25 Years Later: Honoring the Memory of the Lives Lost on April 3, 1996

April 2, 2021

Diane Farrell is the Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade

A stainless steel cross memorializes Secretary Ronald H. Brown and 34 others in Croatia.
A stainless steel cross memorializes Secretary Ronald H. Brown and 34 others in Croatia.

April 3, 1996 is a somber day in the history of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Administration (ITA). On that day 25 years ago, a flight carrying Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown and 34 others crashed in poor weather on approach to Dubrovnik, Croatia and all aboard perished. Among the victims were 11 other Commerce officials, including five of our own from ITA.

They were on a trade mission to not only support U.S. business interests, but to assist and enable the development of a newly independent Croatia. In the words of President Bill Clinton, they were on a “mission of peace and hope,” and “[t]hey believe that America, through their efforts, could help to restore a broken land, help to heal a people of their hatreds, help to bring a better tomorrow through honest work and shared enterprise.”

This is important work and it is the work we do at ITA.

We honor their legacy by presenting awards in their memory each year. I would like to ask you to please take a moment with me to commemorate those five ITA employees whose loss we still feel.

ITA Employees from left to right: Stephen Kaminski, Charles Meissner, Bill Morton, Lawrence Payne, Naomi Warbasse

Stephen Kaminski, 40, was a Senior Commercial officer in the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service serving in Vienna, Austria and developing Commerce’s strategy for Croatia and Bosnia. He joined the Department of Commerce as an international economist for the Maritime Administration in 1975 and went on to serve postings as a commercial officer in Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C. For his work in Japan, Stephen was awarded the Department of Commerce Gold Award for working to ensure U.S. companies would enjoy access to major projects in Japanese markets. Each year, ITA awards The Stephen C. Kaminski Award in Stephen’s honor to the ITA employee who exercised the greatest degree of diplomatic skill and ability in furthering trade relations with one or more of America’s trading partners during the previous year. Stephen hailed from Baltimore, Maryland and was a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Charles “Chuck” Meissner, 54, was serving as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Economic Policy and responsible for international commercial policy development. He was the key policy adviser to Secretary Brown in promoting economic stability in the post-war environment. Prior to his work in ITA, Chuck spent 20 years in the private and public sectors working on financial, monetary, and trade policy. He began his government career as the Japan Desk Officer and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the Department of Treasury in 1971 and held distinguished posts as part of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, throughout the State Department, on the Economic Committee of NATO and as the U.S. negotiator on North-South issues in the United Nations and others at the Chemical Bank and World Bank. The Charles F. Meissner Award is awarded by ITA every year in Chuck’s honor to the ITA unit that best exemplified the ideals of dedication to excellence, selfless commitment to duty, and cooperation with others in the accomplishment of ITA goals during the previous year. Chuck was a Wisconsin native, held three degrees from the University of Wisconsin, and received multiple decorations during his U.S. Army service in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970.

William “Bill” Morton, 35, was serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Development and was a long-time trusted aid to Secretary Brown coordinating the Secretary’s travel and helping develop, manage, and implement Secretary Brown’s trade missions and conferences. He was a consistent help in shaping the purpose, tone, message, and logistics for Secretary Brown. Bill previously served in the Department as Assistant Director for Operations and Regional Management at the Minority Business Development Agency where he oversaw the operations of five regional offices, four district offices, and Washington, D.C.-based staff. The William E. Morton Award is awarded in Bill’s honor each year to the ITA employee who made the strongest contribution during the previous year to increasing opportunities, within ITA or in the U.S. international trading community, for members of historically disadvantaged groups. Bill was a Georgetown University graduate and a Colorado native.

Lawrence “Lawry” Payne, 41, was a Special Assistant in the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service’s Office of Domestic Operations. Prior to his service in the Department of Commerce, Lawry had staffed former Senator Paul Tsongas as a legislative assistant focused on trade and foreign policy issues, worked on multiple presidential campaigns, spent time on Wall Street, and was the owner and operator of an independent chain of homemade gourmet ice cream and yogurt shops in New England. The Lawrence M. Payne Award is awarded to the ITA employee who did the most to create and facilitate cooperative efforts between the public and private sectors to promote international trade during the prior year in Lawry’s honor. Lawry was a bicyclist and photographer with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

Naomi Warbasse was the Deputy Director of the Central and Eastern Europe Business Information Center (CEEBIC) and at 24 was the youngest of the delegation. As part of her duties with CEEBIC, Naomi provided business counseling to U.S. companies interested in exporting to or investing Central and Eastern European countries with a focus on CEEBIC’s Poland and Bosnia programs. She was also the desk officer for Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Among her accomplishments with Commerce were working White House conferences for trade and investment in Central and Eastern Europe and Ireland and the Fourth West-East Conference of Ministers of Economy, Industry and Trade of the G-7 and Reforming Countries. The Naomi P. Warbasse Award is awarded to the most outstanding new ITA employee exemplifying the ideals of excellence, dedication and achievement in Naomi’s honor each year. Naomi began her studies at Johns Hopkins University at 16 and after receiving her Bachelor’s in Political Science, earns a Masters in Eastern European Studies at George Washington University.

