Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

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Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Spotlight: Xiaobing Feng

May 31, 2018

Xiaobing Feng is the President of the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Employee Resource Group for the Department of Commerce and her story is featured in honor of the AAPI Heritage Month. 

Photo of Xiaobring Feng at a site visit to a United States-Taiwan joint venture facility, Pratt & Whitney, in 2015.

Xiaobing Feng at a site visit to a United States-Taiwan joint venture facitlity, Pratt & Whitney, in 2015.

As the Regional Manager for Asia and Pacific in the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Advocacy Center, I advise and counsel U.S. businesses on developing advocacy strategies to successfully compete for billions of dollars in public procurement projects overseas. In helping “level the playing field” for companies, I work with senior Commerce Department officials, colleagues at the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee agencies, and officers posted at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. I also collaborate closely with foreign embassies in Washington, executives of U.S. companies, and foreign decision-makers on behalf of American business interests abroad.

I would like to share my unique background as an Asian American professional. I grew up in Harbin, China, the capital of Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province. The city is known for its extremely cold winters and internationally famous for its annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.

When I was fourteen, I was honored as “Worker of the Year” at the Harbin Car Horn Factory. The Cultural Revolution was in full swing throughout my childhood. Instead of having the opportunity to study in the classroom with the chance to take an entrance exam for college, I was sent to the horn factory to experience the virtues of manual labor. This, I came to understand, was to atone for being the child of successful party cadres and the great granddaughter of a well-known educator in the former Manchurian aristocracy. Nonetheless, I continued to prepare for the entrance exams on my own, and when the revolution was over two years later, I was ready to pursue my lifelong dream: a college education.

Apart from delaying my life for two years, the experience in Harbin instilled within me a passion to understand the fundamental factors that affect a society: economics. This desire led me to work as a research specialist at the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences. Unexpectedly, the Academy soon sent me to the Chinese Party School for intensive leadership training. I eventually came to the United States as a visiting scholar to undertake graduate studies in Sociology at the University of Houston. My hope was to graduate then return home to start the first Sociology Institute in China. My plans changed, however, when I fell in love and married a college classmate in Houston, Texas, where I became a U.S. citizen and started a new life.

After working for private firms in the United States and abroad, I started an export consulting firm helping U.S. manufactures bid for public tenders in China. These experiences led to a passion and belief that a greater understanding of trade could help address worldwide problems, many of which are still ongoing today. Trade policy is no longer confined to tariffs and quotas, but is inextricably tied to a nation’s social and economic policies, as well as its overall development strategy. With these ideas in mind, I joined ITA in 2001. This November, I will celebrate 17 years working at the Advocacy Center. It’s also a time for personal reflection. I am proud to have contributed to our Commerce mission by helping companies close more than 150 deals, supporting more than a half million U.S. jobs.

Growing up, my mom was the most inspiring person in my life. At age of 17, she ran away from her arranged marriage and joined the Revolution. While only receiving three years of elementary-level education, my mom never stopped learning. She became the CEO and President of Songjiang Textile Cooperation, and turned the struggling facility into a profitable operation. Following her footsteps, I feel honored to serve, knowing what I do every day can make a difference in the quality of many people’s lives here in the United States and abroad.

My advice for young Asian professionals is to follow your passion, never stop learning, and serve others.

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Administration Moves Forward with Plans to Renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Seeks Comments from the U.S. Public

May 23, 2017

John Andersen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere

On May 18, the Administration formally notified Congress of its intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As provided by the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015, this notification triggers a 90-day period before negotiations with Canada and Mexico can begin. As part of the 90-day process – and in an effort to hear from you – the Administration has published a Federal Register Notice (FRN) soliciting public comments on the renegotiation. Per the FRN, the Administration seeks comments on general and product-specific negotiating objectives, as well as comments on specific provisions.  Following the comment period, a public hearing will be held at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The FRN seeks comments on a total of seventeen topics that will help inform the direction, focus, and content of the NAFTA negotiations. These include digital trade, intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium-sized enterprises.  Written comments must be submitted to the U.S. Trade Representative no later than Monday, June 12, 2017. To access the FRN for more detailed information and submission instructions, please click here.

