds2022 #WELLTI [social media hashtags]. Background illustration is of the Dubai skyline.

We are confident that WELLTI will continue to serve our organization well as it expands its reach globally with WELLTI 2.0 spreading to new regions around the world and with a new focus: capacity building for businesswomen across the spectrum. Women business owners who participate in WELLTI programs are ready and eager to trade. ITA will deliver capacity building, facilitate access to networks and capital, and provide market intelligence to empower women to grow their businesses on a global scale. To learn about upcoming programs, visit https://www.trade.gov/womens-global-trade-empowerment.


Harnessing the Power of Global Markets to Empower Women: Webinars this Month to Help You Go Global

March 4, 2022

Abigail Lantz is an International Trade Specialist with ITA’s Office of Trade Promotion Coordination Committee (TPCC) Secretariat.

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Women in Global Business webinar series banner with image of several women posing together and U.S. Commercial Service and The W Marketplace logos

When women trade, women succeed economically. With 95 percent of world consumers and 80 percent of world purchasing power outside of the United States, international trade is an untapped resource for women-owned businesses. Women-owned companies that trade and export earn more, create more jobs, stay in business longer and are more resilient to financial shocks than those relying exclusively on domestic markets. Like closing the wage gap and breaking the glass ceiling, encouraging women business owners and entrepreneurs to trade across borders is key to achieving economic equality for women.

Women-owned businesses and women entrepreneurs often face barriers to growth based on gender discrimination. Investors are less likely to bet on businesses owned by women, particularly those owned by women of color. Encouraging more women-owned businesses to trade has massive potential to grow the U.S. economy. More than 20 percent of employer businesses in the U.S. are owned by women, a figure critical to U.S. GDP. If women are to achieve economic parity, exporting is a proven strategy for success.

In honor of Women’s History Month, ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service and TheWMarketplace, a platform hosting women entrepreneurs and business owners to sell, network, and develop their businesses, are launching a four-part webinar series titled “Why Export? Stories from Women Who Went Global” on March 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th. The webinars will feature informal conversations with successful women business owners in the U.S. about their experiences exporting and will train women on skills essential to exporting, from digital marketing and e-commerce to navigating overseas markets  Anyone can sign up for the free, virtual program.

When women-owned businesses export, it leads to better bottom lines and expanded economic growth at home. Supporting women business owners is even more important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which dramatically impacted the ability of women to compete economically. Throughout this month, the U.S. Commercial Service and TheWMarketplace hope to empower women by giving them the tools they need to pursue global growth opportunities. Empowering women to transform their businesses and their economic futures through exporting is an important step towards closing the economic gender gap, ensuring that women excel in business and entrepreneurship.


Black History Month: How Commerce Assists Black Entrepreneurs and Innovators

February 25, 2022

Joint blog by the Minority Business Development Agency, the International Trade Administration, and the Bureau of Industry and Security

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Throughout the year, the Department of Commerce provides valuable assistance to inventors and minority-owned business enterprises across the United States, including small and medium-size firms that are important source of revenue and jobs in communities everywhere. Black History Month provides a unique opportunity to celebrate their success and learn about the national and international accomplishments of many Black innovators and entrepreneurs.

An illustration of text that reads "Commerce Celebrates Black History Month: Assisting Black Entrepreneurs and Innovators"

One such Black business owner seeing success today is Gregory Bush, Jr., President and CEO of KFA, Inc., a Chicago-area company that specializes in technology solutions for smart cities, capital construction, facilities management, and business continuity. In 2020, Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) honored KFA with its Minority Innovative Technology Firm of the Year Award for its work with the Chicago Transit Authority. As a result of its successes domestically, KFA was inspired to develop new technology product lines and further their services internationally. Through Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), KFA has participated in U.S. trade missions to Dubai, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Greg Bush, Jr is not unlike his historical predecessor, Granville Woods. Born just before the Civil War, Granville Woods was a self-taught mechanical and electrical engineer who developed nearly 60 patents during his lifetime. One of his most famous patents, the multiplex telegraph, allowed trains to communicate with train stations by both voice and telegraph. It increased safety on the railways by allowing telegraphs to also be sent from trains on the move. Innovations in the tech sector enable businesses to streamline business practices and advance the ways people communicate across time and space. From Granville to Bush, the work done by these tech innovators in the Black community have paved the way in creating solutions to advance business practices.

If you lead or own a minority-owned business, the Commerce Department is here to provide you the resources and help you achieve success. We have several bureaus to help navigate you each step of the way.

  • The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is the only federal agency solely dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises. Minority business enterprises can access a variety of technical assistance, including access to capital, contracts, and markets by contacting a local MBDA Business CenterMBDA Specialty Centers provide industry specific services including advanced manufacturing, business development services to provide opportunities to access global markets and a federal procurement center which specializes in connecting minority businesses to federal procurement officials and prime contractors. MBDA grants also funds projects like Enterprising Women of ColorInner City Innovation Hubs, and programs at minority serving institutions. Learn more about these projects and programs here.
  • Are you interested in expanding internationally? The International Trade Administration (ITA) offers market intelligence, business matching, and trade missions to help you explore new markets. Connect with a trade expert. ITA hosts various trade missions throughout the year that introduce U.S. companies to foreign markets. This year, ITA will host a trade mission geared towards U.S. minority-owned companies interested in expanding in Southwestern Europe (Italy, Portugal and Spain). Interested companies should consider applying for this executive-level Minority-Business Focused Trade Mission, held from May 15-21, 2022. Over the course of the week, participants will connect with U.S. government leaders and commercial teams working in these markets, network with U.S. companies doing business in this region, and take part in customized one-on-one business appointments with pre-screened prospective buyers, agents, distributors, and joint venture partners.
  • Are you interested in getting started with exporting? The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has resources to help you understand the rules and our counselors are standing by to answer questions. BIS also offers seminars that introduce the export control regulations for dual – use and less sensitive military and offers guidance on creating and maintaining export compliance programs. These services are invaluable to a business just getting started in exports.