Our five ITA colleagues, led by Secretary Brown, were accompanied by 29 other U.S. government officials, corporate executives, aircrew, Croatian citizens and media who also lost their lives in this noble pursuit. Let us also remember them.

U.S. Department of Commerce

  • Duane Christian, Security Officer
  • Adam N. Darling, Confidential Assistant, Office of the Deputy Secretary
  • Gail E. Dobert, Deputy Director, Acting Director, Office of Business Liaison
  • Carol L. Hamilton, Press Secretary and Acting Director of the Office of Public Affairs
  • Kathryn E. Hoffman, Special Assistant to the Secretary
  • Kathryn E. Kellogg, Confidential Assistant, Office of Business Liaison

Other U.S. Government agencies

  • Lee F. Jackson, Executive Director, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), U.S. Department of Treasury
  • James M. Lewek, Economic Reconstruction Expert, Interagency Balkan Task Force, Central Intelligence Agency

Corporate Executives

  • Barry L. Conrad, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Barrington Group, Miami
  • Paul Cushman III, Chairman and Chief Executive of Riggs International Banking Corp., Washington, DC
  • Robert E. Donovan, President and Chief Executive of ABB Inc., Norwalk, CT
  • Claudio Elia, Chairman and Chief Executive of Air & Water Technologies Corp., Branchburg, NJ
  • David Ford, President and Chief Executive of InterGuard Corp., the Luxembourg Subsidiary of Guardian Industries, Auburn Hills, MI
  • Frank Maier, President of Enserch International Ltd., Dallas
  • Walter J. Murphy, Vice President of Global Sales at AT&T Submarine Systems, Morristown, NJ
  • Leonard J. Pieroni, Chairman and Chief Executive of Parsons Corp., Pasadena, CA
  • John Scoville, Chairman of Harza Engineering Co., Chicago
  • Donald Terner, President of Bridge Housing Corp., San Francisco
  • Stuart Tholan, Senior Vice President of Bechtel Enterprises, San Francisco
  • Robert A. Whittaker, Vice President of Foster Wheeler Corp., Clinton, NJ


  • Nathaniel C. Nash, New York Times, Frankfurt Bureau Chief


  • Captain Ashley J. Davis, Pilot
  • Captain Timothy W. Schafer, Co-Pilot
  • Staff Sgt. Gerald Aldrich, Crew Chief and Flight Mechanic
  • Staff Sgt. Robert Farrington Jr., Steward
  • Technical Sgt. Shelly A. Kelly, Steward
  • Technical Sgt. Cheryl A. Turnage, Steward


  • Niksa Antonini, Photographer
  • Dragica Lendic Bebek, Interpreter

Again, the words of President Clinton spoken at Dover Air Force Base 25 years ago are appropriate to recall again today: “In their memory and in their honor, let us resolve to continue their mission of peace and healing and progress.” The work continues.


Historic Year for Women Continues between the U.S., Africa and Middle East with Economic Empowerment Dialogues

March 31, 2021

Camille Richardson is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the Middle East & Africa

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

In the United States, 2021 is shaping up to be a historic year for women. For those of us in the field of trade, to have women appointed to key Cabinet positions this month, including Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative is a great honor and reflection of our values as a nation. At the International Trade Administration (ITA), we are committed to empowering women in business, exporting and entrepreneurship in the U.S. across the world, including in the Africa and the Middle East—a region of significant trade growth and investment.

The statistics may surprise you. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 29 percent of all small, medium, and large firms are owned by women. In Kenya, for example, between 2000 and 2019, the percentage of women wage and salary earners doubled from 20 to 40 percent, giving Kenya’s female labor force the highest participation rate, at 24 percent, in Sub-Saharan Africa.

What’s also impressive, here in the U.S., between 2014 and 2019, women-led businesses outstripped the total population of U.S. businesses in terms of growth in the number of businesses created, the number of jobs created, and total revenue generated. However, only 12 percent of women owned companies exported – foregoing the higher-revenues and increased number of jobs created through trade.