Stakeholder consultation is crucial to ensuring our trade agreements are reflective of what the U.S. economy needs to thrive and grow. This is a great opportunity for your voice to be heard. I hope your organization will take the time to submit input that provides the U.S. government with actionable recommendations that will generate meaningful outcomes for U.S. businesses, workers, consumers, farmers, and ranchers.

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Manufacturing Day 2016: A Resounding Success

October 11, 2016

Evan Caplan is the Deputy Director for Public Affairs.

Along with thousands of businesses, schools, students, educators, and parents the International Trade Administration (ITA) celebrated the fifth annual Manufacturing Day on Friday, October 7. Across the country, events showcased how manufacturing has become innovative, inventive, and exciting, and the incredible potential in the future of manufacturing. Manufacturing Day, which the Department of Commerce leads, is an annual national event executed at the local level and supported by thousands of manufacturers as they host open houses, plant tours, and presentations designed to display modern manufacturing technology and careers to students and future employees.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing, Laura Taylor-Kale, visited Wolfspeed for Manufacturing Day.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing, Laura Taylor-Kale, visited Wolfspeed for Manufacturing Day.

On Thursday and Friday, the Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was in Portland, Oregon at a Makers Gone Pro Event, where she spoke to recent high school graduates pursuing technical careers, and joined 100 students at the Lam Research Facility, the world’s second largest semiconductor equipment manufacturer.

Around the country, other Commerce leaders toured some of America’s most innovative manufacturing facilities.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis at ITA Ted Dean went to Chicago to visit the Freedman Seating Company, which creates seating and other products for bus, rail, marine, delivery truck, specialty and commercial vehicles. He received a tour and spoke with students and young professionals from the Young Manufacturers Association. He then went to Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, or DMDII. There, he participated in a roundtable discussion with local and community leaders focusing on workforce development and the growing digitization of manufacturing.

“Seven years ago, nobody could have predicted the manufacturing resurgence we have seen” he said. “The job numbers alone speak volumes.  There are 828,000 more Americans working in manufacturing than there were 6 years ago.”

Regarding digital technologies, he said that “they now drive at least 5 percent of our national GDP, and the Internet’s impact extends far beyond our borders. In the developed markets of the G-20, the digital economy is projected to grow at an annual rate of 8 percent over the next five years – outpacing just about every other traditional sector.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Textiles, Consumer Goods, and Materials Felicia Pullam visited RMI’s On the Road to Manufacturing 4.0 and Beyond Under Armour Lighthouse, a brand-new space in Baltimore making innovative advances in athletic products.

ITA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing Laura Taylor-Kale visited PowerAmerica, which creates energy-efficient power devices for a range of industries, like electric vehicles, industrial motors, solar and wind farms, and data centers. She toured the Wolfspeed Semiconductor Foundry, the Phononic Manufacturing Line, and the Windlift Production Facility. At each of these, she spoke to industry partners about the importance of their work. Later, she also spoke on a roundtable with students on the sustainability of manufacturing. The day ended at a Research Triangle CleanTech Cluster event with PowerAmerica, where she was a featured guest in the proceedings. “I am proud to be part of this incredible event,” she said. “Manufacturing Day is a great occasion to celebrate local industry and stoke community pride.”

Executive Director of SelectUSA, Vinai Thummalapally, visited K-Form and Nova Labs for Manufacturing day 2016.

Executive Director of SelectUSA, Vinai Thummalapally, visited K-Form and Nova Labs for Manufacturing Day 2016! #MFGDAY2016

SelectUSA Executive Director Vinay Thummalapally visited K-Form, which develops and manufactures technical products specializing in high-performance enclosures, and Nova Labs, an innovative, membership-driven, all-volunteer makerspace based in Reston, Virginia that was founded in 2011 with the purpose of empowering everyone to “Rediscover the Joy of Making Things!” They hosted local schools, educators, and community members.

Through initiatives like Manufacturing Day and others, the Department of Commerce helps create the conditions for a skilled workforce, opens new markets for American goods, and drives innovation which ultimately keeps America  Open for Business.

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U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center Assists General Electric in Providing World-Class Healthcare Technology to Hospitals in Greece

September 26, 2016

By Bryan Larson, Senior Commercial Officer in Athens, with editorial assistance by Monika Krol, Commercial Officer, Advocacy Center

The International Trade Administration (ITA) works on behalf of U.S. companies both at home and abroad. The ITA’s Advocacy Center, in coordination with the Senior Commercial Officer in Greece, and the Greek Country Desk Officer, were instrumental in securing a win in the healthcare sector in Greece for an American company.

