Archive for the ‘Look South’ Category


Doing Business in Brazil’s Retail Sector in the Digital Age

July 21, 2016

Mindi Hertzog is a Commercial Officer and Heros Iarossi is a Commercial Clerk with the U.S. Commercial Service in São Paulo, Brazil.

Even as political turmoil, the Zika virus, and the Summer Olympics make headlines, Brazil still stands as one of the world’s largest economies – and one of the most important trading partners for the United States.

In our capacity with the U.S. Commercial Service, we recently attended the sixth annual Brazilian Retail Week, held June 27-30 in São Paulo. We had the honor of listening to and interacting with more than 150 corporate and industry leaders and experts about challenges, opportunities, and trends in the Brazilian market.

Crowded and colourful shopping street.

Shopping in Brazil

The biggest buzz at the event focused on the need for retailers to be aligned with younger consumers, a group labeled as “millennials.” These consumers display different purchasing patterns than more traditional consumers. Most critically, retailers must utilize digital technology in order to adapt to this new kind of customer, presenting both enormous challenges but also enormous opportunities. Retailers must be located where their customers are – with significant presence on the internet and on social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

According to one of the speakers, this “tap & pay” generation in Brazil does not like to stand in lines or carry bags, and many times, knows the product better than the seller. Others discussed trends including the startup economy, “omni-channels,” seamless shopping experiences, cross-border e-commerce, and the need for retailers to personalize the shopper experience.

It is clear that success in the Brazilian market requires companies to constantly innovate, especially in the digital space. A major theme throughout the two-day event was innovation in the U.S. as a model for Brazilian retailers. This provides a huge opportunity for U.S. companies in technological sectors – from marketing to cloud software to mobile apps– looking to do business in Brazil.

The International Trade Administration (ITA) helps U.S. companies find and capitalize on these opportunities. One important upcoming occasion is for businesses to join ITA at the U.S. Department of Commerce-certified LATAM Retail Show in São Paulo, Brazil, running August 23-25. This is one of the most high-profile events within the retail, franchising, mall, and e-commerce sectors in Latin America. There will be upwards of 280 exhibitors and 20,000 participants, including high-level executives and decision makers from major retailers. ITA will work to find partnerships and opportunities for American companies who take part in the delegation, including meetings with top industry professionals, social media exposure, and technical advice.  If you would like to join ITA at LATAM or learn how the U.S. Commercial Service assists businesses in Brazil, please contact the US Commercial Service in Brazil or your nearest Export Assistance Center.


The United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement – Four Years Later

July 6, 2016

Fernando Gracia is an Intern in the Office of the Western Hemisphere at the International Trade Administration

Four years ago, the United States Colombia free trade agreement went into effect, representing a commitment to trade and prosperity between our two countries.  Today, we look back at the four years since the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) entered into force and analyze what it has meant for trade between our two countries.

The overall trend for U.S. exports to Colombia has been positive since the CTPA was implemented in 2012.

  • In 2011, the year before the CTPA came into force, goods exports to Colombia had a value of $14.3 billion. In 2014, goods exports reached a high of $20.1 billion.
  • In 2015, U.S. goods exports to Colombia fell to $16.3 billion, primarily due to the drop in the price of oil and related fuel products. Nevertheless, even with this drop, U.S. goods exports to Colombia have seen a growth rate of 14% ($2.0 billion) over the past four years, compared to 1.4% growth for U.S. exports worldwide.
  • Today, Colombia is the U.S.’s 20th largest goods export partner and the 3rd largest in Latin America behind Mexico and Brazil. Explore U.S.-Colombia trade data here.