Empowering Women through Trade and Investment

Supporting the growth and success of women entrepreneurs in the U.S. and overseas is key to our economic recovery and is precisely why ITA created WELLTI: Women Empowered Leave Legacies through Trade and Investment. As part of this initiative, this year we launched a series of ‘Coffee Chats’ to connect women in the United States and countries throughout Africa and the Middle East to discuss shared challenges and opportunities to grow business through trade and investment activities. I’ve had the privilege of moderating these discussions and am grateful to all those who participated.

At our inaugural meeting in January, we spotlighted Kenya and highlighted the work of Dr. Joyce Gikunda, the founder of Linton’s Beauty World, who grew her beauty and cosmetics business into a line of pharmacies by importing products from the U.S.  Our top Commercial Diplomat in Kenya, Diane Jones, organized the event and discussed on the ground resources for U.S. women entrepreneurs looking for business connections.

In March, our Commercial post in Kenya co-hosted another event with Kayana Create to support women importers in Kenya looking to buy more products from the U.S.  This event was attended by participants representing a wide variety of sectors and was a wonderful opportunity for Kenyan businesswomen to learn how to source goods and services from the United States.

Also, in celebration of Women’s History Month, we featured two women entrepreneurs from Ethiopia: Felekeche Biratu, co-founder of the Yenae Collection, and Sarah Yirga, founder of Ya Coffee Roaster and Ethiopia Women in Coffee who, through trade and investment with the United States, have positioned their products for sale with high end brands such as Hilton Hotels. Our top Commercial Diplomat in Ethiopia, Yasue Pai, coordinated that event, and hosted a special webinar highlighting the positive impact that female entrepreneurship can have on economic recovery and growth and participating in corporate global supply chains. Women-owned businesses have been especially hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. These virtual coffee chats are just one way that ITA is supporting these businesses. Entrepreneurs in Ethiopia and across the U.S. participated in this virtual chat.

To wrap up this month’s celebration, the Department of Commerce’s President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa is holding a virtual panel event today, March 31. Enabling Women Entrepreneurs in U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment will bring together women entrepreneurs and senior officials from the United States and Africa to discuss policies and programs that should be developed or strengthened in both markets to address the constraints women-owned businesses face in international trade. The conversation will also include practical insights from notable U.S. and African women entrepreneurs and feature remarks from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable Lazarus Amayo.

Continuing the Effort

We have mapped out our Coffee Chat series featuring a market or topic each month through February 2022 leading up to a special women-focused event as part of our Trade Winds 2022 Trade Mission and Business Forum taking place in Dubai March 6-8. We are doing all of this because we believe that women will play a key role in global economic recovery in a post-pandemic world.

When women are given the right tools, information, and connections, they become empowered to make economies stronger and increase workforce productivity. Women are built to be resilient and ITA stands ready to empower women, who are passionate about what they do, so the contributions they make will help us to build back better in a post-pandemic world.


It’s Time for Women to Get Loud

March 30, 2021

Tricia Van Orden is Deputy Director of ITA’s Trade Promotion Coordination Committee Secretariat

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

Make your voice – and your business – heard around the world. The International Trade Administration (ITA) is the only sound system you need. Did you know that women-owned businesses that export are, on average, 3.5 times more productive than women-owned business that don’t? What about the fact that women-owned businesses that export typically employ more workers, pay higher wages, and report higher-than-average sales? This means that women who export can drive growth and economic success.[1] With export experts in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 70 countries around the world, we’ll amp up the volume, and international sales will sound like music to your ears. Read on for a guide to take your business global.

Silhouette image of women holding megaphone.


  • Exporting is a great strategy to grow a business, but to grow smartly and purposefully, you have to dedicate time and resources. An initial assessment of your exporting needs and capabilities should be your first step.
  • Integrate exporting into your overall business plan. Once you’ve completed an assessment, an export plan helps you understand the facts, constraints, and goals around your international effort. Use it to create specific objectives, decide on implementation schedules, and mark milestones of your success.  It can also motivate your team to reach goals.


  • Start by doing research on potential markets. Free market research is available through the Country Commercial Guides and Top Market Reports.
  • Census data can be used to track where similar products are already being sold.
  • Check which countries have free trade agreements with the United States. These could potentially result in lower customs duty rates for your goods and could be an excellent first foreign market for your business.
  • If available, apply for funding from a STEP grant awardee in your State.


  • Develop a global web presence. This may be the first point of contact between you and your buyer.
  • Participate in  a trade show. Trade shows are a great way to present your products and services to a wide audience, get trade leads, meet potential buyers or partners, do competition research, and leverage U.S. or state government support.  
  • Use match-making/international partner search services provided by the U.S. Government


  • Work with your bank for financing and insurance solutions.
  • Research methods of payment. Depending on your business and products you may be able to offer letters of credit or other payment options to your foreign buyers.
  • Research available financing options through the U.S. government and other private lenders.
  • Get bank references and background checks on potential foreign buyers. As with any business transaction, due diligence is essential.