The Greek market has been tough for U.S. companies to compete in due to the country’s seven- year recession, a byzantine bureaucracy, and a public procurement system that historically lacked transparency.  However, GE Healthcare has generated a record of success in the Greek market by working closely with both the ITA and the Greek Government to improve public procurement of some of the world’s best medical technology.        doctors

The case involved exclusive advocacy by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who emphasized to the Greek Prime Minister the need for modern and transparent processes in the Public Procurement System, leveling the playing field for not only GE Healthcare, but all U.S. companies selling medical device and diagnostic equipment in Greece.

This advocacy yielded solutions that benefited Greek patients and ensured that Greek hospitals received the best equipment at the best price.

GE Healthcare competed for a large contract to provide medical technology (PET/CT equipment) to Greece’s Agia Sofia Children’s Hospital.  The sale – which is 100 percent U.S. export content and supports American jobs – followed a concerted multi-year effort by the U.S. Commerce Department to work with the Greek Government to reduce discrimination in their public healthcare procurement system against U.S. companies for the benefit of European competitors.  ITA’s team coordinated with the State Department, including the U.S. Ambassador, to ensure that GE Healthcare and the Healthcare Working Group’s agenda remained a top priority for the Greek Government. When the European company that was originally awarded the contract couldn’t deliver the goods, the Greek hospital relied on GE Healthcare to provide the life-saving equipment for its child patients.

This hard-fought advocacy campaign resulted in an agreement to create an authoritative Central Committee of Objections to fairly arbitrate appeals on public tenders.  Additionally, the Greek Government passed and enacted a new Public Procurement Law on August 3, 2016.  In partnering with the private sector, this model of Commercial Diplomacy not only resulted in bottom-line results for U.S. companies, but also led to long-term systemic change that will benefit American businesses, U.S. jobs, and the Greek people for years to come.

To learn more about our Advocacy Center and services to U.S. companies, visit us on the web. To learn more about medical device markets abroad, download our 2016 Top Markets Report.

 

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Commerce Department’s New Investment Advisory Council Seeks Membership Applicants

April 13, 2016

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Guest blog post by Vinai ThummalapallyExecutive Director of SelectUSA

Earlier this month, the Secretary of Commerce established the United States Investment Advisory Council (IAC). This council will serve as a key conduit for stakeholder input on how best to support U.S. economic growth through the attraction and retention of foreign direct investment (FDI).

Infographic on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

Infographic on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)

This Council will consist of no more than 20 members appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. Each IAC member will serve for a two-year period and the Council will convene twice a year. The mission of the IAC is simple but important for job creation in the United States. The IAC shall:

  • Advise the Secretary on U.S. government policies and programs that affect FDI;
  • Identify and recommend programs and policies to help the United States attract and retain FDI; and
  • Recommend ways to support the position of the United States as the world’s preeminent destination for FDI.

The Investment Advisory Council is actively seeking candidates through May 10, 2016 who are U.S. nationals from eligible organizations including, but not limited to:

  • U.S.-incorporated companies that are majority-owned by foreign companies or by a foreign individual or individuals, or that generate significant foreign direct investment (e.g., through their supply chains);
  • U.S. companies or entities with business that includes FDI-related activities or the facilitation of FDI; and
  • Economic development organizations and other U.S. governmental and non-governmental organizations and associations with missions or activities that include the promotion or facilitation of FDI.

As a relatively new program within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, SelectUSA has already made an impact by helping facilitate more than $19 billion worth of FDI. But, we can always do better, and we seek to maximize every opportunity to attract new FDI and retain and expand current investments.

FDI is a fundamental element of the U.S. economy. With a total stock of FDI valued at $2.9 trillion (or 17 percent of GDP), the United States is the leading recipient of foreign investment worldwide. Across the country, the U.S. affiliates of foreign companies directly employ more than 6.1 million people, with an average compensation of $79,979 – well above the national average.

An additional 5.9 million jobs can be attributed to FDI through sourcing, increased incomes, productivity gains, and other economic effects. FDI also helps drive American innovation and connects American communities with global markets. In fact, in 2013 alone, these companies spent $53 billion on research and development in the United States and were responsible for more than one fifth of U.S. goods exports ($360 billion).