The CTPA’s key components that allowed for this growth include the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, equal access for services exports, equal access to covered government procurement opportunities, and the elimination of tariffs.  When the CTPA took effect in 2012, over 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia immediately became duty-free; the remaining tariffs are being phased out over a period of ten years.  Recently, on January 1, 2016, more than 500 additional tariff lines became duty free for the first time.  This included products like pork products, perfumes, printing ink, soap, paper products, caps and lids, and exercise equipment, among others.  (For the latest tariff information on specific goods, check out the FTA Tariff Tool)

At the industry level, various sectors have benefitted from the CTPA. Manufacturing and agricultural exports have experienced major gains:

  • Manufacturing exports grew from $13.2 billion to $14.5 billion, an increase of 9.8%.
  • Agriculture and livestock exports doubled from $648 million to $1.3 billion.

Before the CTPA was implemented, U.S. exporters had seen their share of the Colombian market decline year after year.

  • In 2009, U.S. exports to Colombia made up 29% of Colombian imports, and by 2012 the U.S. share had dropped to a low of 24%.
  • Since the implementation of the CTPA in May 2012, U.S. market share in Colombia has rebounded, reaching 29% in 2015 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: U.S. Exports Market Share in Colombia

Graph showing U.S. Exports Market Share in Colombia from 2009 through 2015. In 2009, it was 29%, in 2010 it was 26%, in 2011 it was 25% and in 2012 before the Free Trade Agreement went into effect it was 24%. In 2013 it was 28%, in 2014 it was 28% and in 2015 it was 29%.

U.S. market share increased from 24% to 29% since the CTPA was implemented. Data Source: Global Trade Atlas.

At the same time, while the overall value of U.S. goods imports from Colombia  decreased by 39% from 2011 to 2015, trade has become increasingly diverse. The falling price of oil is the primary factor behind the diminishing value of U.S. imports from Colombia. The value of mineral fuel imports from Colombia dropped from $16.8 billion in 2011 to $8.1 billion in 2015 (52%), though the quantity of exports remained more steady (oil imports dropped from 160 million barrels to 149 million barrels, or just 7%, during that time).  Other sectors performed better:

  • Imports of live plants, especially cut flowers, from Colombia increased from $578 million in 2011 to $624 million in 2015, an increase of 8%.
  • Non-knit apparel imports increased from $117 million in 2011 to $137 million in 2015, an increase of 17%.
  • Aluminum product imports also increased significantly from $41 million in 2011 to $123 million in 2015, an increase of 199%.

In addition, the CTPA increased both the number of companies exporting to the United States and the diversity of the products being shipped.

  • According to ProColombia 2,059 Colombian companies and 104 new products entered the U.S. for the first time since the CTPA took effect in 2012, strengthening and diversifying the trade relationship.
  • 97% of these companies are from industry sectors other than mining and energy, two of Colombia’s major export industries. ProColombia put together a list of 10 Colombian companies from diverse industries that have benefitted from the CTPA.

The CTPA’s primary objective and accomplishment has been to provide a platform for both Colombian and U.S. companies to succeed. As the Colombian government approaches a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), we can expect the U.S.-Colombia relationship, including our trade relationship, to only grow stronger.


CAFTA-DR at 10: Is Central America On Your Company’s Horizon?

March 10, 2016

Aileen Crowe Nandi is ITA’s Regional Senior Commercial Officer

U.S. exporters can’t afford to ignore markets touted as best-kept secrets – Central America is no exception. Today marks 10 years that the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (otherwise known as CAFTA-DR) has been in force, yielding tremendous growth for U.S. exports to the region. Guatemala and Nicaragua have the distinction of being the fastest-growing CAFTA-DR markets for U.S. goods exports since implementation, at 106.8 percent and 100.9 percent respectively, but all CAFTA-DR markets have demonstrated impressive growth of their U.S. imports.

That’s a lot of potential to develop your company’s export strategy. Is your company part of this growth? Consider this:

  • Under CAFTA-DR, 100 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial goods exports are no longer subject to tariffs.
  • Exports are already duty free to North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, Canada and Mexico. In a NAFTA-to-CAFTA-DR approach, if your company has already targeted sales opportunities in Mexico, it may be time to “Look South” to Central America.
  • Central America is overwhelmingly predisposed to U.S. products, services, and companies.
  • The United States is the largest trading partner (and foreign investor) in all these countries, albeit with increasing foreign competition.