  • If you haven’t already, determine if your product needs a U.S. export license. Thankfully most products don’t need one, but it is your legal responsibility to obtain one if necessary.
  • Check your documents. Different countries and markets require different documents to export. Some of these documents may certify that your product meets certain criteria while others will show unit price and insurance.
  • Shop around for the best shipping rates. Different companies have different rates and available services. Research the most cost-effective way to get your goods efficiently, securely, and legally to your new international customers.

Join the orchestra of women-owned companies that have struck their export chord, and let our worldwide network and subject-matter-experts help you pursue your goal for going global, whether it’s to begin exporting for the first time, to expand your current export operations, or to strategize overcoming barriers and breaking into new markets. Check out www.trade.gov or reach out to your local U.S. Export Assistance Center to find out how ITA can help you and your business strike the export chord that turns you into an Exporting Rock Star.

[1] http://www.intracen.org/publication/Unlocking-markets-for-women-to-trade/


Spotlight on Commerce: Tricia Van Orden, Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Secretariat, International Trade Administration

March 29, 2021

Tricia Van Orden is the Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Secretariat

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Tricia Van Orden

Tricia Van Orden

As the Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Secretariat, an office within the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA), I spend my days developing programs and strategies to promote U.S. exports. I work with a multitude of partners – U.S. trade agencies, state governments, trade associations, universities, and others – to design and deliver practical tools and resources to help U.S. companies succeed in global markets. Since arriving at ITA in 2008 as a Presidential Management Fellow, I have constantly been amazed and inspired by the women around me and their commitment to collaboration, creativity, innovation, and equity.  Whether working on women’s economic empowerment activities or otherwise contributing their expertise to the major trade issues of the day, these colleagues have consistently demonstrated the utmost competence and professionalism.

From a young age, my passion for supporting women’s economic empowerment has stemmed largely from the fearless women leaders who have paved the way for my own advancement. Women college professors and internship supervisors encouraged me to pursue a career in international economics, lighting a path before I knew where my career would take me. After earning degrees in economics and political science from Colorado State and the University of Washington, respectively, I moved to Washington, DC, to pursue a job on Capitol Hill. I interned for the woman senior Senator from my home state, which led to a full-time job with the woman junior Senator, an invaluable experience that taught me how effectively women can lead.

As we address the COVID-19 pandemic’s social and economic repercussions – which disproportionately affect women and women-owned businesses – we should keep in mind the positive impact that global business opportunities can have on recovery and resiliency.  International markets represent untapped potential for women-owned businesses. On average, businesses that export earn higher revenues, pay higher wages and are less likely to go out of business. Going global can help women build more successful, resilient businesses while supporting themselves, their families, their workers, and their communities.

The number of women-led businesses going global is growing, but women lag behind their male counterparts when it comes to international business expansion for a variety of reasons: Women typically have less access to capital than their male counterparts; women may not have the extensive international networks that lead to partnerships and business deals; and, in some countries, there are legal barriers that restrict women’s economic activity. ITA wants to change that. I serve as the agency’s coordinator for women’s economic empowerment activities, with a mandate to dramatically rethink how we deliver our services and share our expertise so that more women-owned businesses are equipped to successfully expand into international markets.

Women’s History Month is a time to honor the hard-won battles of our female forerunners, but it also is an occasion to take stock of our current moment and create a more equitable future for women as individuals and as economic actors. It is my great privilege to contribute to ITA’s mission and women’s economic empowerment efforts.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Women’s History Month.


The United States Remains the Top Destination for Business Investment for the Ninth Consecutive Year

March 24, 2021

Diane Farrell is the Acting Under Secretary for International Trade

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

Today, A.T. Kearney released its 2021 Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Confidence Index, ranking the United States as the top destination for foreign investors for the ninth year in a row. The United States continuing to be ranked first in the world is no small feat, and has been supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s SelectUSA program.

Decorative image

Since its inception, SelectUSA has facilitated more than $84 billion in client-verified investment, supporting more than 106,000 U.S. jobs. Even during the global pandemic, companies across the world continue to target the United States as the launch pad for global growth, with the SelectUSA team supporting them through client services such as assistance navigating the federal regulatory environment, market research, and counseling.