Global companies continue to recognize the benefits they can derive from investing here, such as our stable and transparent business environment, strong culture of innovation, and highly productive workforce. These investors, along with U.S. economic developers, industry representatives, and others, can serve as some of the strongest advocates for American economic growth through channels such as the IAC.

The inaugural meeting of the IAC is anticipated to coincide with the  2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit, a three-day event in Washington, D.C. from June 19-21.  Our 2015 Summit was filled to capacity with business executives from 70 countries, economic developers from every corner of the country, and others working to facilitate job-creating investment. We are already on track for another high-profile event!

To learn more about the IAC, please visit www.trade.gov/IAC. For full membership criteria and application details, please review the Federal Register notice announcing the opportunity to apply. General inquiries can be addressed to IAC@trade.gov.

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Former Secretaries of Commerce Urge Congress to Pass Trade Promotion Authority

March 25, 2015

This post originally appeared on the Department of Commerce blog.

Guest blog post by William M. Daley, former Secretary of Commerce (1997-2000)

Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley

Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley

Free trade agreements are critical to strengthening American competitiveness, spurring economic growth, and bolstering job creation. With the trade agreements we currently have in place, U.S. exports hit a record-high for the fifth straight year in 2014, reaching $2.34 trillion and supporting 11.7 million American jobs. Goods exports to the 20 economies that have trade agreements with the United States reached a record $765.1 billion in 2014– an increase of 4.3 percent from 2013.

As Commerce Secretary under President Clinton, I led a number of efforts to open new markets to U.S. goods and services, and to help American companies navigate the trade landscape in foreign countries. I visited more than 40 countries to promote U.S. exports, expanded the Department’s overseas commercial staff to support U.S. exporters, and aggressively monitored the impact of trade practices of other nations on U.S. business and workers. I saw firsthand how free trade agreements benefited American businesses, and supported good-paying jobs for American workers.

We must ensure that President Obama can utilize the same tools to negotiate and implement new trade agreements that have been afforded to every President since President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.Along with nine other Commerce Secretaries whose tenures span back to 1973,  we all agree – passing Trade Promotion Authority is not a Democratic or Republican request; it is a bipartisan issue that Congress must address now.

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Advocacy Center Helps Keep the Ball in Colorado’s Court

July 8, 2013

Nicholas Barter is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs. He’s a graduate of Eastern Connecticut University, taking graduate courses at the George Washington University.

Representatives from Ball Aerospace and the Korean Aerospace Research Institute signed their business contract during the Trade Winds Asia 2013 trade mission.

Representatives from Ball Aerospace and the Korean Aerospace Research Institute signed their business contract during the Trade Winds Asia 2013 trade mission.

Odds are you don’t need a scanning UV-visible spectrometer. You may not even know what that is. But the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) does need one, and it contracted with Colorado-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. to provide it.

Contracts like these will continue to bring quality American-made products to organizations across the globe.

Ball signed the contract with KARI on May 13, and will deliver a scanning UV-visible spectrometer to detect pollution and monitor long-term climate change in the Asia-Pacific region.

The contract will support an estimated 100 American jobs. It also supports Colorado’s top export sector — Computer and Electronics. The sector was the state’s leading merchandise export category in 2012, accounting for $2.1 billion in export sales.

Competing for foreign public contracts can be difficult. There could be a home-field advantage, as foreign governments may want to support their own country’s businesses. There could be artificial roadblocks, customs issues, or any number of potential hurdles.

That’s when the Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center can be helpful.

The Advocacy Center has helped hundreds of small, medium, and large U.S. businesses win contracts across the world. Its goal is to guarantee that U.S. products and services can compete abroad on a level playing field. For this contract, Ball beat out companies from Germany and the Netherlands.

Advocacy Center Regional Manager, Frederick Helfrich, attended the signing of the contract by Ball and KARI during the Trade Winds Asia 2013 trade mission. Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez extended his congratulations to Ball at the mission as well.

If your business is in need of assistance to expand globally, please contact the Advocacy Center. Our team would be glad to help your company compete for foreign government contracts.

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Advocacy Center Success Supports Louisiana Jobs

April 18, 2013

Chris Higginbotham is a Communications Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.