The U.S. Department of Commerce mission is to promote job creation and economic growth. The resources available from MBDA, ITA, and BIS can be important tools to help minority and black-owned businesses thrive. In the coming year, we hope that these services will help even more Black-owned businesses like KFA start up, succeed, grow, and make a difference in their communities.


Black Inventors and Entrepreneurs – Past, Present, and Future

February 21, 2022

Joint blog by ITA and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog as part of its National Black History Month series.

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Every February, we celebrate the achievements and history of African Americans. Black History Month reminds us that the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are critical to the success of the Department of Commerce’s mission. It is also an opportunity to spotlight some of the many inspiring stories and successes of Black inventors and Black-owned businesses. Bureaus across the Department of Commerce, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the International Trade Administration (ITA), are committed to the domestic and international success of these innovators, entrepreneurs, and minority-owned businesses, which are so critical to American competitiveness and driving economic growth.

Intellectual property (IP) protection is a key asset to help entrepreneurs raise capital, commercialize their inventions, and provide even more innovative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. Here are just a few examples of Black inventors and entrepreneurs whose innovation and creativity, and the IP behind it, can be an inspiration to us all and make the world a better place.  

  • With unwavering perseverance, Percy Julian fought against segregation and other challenges to become a leading innovator in synthetic chemistry. His numerous inventions range from the fire retardant Aerofoam to treatments for glaucoma and rheumatoid arthritis. He was granted over 130 patents during his lifetime and is a celebrated innovator who broke down barriers for future scientists from underrepresented groups.
Headshot of Terry Davis, founder of Brilliant You Denim, standing against a brick wall.
Terry Davis of Brilliant You Denim (Courtesy of Terry Davis)
  • Brilliant You Denim is a North Carolina-based business founded by Terry Davis. She is the first Black female denim manufacturer in the U.S. The success of Davis’ business meant overcoming the monumental task of entering and competing in the multi-billion-dollar denim industry. She tackled this challenge by drawing on problem-solving skills developed during her career as an electrical engineer. One of her top priorities was to obtain a design patent for her jeans’ enhancement innovation. The company now holds 11 patents, with several more pending, and has trademarked its brand. She made it a point to set up the company’s manufacturing facilities in Greensboro, North Carolina, because she believed in the vision of rebuilding manufacturing in America. After growing the domestic business, Davis is now working with ITA’s U.S. Export Assistance Center in Raleigh to start exporting her products to Canada and Mexico.
  • After 13 seasons of playing in the NFL, Shawn Springs founded Windpact, a company based in Leesburg, Virginia, focused on impact protection. He set out with a mission “to be the most advanced impact protection company in the world, to make everyday lives safer” after experiencing the effects of concussions firsthand. That knowledge, combined with the insights gained from a component of an infant car seat, led him to build a company that uses patented Crash Cloud™ technology to protect athletes, soldiers, and automobile passengers from traumatic brain injuries.
  • Arlyne Simon is a patent-holding inventor and entrepreneur. As a young graduate student at the University of Michigan, she worked on a team that created a technology for a blood test that detects when cancer patients are rejecting a bone marrow transplant. After graduating and earning her Ph.D., she built a successful career as a biomedical engineer. Based on her desire to increase the number of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, Simon was inspired to write a children’s book series featuring a young inventor and has also launched an online program to connect Black middle school girls to mentors in engineering.  

Commerce Resources to Help Your Business

From pro bono assistance programs to free training seminars, the USPTO provides resources to inventors and entrepreneurs to help them navigate the process of obtaining a patent or trademark. This month, don’t miss the Black Innovation and Entrepreneurship series on February 17 and February 24. The events will feature a number of special guests including Lanny Smoot, Disney Research Fellow and Imagineer recently featured in the USPTO’s Journeys of Innovation story, “As if by magic.”  

If you run a minority-owned enterprise that has never exported or are looking to expand your exports to new markets, ITA is here to help you get started. The online questionnaire can help you assess your company’s export readiness. The research center contains data, research, and analysis covering industries and markets around the world. Country commercial guides and a market diversification tool can help you identify potential new markets. ITA can help you tap into new markets and offers in-person and virtual events and services to help you in your export journey.  

Also, for U.S. minority-owned companies interested in expanding in Southwestern Europe (Italy, Portugal, and Spain), please consider applying for ITA’s executive-level Minority-Business Focused Trade Mission, May 15-21. Over the course of the week, participants will connect with U.S. government leaders and commercial teams working in these markets, network with U.S. companies doing business in this region, and take part in customized one-on-one business appointments with pre-screened prospective buyers, agents, distributors, and joint venture partners.