Following a year of adjusting to our new reality in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this news comes as no surprise, showcasing the United States’ ability to adapt and overcome unprecedented challenges. At SelectUSA, we are celebrating the retention of our #1 spot in the 2021 Confidence Index, as FDI creates jobs and contributes to economic development across the United States. The ranking in the Index is a direct reflection of the appeal of the U.S. economy and how that economy enables businesses of any size to access a massive consumer base, explore working within a culture that welcomes innovation, and employ a world-class, productive workforce.

When looking to invest, investors look for established markets that are safe and stable, possess strong infrastructure, strong governance, macroeconomic stability, and are known for their progress in technology and innovation. These are all attributes the U.S. market is proud to maintain. The United States offers unmatched diversity, a culture of innovation, and the world’s most productive workforce to companies of all sizes, from startups to multinationals, looking to grow and succeed in the U.S. market.

For foreign companies considering investing in the United States and for economic development teams looking to attract job-creating business investment, there is no better place to connect than the virtual 2021 SelectUSA Investment Summit from June 7-11, 2021. This is the United States’ highest profile event dedicated to promoting FDI, and plays a key role in attracting and facilitating business investment and job creation by raising awareness about the wide range of investment opportunities in the United States and enabling vital direct connections between investors and U.S. economic development organizations.

The 2019 SelectUSA Investment Summit was one of its largest, drawing more than 3,100 attendees to Washington, D.C. Several new announcements were made, including nearly $100 million in new investment projects and the release of SelectUSA’s case-study report on reshoring in the United States. In total, 1,200 business investors from a record 79 international markets joined economic developers from 49 states and territories. The Investment Summit has directly affected more than $48.4 billion in new investment projects supporting more than 45,000 U.S. jobs.

I hope you will join us this year to network, learn more about how to expand through investment, and see firsthand why the United States continues to remain top destination for business investment for the ninth year in a row.


A Year Like No Other: Overview of U.S. Trade in 2020

March 22, 2021

Gulbin Yildirim and Ian Saccomanno are International Economists in the Office of Trade and Economic Analysis

Overshadowed by a global pandemic, 2020 was a challenging year for U.S. trade as unprecedented social restrictions, changing work patterns, and supply-chain disruptions caused a worldwide recession and hampered trade flows. U.S. exports of goods and services fell 15.9 percent to $2.1 trillion and imports declined 9.5 percent to $2.8 trillion in 2020. The drop in exports was the largest on record while imports saw their largest decline since 2009. Because exports decreased more than imports, the U.S. trade deficit increased 18.2 percent to $681.7 billion, the highest level in the last 12 years (Figure 1). A record-breaking goods deficit and shrinking services surplus were equally responsible for the increase in the overall deficit.

Graph showing changes in exports, imports ,and trade deficit from 2008 to 2020. Graph shows drops in exports and imports to 2.8 trillion U.S. dollars and 2.1 trillion U.S. dollars in 2020, respectively. Trade deficit grew to 681.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2020
Figure 1: Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

While declines in both exports and imports were largely expected because of the recession, the deterioration in trade balance was unusual. In the past recessions, U.S. trade deficits shrank as the fall in domestic consumption led imports to drop more than exports. For instance, during the Great Recession, the U.S. trade deficit contracted by almost 45 percent (Figure 1).

The unique nature of the COVID-19 recession, the first global recession solely triggered by a pandemic, was behind this key difference. The efforts to fight the virus increased the demand for imported medical products which helped imports bounce back quickly. Lingering social and economic effects of the pandemic, on the other hand, hindered recovery in key U.S. export categories.

Declining Exports Led the Increase in the U.S. Goods Trade Deficit

The U.S. experienced a record-high goods trade deficit ($905.2 billion) with exports decreasing at more than double the rate of the decline in imports (-12.9 percent vs. -6.4 percent).

A significant share of PPE such as face masks are classified under Textiles.
Figure 2: Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis. Data non-seasonally adjusted on a Census basis. Categories shown are the top 5 increases and decreases.

The sharp drop in exports was led by the largest U.S. export sectors, including aircraft & spacecraft, vehicles, petroleum products, and machinery (Figure 2). These four sectors accounted for 41 percent of total goods exports in 2019 but were responsible for more than 70 percent of the overall export decline in 2020. The pandemic hit these sectors particularly hard as reduced domestic and international travel, uncertainty over consumers’ incomes, and plant closures caused both supply and demand to plunge at the same time.

On the other side of the scale, higher imports of gold and medical products, including pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment (PPE), partially offset the decreases in other categories such as petroleum products. According to ITA’s analysis, PPE imports increased by more than 240 percent, the bulk of which came from China (72 percent). Similarly, imports of gold soared nearly 260 percent in value as the uncertainty from the pandemic curbed risk-appetite in markets and turned investors to safe haven assets. Switzerland was the largest supplier of gold to the U.S., boosting U.S. goods imports from Switzerland to their highest level on record.