With help from the Jean-Marc Teleu and Chadian Abassador to U.S.HIS EXCELLENCY MAITINE DJOUMBE sign a contract to export 500 John Deere agricultural tractors to Chad Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center, an American company has just signed its largest ever contract.

Louisiana-based Tuleu Consulting Company (TCC) today signed a $22.5 million contract to sell 500 John Deere tractors in the African country of Chad at a signing ceremony held at the U.S. Department of Commerce. TCC estimates this deal will support 100 American jobs at the company.

“TCC benefited from an aggressive, coordinated interagency commercial advocacy campaign spearheaded by our Advocacy Center to win a contract that will mean more jobs for American workers,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Administration Francisco Sánchez, who witnessed the signing of the contract. “I congratulate TCC on winning this valuable contract.”

The tractors will support Chad’s efforts to become self-sufficient in food production.

The Advocacy Center coordinates U.S. government resources to level the playing field for American companies competing against foreign firms for international contracts. In many cases, the Center will coordinate official messages to foreign officials on behalf of the U.S. government to support American companies.

“The services of the Advocacy Center are effective at helping companies like Tuleu and everyone at the Department of Commerce is glad to support American businesses,” Sanchez added.

This isn’t the first success for the Advocacy Center. The team actually had a banner year in Fiscal Year 2012, helping 53 companies secure international contracts worth a total of $87.1 billion. The Center estimates those contracts support 370,000 U.S. jobs.

Learn how advocacy services from the U.S. government can help your business compete overseas at export.gov/advocacy.

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Banner Year for U.S. Advocacy Center

October 16, 2012

Bryan Erwin is the Director of  The Advocacy Center in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration

The Advocacy Center of the Department of Commerce has had its most successful year since its creation in 1993. Never before has the Center helped U.S. businesses win as many international public contracts as in the past fiscal year 2012 .

U.S. companies won 53 international contracts, with a total value of $87.1 Billion. Of this amount, $73.9 Billion is U.S. export content – which means that it was made here in the U.S. – ensuring jobs for Americans. In fact, the Advocacy Center estimates that our work has helped support some 370,000 U.S. jobs.

These statistics are a record for us. In the year before, the value of the U.S. exports in the contracts was only $23.7 Billion. In 2010, it was $16.8 Billion.

Our mission is to coordinate U.S. Government resources and authority in order to level the playing field on behalf of U.S. business interests as they compete against foreign firms for specific international contracts or other U.S. export opportunities. In doing so, the Advocacy Center helps create and retain U.S. jobs through exports. And our success in 2012 was very much a collaborative effort of the whole of the Department of Commerce, and in some cases whole-of government.

But it is not only the total number which is impressive. The Advocacy Center also helped more sectors vital for the National Export Initiative win contracts. One fifth of the acquired contracts were won by Small and Medium Enterprises. Their share used to be in the single digits.

The clean energy and environmental sector and the health care sector were also able to acquire more business. International contracts won in 2012 will support almost 2,400 US clean energy jobs and 200 U.S. healthcare jobs.

A focus of the Center has also been Emergency Rescue and Disaster Relief Projects, contracts in Reconstruction Areas, and bidding contests in the so called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) markets. In each of these focus areas, the Advocacy Center was able to assist more U.S. firms win contracts than in the recent past.

One example of our success in an emerging market is in Indonesia, in which case the U.S. Government advocated on behalf of Electro-Motive Diesel Inc. (EMD), based in LaGrange, IL, to win a government contract in Indonesia. In August, EMD reported that it was awarded a contract to provide PT Kereta Api Indonesa (PTKA), a state-owned railway company, with 44 diesel-electric locomotives as a result. EMD estimates that the total value of the procurement at $140 million, with U.S. export content of $94.0 million. And this contract will help support 470 U.S. jobs alone!

Our work on behalf of U.S. businesses is important that ever as we continue to help position companies to compete in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. That is why although 2012 was the Advocacy Center’s most successful year – we are already working on breaking this new record in 2013.

For more information about the Advocacy Center, please visit http://export.gov/advocacy/

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The Untold Story About the U.S.-Mexico Border

September 28, 2012

Michael Camuñez is the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance

Violence. Narco-trafficking. Illegal Immigration. A place of great insecurity. Listen to the national media and these are the images they would have you believe define and characterize the U.S.-Mexico Border. It’s true, Mexico is confronting serious security challenges and is working hard to tackle them, making progress each day in part with the assistance of the United States. But the benefits derived from scale and magnitude of our economic partnership with Mexico—still one of the best performing and fastest growing economies in the G20 and OECD—literally dwarf those challenges. And that’s a story that’s well worth remembering.