U.S. goods exports to CAFTA-DR markets (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic) totaled $28.9 billion in 2015. To put this in perspective, U.S. goods exports to India, considered one of the most attractive growth prospect markets for U.S. companies, last year were $21.5 billion. Though each country represents a smaller market (2015 U.S. goods exports: Dominican Republic: $7.1 billion; Costa Rica, $6.1 billion; Guatemala: $5.9 billion; Honduras: $5.2 billion; El Salvador: $3.3 billion and Nicaragua: $1.3 billion), taken together these countries offer substantial opportunities for U.S. exporters.

Many companies consider Central America as a region when developing their sales strategy. Despite distinct market nuances in each country, which cannot be understated, the common affinities and long-standing business ties across these countries signify that this region constitutes a whole more than the sum of its parts.

Key U.S. exports to CAFTA-DR markets include:

  • petroleum products;
  • machinery;
  • electrical/electronic products;
  • cotton yarns;
  • plastics;
  • motor vehicles;
  • paper products; and,
  • medical instruments.

This list only skims the surface in terms of the depth and breadth of the range of U.S. goods sent to Central America. If your product is price-competitive and not already saturated in the market, there likely exists strong potential for your company in the region.

The U.S. Commercial Service welcomes the opportunity to work with you to help you craft your Central America strategy. While there are challenges in the region that can’t be ignored, in most cases with the right local partner, which we can help you identify and/or screen, the opportunities will significantly outweigh the potential difficulties. If you are interested in exploring (or expanding in) the region, we invite you to visit the region and let us help you find and/or vet potential partners, navigate the regulatory or registration issues, connect you with decision-makers and more.

Central America remains a face-to-face culture where personal business connections are essential before cementing a deal. To follow market trends in the region and learn more about how to do business in Central America, we invite you to follow our CS Central America LinkedIn Showcase page.

There’s no better time to explore opportunities in Central America and leverage CAFTA-DR to join the U.S. export boom to the region!



Latin America –Opportunities for U.S. Automotive Aftermarket Exports

February 25, 2016

Kellie Holloway is a Senior International Trade Specialist and Deputy Team Leader of the U.S. Commercial Service’s Global Automotive Team

 Todd Peterson is an International Trade Specialist in the Office of Transportation and Machinery and Team Lead for the Auto Care Association’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP)

The U.S. auto parts sector continues to be one of the largest contributors to total U.S. exports.  In 2015, the U.S. exported nearly $81 billion in auto parts worldwide. One of the promising, but overlooked regions for U.S. automotive aftermarket parts exports is Latin America, particularly Peru, Guatemala and El Salvador. Demand for aftermarket auto parts and repair services in these three markets is increased due to aging vehicles (averaging 15.5 years for private and 22.5 years for commercial vehicles).  In addition, there is a high level of used-car sales and deteriorating road conditions.  US market share for auto parts in Guatemala is 31 percent, in El Salvador it is 26 percent, and US companies have a 19 percent share of the Peruvian market.  Also worth noting: U.S. auto parts exports over the last five years grew 87 percent in Peru; 19 percent in Guatemala, and 50 percent in El Salvador.

Auto parts

Auto parts

In addition, these three countries are Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners with the United States, which increases U.S. market access by breaking down potential market entry barriers. FTA partnership, product quality, available warranties and geographic proximity, all contribute to the United States having a competitive advantage when entering Latin American markets.

Some of the specific products/services in demand include:

  • Motor parts: compressors, radiators, batteries, accumulators, green filters, motor oil, and lubricants;
  • Body and crash parts;
  • Accessories: sound systems, spoilers, bumpers, cleaning products;
  • Safety Products: alarms, GPS systems;
  • Brake systems, suspension and components;
  • Driving simulators; and
  • Tools and diagnostic equipment.