Decreased Travel Exports Led the Drop in the U.S. Services Surplus

Although 2020 saw a record-high deficit in goods, a shrinking surplus in services equally contributed to the increase in the overall trade deficit. U.S. exports and imports of services fell 21.0 percent and 22.1 percent, respectively, in 2020 and the overall surplus in services decreased 18.6 percent to $233.9 billion, the lowest level since 2012. By comparison, the decline in the services surplus at the peak of the Great Recession was only 4.3 percent.

Graphs showing the change in U.S. exports from 2019-2020 across various services.
Figure 3: Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis. Data seasonally adjusted on a Census basis.

Travel and transport services led the decline for both exports and imports of services as each fell more than 50 percent from 2019. Other services categories, however, proved more resilient to the pandemic (Figure 3).

Automotive, Oil and Aircraft Sectors Dominated Declines in Goods Trade with Top Partners

Goods trade with top partners was also shaped by COVID-19’s severe impact on the largest export and import sectors of the United States (Figure 4). Trade with Canada and Mexico fell significantly in both directions, led by declines in automobiles and auto parts and petroleum products. The decline in trade with our two neighbors accounted for nearly 40 percent of the decline in total goods exports and over 50 percent of the drop in total goods imports.

The decrease in exports to the European Union (EU) was largely driven by fewer aircraft sales. Aircraft parts and passenger cars were the categories where imports from the EU fell the most.

Graphs showing changes in goods imports and exports by trade partner. Partners are ranked by 2020 exports/imports from greatest to least.
Figure 4: Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

One positive development for American exporters was the increase in soybeans and crude oil shipments to China which led goods exports to that country to grow 17.1 percent.

Imports from China fell 3.6 percent with declines in telecommunication equipment, apparel, and footwear.

In contrast, imports from several South Asian countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan reached their highest levels on record.  Higher demand for electronics, machinery, furniture, and apparel played an important role in increased imports from these countries.

More data on national and subnational trade, including interactive visualizations, can be found at https://www.trade.gov/trade-stats-express.


Unleash your inner global business goddess in three easy steps

March 12, 2021

Tricia Van Orden is Deputy Director of ITA’s Trade Promotion Coordination Committee Secretariat

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

In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, the International Trade Administration will spotlight content and resources on our website on women in trade, business, and entrepreneurship throughout the month of March. Learn more about the United Nations observance of this day.

Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live beyond the U.S. borders, and modern technology has made it easier than ever to reach them. Be the global business goddess you’ve always dreamed of by following these three tips:

Female executive holding a coffee mug that says "Like A Boss" on it. Souce: Unspash.com

1. Start with what you know and leverage others’ knowledge.  Whether it’s tapping into big data from online platforms to gain market insights or scheduling a meeting with a business counselor at a local Women’s Business Center, learn how to take advantage of the vast array of resources ready to help you. A plethora of online tools and trade professionals are available to help women-led startups and small businesses find success in international markets. The U.S. Government, and in many areas, State and local governments, offers free training and counseling to develop an international business plan to get started doing business globally. A great first step is finding your local Small Business Development Center and taking advantage of their online and in-person resources. Additionally, District Export Councils are comprised of exporters and export service providers who promote exporting in their local business communities, including through education and mentoring. You can put this network to use as you craft your international business plan. 

If your startup or small business has done business in one or two foreign markets and you’re interested in finding new opportunities and expanding sales, get in touch with your nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center, staffed by ITA professionals whose mission is to help you develop your export plan.

2. Know when to seek the counsel of a lawyer you trust. International business can be complicated, and you need to ensure your ideas, trademarks, and copyrights are protected and that you’re compliant with applicable U.S. and foreign laws. Professional legal guidance will help you find the right path. Until you’re ready for that step, peruse the business guide to intellectual property on StopFakes.gov. Another resource is the Export Legal Assistance Network, a network of attorneys who volunteer their time to provide an initial legal consultation free of charge to new exporters to assist with issues related to export licensing, taxation, tariffs, and intellectual property.

3. It’s never too late to go back to school.  Your campus days might be behind you, but local universities and community colleges often provide opportunities for business expansion. You might find your next partner or investor at a networking event, and many schools offer international immersion programs that can broaden your global mindset and help you make connections in markets of interest. At many business schools, students team up with local companies to conduct market research and develop market entry strategies.  Companies interested in exporting can take advantage of these cooperative agreements and receive market research products either free of charge or for a very low fee.