Assistant Secretary for Market Access and Compliance Michael Camuñez delivers remarks during "Realizing the Economic Strength of Our 21st Century Border: Trade, Education, and Jobs"

Assistant Secretary for Market Access and Compliance Michael Camuñez delivers remarks during “Realizing the Economic Strength of Our 21st Century Border: Trade, Education, and Jobs” (Photo Tim Trumble)

That’s why earlier this week in Tempe, Arizona, I convened and, together with Arizona State University’s Center for Trans-border Studies, co-hosted a bi-national conference focused on the commercial importance of the border region. The conference, entitled “Realizing the Economic Strength of Our 21st Century Border: Trade, Education, and Jobs,” brought together a diverse and distinguished group of leaders from academia, the private and public sector leaders, and members of civil society from throughout the border region. Our goal was two-fold: to identify and share strategies that will promote economic growth and job creation through increased trade; and to raise awareness and build consensus concerning the economic contribution of the border region to the U.S. and Mexican economies. In short, the conference was about changing the narrative about the U.S.-Mexico border by telling the full story about how and why the border region is a key driver of our global competitiveness and shared prosperity. As evidenced in a recent Arizona Republic editorial highlighting the conference, our efforts are already paying off.

I’ve previously written extensively about how the border region is vital to the U.S.-Mexico commercial relationship, which is one of the most dynamic economic partnerships in the world. In 2011, two way trade in goods and services between the U.S. and Mexico exceeded a staggering half trillion dollars. U.S. exports to Mexico totaled close to $200 billion, exceeding our exports to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined! According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, approximately 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with our southern neighbor. Six million jobs!

And what happens on the border doesn’t solely affect border towns and border states. More than 20 U.S. states count Mexico as their first or second largest export market, and 28 states did more than $1 billion in trade with Mexico in 2011.

Manufacturers in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and throughout America depend on integrated U.S.-Mexico supply chains to bring components, supplies and finished goods back and forth across the border every day, sustaining millions of jobs in factories around the country. And this doesn’t even get to the nearly 13.5 million Mexican tourists who traveled to the U.S. in 2011 and spent $9.2 billion supporting the U.S. economy.

Given the importance of this powerful relationship, the Obama Administration launched the Border Export Strategy to highlight the significance of the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship and, more specifically, the vibrant, diverse, and talented communities that make up the border region. This week’s conference, which was attended by more than 250 leaders from both countries, is a key element of that strategy, which in turn supports the President’s National Export Initiative, the aim of which is to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

The conference also advanced the 2010 joint declaration by Presidents Obama and Calderon on 21st Century Border Management, which is designed to enhance economic competitiveness while augmenting our nation’s security and public safety by supporting a bilateral border master plan process for infrastructure projects in order to increase capacity; expand trusted traveler and shipper programs; and explore opportunities for pre-clearance, pre-inspection, and pre-screening processes for commercial goods and travelers.

The conference agenda was packed with substantive discussions and industry-focused breakout panels; it also included important fora where U.S. and Mexican border mayors, members of congress, governors and industry leaders came together to talk about how the border economy is driving growth throughout the region. As co-host, I delivered a keynote address and helped facilitate a discussion concerning the Obama Administration’s 21st Century Border Management Initiative with counterparts from Mexico, Customs and Border Patrol, and the State Department. We also had a chance to hear from representatives of Mexican President-Elect Peña-Nieto, who shared the incoming administration’s vision for the region.

My primary message at the conference was to convey that President Obama and his administration understand the value of border trade and the contributions that border communities make each and every day to our national wellbeing. I also emphasized that the United States and Mexico, together with Canada to the north, comprise one of the most competitive regional platforms in the world. With our open borders, low tariffs, strong protections for intellectual property, low energy costs, integrated supply chains, and, most importantly, our skilled work force, our nations are working cooperatively to bring jobs back from remote shores, which is one reason why, for the first time in a decade, U.S. manufacturing job growth is again on the rise. The border truly is a source of strength for both countries, and it is a region that merits investment, support and serious attention from Washington. I’m proud that the Obama Administration is telling that story.