2015: A Year of Achievement for Trade and Investment

January 13, 2016

Stefan M. Selig is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

At the beginning of 2015, the President declared during the State of the Union that “the shadow of crisis has passed and the State of our Union is strong.”  Trade and foreign investment play an important role in making our nation strong. The successes we achieved last year to advance our trade and investment agenda prove that very point.  And for many of the successes that occurred in 2015, the International Trade Administration played a critical role.

Under Secretary Selig meets with the Council of the Americas in Mexico to discuss US-Mexico commercial partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Under Secretary Selig meets with the Council of the Americas in Mexico to discuss US-Mexico commercial partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

One headline accomplishment from 2015 was our leadership in securing the first Trade Promotion Authority in 13 years, which will enable the President to conclude important trade agreements. One of these agreements represents another headline achievement: successfully completing negotiations for the largest trade deal in history in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will increase access for U.S. businesses to 11 Pacific Rim markets representing 40% of global GDP.

Last year’s achievements also include the first ever U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, which will serve as the signature bilateral forum for our two countries. We carried out the second “reimagined” U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade(JCCT), where we brought private sector stakeholders into our talks and worked throughout the year to secure real commercial gains. The second ever SelectUSA Summit took place, which convened 2,600 participants from 70 countries to highlight investment opportunities in the U.S. We assisted in concluding the first international tariff liberalizing agreement in nearly 20 years, which will reduce tariffs on U.S. information and communications technology exports valued at $130 billion annually. Finally, after the second cabinet-level meeting of the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue, several border infrastructure projects that will enhance our collective commercial and security interests were completed or nearly completed.

But by focusing solely on these and other major achievements, we run the risk of overlooking how ITA accomplished its day-to-day responsibilities: advancing the trade and investment interests of the American business community and supporting American jobs. In this case, the numbers alone tell the story.

Last year, ITA assisted more than 25,000 companies with their exporting needs. We supported 42 overseas trade missions to 28 countries, which included the participation of over 500 companies. ITA supported 35 domestic trade shows that brought in 13,500 foreign buyers, while arranging 8,000 meetings during those shows. We initiated a record 62 anti-dumping/counter-vailing duty investigations helping to secure a level playing field for American businesses. Clients of our SelectUSA program—which works to attract foreign direct investment into the U.S.—announced nearly 120 “greenfield” or new investment projects totaling an estimated $7.5 billion and accounting for tens of thousands of jobs. Because of our advocacy efforts on behalf of U.S. businesses, we successfully won 79 public-sector contracts with overseas governments, with those projects valued at $45.5 billion with $31.2 billion of U.S. export content. Clients who were directly assisted by ITA saw their exports increase by an average of 23%.

These successes contributed to a U.S. economy that saw a record number of jobs supported by exports (11.7 million as of 2014), which pay 18% higher wages on average, while 6.1 million Americans work for foreign-owned affiliates. All of these successes definitively prove why trade and investment continues to matter to our economy.

So as we look back at 2015, I believe we will see it as our inflection point; the year our country took that dramatic step towards embracing trade and investment as an enduring part of our economic agenda. Perhaps more important than what we accomplished last year, however, was how we accomplished it.

At the same time that we delivered these gains, we maintained our focus on providing best-in-class client service to American exporters: whether it is providing counseling and business matchmaking services, creating top-class commercial intelligence that businesses can access at no cost, leading trade missions, advocating to win projects in foreign markets, or maintaining a level playing field for American businesses here and abroad. Advancing the interests of American workers and businesses is and will remain central to ITA’s mission, and we looking forward to building on our success and working in service of that mission in 2016 and beyond.

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