You can hear directly from women entrepreneurs who used these strategies to build global businesses by joining Startup Global: Women Go Global, a free program that will take place on Thursday, March 18 at 2:00PM EST. Think of it as global business goddess bootcamp. In 90 minutes, you’ll learn the ins and outs of starting a global business from day one from women who have been there. Hear about their challenges, what they learned along the way, and how they emerged triumphant.

Startup Global is a collaboration between the International Trade Administration and the Global Innovation Forum that provides focused advice to small and early-stage U.S. companies looking to grow their businesses by engaging in the global marketplace.  Startup Global offers educational seminars and connects entrepreneurs to the tools and experts they need to grow a global business. In honor of International Women’s Day, Startup Global has created a special program for all the global business goddesses out there. Register for the online event by visiting https://globalinnovationforum.com/events/startup-global-women/.


Traveling on Your Mind? The U.S. Travel and Tourism Industry is Eager to Welcome You to the United States

March 11, 2021

Isabel Hill serves as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Travel and Tourism for ITA’s National Travel and Tourism Office 

A hiker takes in the breathtaking view at Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Arizona (Source: BrandUSA)

We miss traveling too. Whether you are seeking beaches, mountains, big city towers, or national parks, America offers many exciting destinations for tourists. And let’s face it: Bucket lists have only grown during quarantine. In 2020 we estimate international visitation to the United States declined 76% while the share of global travelers planning a vacation fell to a record low. 

Fortunately, brighter days seem to be ahead for the U.S. travel and tourism industry as COVID-19 vaccination rates are on the rise. Many U.S. destinations have worked for months to implement health and safety measures and are starting to launch marketing and promotion campaigns to attract new and returning visitors after such a hard year.

To help U.S. businesses and communities who rely on tourism plan ahead, the International Trade Administration last week launched the COVID-19 Travel Industry Monitor–a user-friendly web platform that brings key health, economic and travel data all together in one place. The Monitor tracks a number of indicators important for the performance of the travel and tourism sector in the United States in the wake of the pandemic, including: COVID-19 Cases, International Visitation, Travel Indicators, Travel in Trade, Business and Consumer Sentiment, and Key Economic Indicators.   

The data displayed in the Monitor is derived from existing data sources from federal, state and local agencies, as well as private sector entities. The Monitor is updated weekly, though many data sets are dependent on monthly data that takes a few weeks to process. Data on the dashboard today dates from January 2021. 

I would like to thank the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and the other industry stakeholders and data partners who provided tremendous input for this Monitor. To access the Monitor, click: https://www.trade.gov/data-visualization/covid-19-travel-industry-monitor 


SelectUSA Investment Summit 2021: Select Global Women in Tech Mentorship Network Call for Applications Now Open!

March 8, 2021

by Jacqueline Vitello, Deputy Director of Programs and Events, SelectUSA, International Trade Administration

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

2021 SelectU

Calling all mentors and mentees! This June, as part of the 2021 SelectUSA Investment Summit, we are thrilled to launch the Select Global Women in Tech (SGWIT) mentorship network. Applications for mentors and mentees are open now until the start of the Summit. This new mentorship network will introduce international female tech entrepreneurs to the U.S. market with the support of SelectUSA’s traditional data and counseling services as well new training opportunities. The SelectUSA team is proud to bring together resources from across the United States to support international female entrepreneurs in their U.S. investment journey.

SGWIT is a virtual platform designed to support mentorship and learning. Mentees will be matched with mentors based on their goals, respective industries and expertise. Mentors will be selected from across the U.S. startup ecosystem based on their interest in supporting female-run businesses. Participants are asked to commit to at least three one-on-one virtual meetings over the course of the six-month program, at least one progress update check-in, and then a final meeting to follow up and decide on next steps. Both mentors and mentees will benefit from the one-on-one relationship as they build new skills, make new contacts, ignite new ideas, achieve their goals, and reinvigorate their own work.

If you or someone you know is interested in serving as a mentor or the opportunity to be a mentee, check out the information below.

Mentees: Female founders interested in taking advantage of this unique opportunity should apply to attend the 2021 SelectUSA Investment Summit and indicate interest in the mentorship network during the application process.

Mentee qualifications:

Participants interested in applying for the SGWIT Mentorship and Training Network must fit the following criteria:

  • Company headquarters must be based outside of the United States and the company must be
    • Less than 8 years old
    • Up to $10 million in revenue
    • Up to 40 employees
  • Mentee applicants must identify as female
  • Company must be developing a new technology product or service, or delivering an existing technology to a market in new ways

Note: Mentees must be approved as 2021 SelectUSA Investment Summit participants.

Mentors:  SGWIT mentors are U.S.-based successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, venture capitalists, angel investors, and attorneys interested in supporting international female founders in their efforts to achieve their U.S. expansion goals. Mentors will be asked to be a sounding board and offer suggestions to help mentees overcome the challenges they face in scaling, promoting, fundraising and generally establishing their business in the United States. Note that U.S. government employees and economic development organization officials may not serve as mentors but may support the network via educational content contributions.

If you are interested in participating as a mentor, please fill out this form.

Note: All mentors must be vetted by SelectUSA before being confirmed.

The SelectUSA team looks forward to welcoming both mentors and mentees to this new network and to supporting the growth of female-run businesses around the world.

SelectUSA is the U.S. government program housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce that focuses on facilitating job-creating business investment into the United States and raising awareness of the critical role that economic development plays in the U.S. economy. Since its inception, SelectUSA has facilitated more than $81 billion in investment, creating and/or retaining over 100,000 U.S. jobs. While SelectUSA offers assistance to companies of all sizes and sectors, we recognize that certain types of companies, including small women-run businesses abroad, require different and more specific types of support. Female entrepreneurs, especially those in the developing world, often lack access to markets, market information, networks, mentorship, and other resources that enable them to overcome the obstacles of starting and growing firms as well as connecting with financing opportunities. Alongside access to capital, networks have emerged as the most important driver for women’s entrepreneurial success. Multiple studies reveal that female founders that participate in a business network are far more likely to forecast growth for their companies.[1]

[1] EY G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013 Survey, EY, 2013; “Lack of Business Networks Holding British Female Entrepreneurs Back,” The Telegraph, July 2, 2018.


Start a New Global Business Habit This Year

March 8, 2021

Meet two women business leaders who achieved success expanding their sales overseas

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

Tricia Van Orden is Deputy Director of ITA’s Trade Promotion Coordination Committee Secretariat

In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, the International Trade Administration will spotlight content and resources on our website on women in trade, business, and entrepreneurship throughout the month of March. Learn more about the United Nations observance of this day.

Image showing outline of a women with the words Happy International Women's Day March 8

Getting started with anything new can seem overwhelming, whether it pertains to your personal life or your business.  The International Trade Administration can’t help you start a daily flossing habit, but we can help you plan for your global business expansion. If you’ve never considering taking your business global, we have just what you need to research, plan, and execute, all broken into manageable steps.

Today, it’s easier and more practical than ever to sell goods and services across the globe. Most of the world’s potential consumers are outside of the United States, and the global affinity for Made in USA products and services is second to none. Many U.S. companies boost their bottom line and build their competitiveness by selling to world markets, and you can too.

This March, in honor of International Women’s Day, we invite you to learn about women who have taken their businesses global, and we welcome you to explore all the expertise, tools, and resources that the International Trade Administration provides to help you do the same.

For Janet Ryan, the President of SpectraSpray, a New Jersey-based company that creates oral spray vitamins, the first step in her exporting journey was attending a women’s entrepreneurship event. It was there that Janet met an International Trade Administration trade expert, who advised on market opportunities and provided information on everything from product registration to pricing strategies. When Janet was ready for the next step, she was connected to our team in Asia, who helped SpectraSpray participate in an international trade show. At the trade show, SpectraSpray caught the attention of a Singapore distributor with whom they now have an exclusive distributorship. In a few easy steps, Janet leveraged the International Trade Administration’s network of experts to take her business global. This is just the beginning of Janet’s new global business habit. She says, “I’ve learned a great deal from each of you and will now use that knowledge going forward.”

For Kusum Kavia, Co-Founder and President of Combustion Associates, Inc., a California-based power generation company, going global was always a calling. Born in Kenya, Kusum moved to the United States and started a business with her husband. She was always drawn to do business in Africa. After initially exporting to West Africa, Kusum was able to create high-paying engineering and manufacturing jobs to support even more international sales. She worked with the International Trade Administration to expand international sales and to support infrastructure needs across Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, ninety percent of Combustion Associates, Inc. customers are outside the United States, and international sales support more than 100 jobs in the United States. Kusum credits the International Trade Administration’s help with this success, and she says, “For companies that are looking to stretch and export to Sub-Saharan Africa, I would say the first thing to do is to call the U.S. Commercial Service.” Janet and Kusum leveraged the market knowledge, global business insights, and networks of the International Trade Administration, and they took their businesses global in a big way. You can do it too. Make today the first day of your new global business habit with the International Trade Administration. We are in the business of helping your business succeed, so head over to https://www.trade.gov/learn-how-export to start your journey. We promise the first step is easier than remembering to floss every night.