Recognizing the opportunities for automotive aftermarket suppliers in Latin America, the International Trade Administration (ITA) awarded the Auto Care Association a three-year matching award of just under $300,000 to support activities designed to help boost exports to that region. Upcoming events utilizing this Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP) project are two automotive trade missions to Latin America.  The first mission is destined for Peru (May 17-19, 2016), followed by a mission to Guatemala with an optional stop in El Salvador (June 21-24, 2016). Future missions are planned to Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

“The MDCP award creates important partnerships that assists U.S. firms in selling more of their goods and services to the 95 percent of consumers living outside our borders,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Industry & Analysis Marcus Jadotte. “We are excited to help the U.S. auto care industry increase exports in Latin American and expand economic opportunity in such an important sector of the U.S. economy.”

The Automotive Trade Missions to Peru, Guatemala and El Salvador are designed to inform participants of the local market and provide access to key industry contacts. The number of mission participants is intentionally limited to ensure customized and well-targeted matchmaking scheduling. In addition, U.S. Embassy staff will provide country commercial briefings on the legalities and nuances of doing business in those markets, with the schedule rounded out to include industry-specific networking receptions and site visits. The Auto Care Association’s upcoming missions are an extremely cost-effective way to expand your business prospects in Latin America. The package includes personalized business-to-business matchmaking meetings with foreign industry executives, hotel accommodations and local transportation, networking receptions, interpreters, and country briefings.

A past trade mission participant relayed the value that joining a supported mission provided. “We’ve boosted sales by 70 percent in Latin America and could not have done it as fast without the U.S. Commercial Service,” said Ross Tamimi, Vice President, Warco Products. The contacts that Ross made while on the mission helped the firm understand local commercial dynamics and regulatory policies, and successfully identify local distributors.

Harness your share of these growing Latin American economies and expand your export strategies through both Automotive Trade Mission opportunities!

For more information on auto parts exports, please see ITA’s Top Markets Report for Automotive Parts.


Miami: Expanding Trade Through TPP and Global Expansion in the Western Hemisphere

February 24, 2016

Stefan M. Selig is the U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of joining several business leaders and state officials for a series of trade events in the Miami, Florida area. Miami has a record for being one of the country’s top exporters, coming in seventh on the list of metro area exporters in the country. In 2014, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm metro reported $38 billion in merchandise exports, representing nearly 65 percent of the state’s total.


Under Secretary Selig meets with Miami business leaders to discuss the President’s trade agenda

With so much export potential, I thought it was important to meet with local business leaders for a roundtable discussion on the President’s trade agenda and the benefits to the greater Miami region from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). During the conversation, hosted by the Miami USEAC, we discussed the commercial value of TPP and strategic importance of strengthening our ties with the Western Hemisphere and TPP countries.   Local and state business executives and company representatives seeking to expand their businesses overseas asked questions such as how U.S. companies are affected by international trade policies, including TPP, and what these can mean for businesses in South Florida.

Over the past few months, the answer has become clear: opportunity. Trade in the United States is an engine for economic growth and job creation, which is why agreements such as TPP are critical to our success as a nation.

Following the roundtable, I addressed the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America and the Caribbean’s (AACCLA) ‘Outlook on the Americas’ luncheon. During the event, I spoke about U.S. relations with Latin American and the Caribbean, focusing on how regional cooperation and collaboration can make each country more globally competitive. This collaborative commitment for open trade and investment flows is what helped our region weather the financial crisis, and is what will drive economic growth in the coming years.

At the Department of the Commerce, we remain committed to our engagement in Latin America to support sound economic policies and unifying the region along a shared agenda for growth.  This week, Secretary Pritzker travels to Mexico as part of our ongoing High Level Economic Dialogue. Deputy Secretary Andrews traveled to Brazil last summer and this spring we will host a U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum in Washington. The United States policy shift on Cuba is one of the most significant policy actions in the region in the past 50 years and President Obama will make an historic trip to the country this spring. Existing free trade agreements like CAFTA and the U.S.-Columbia FTA support economic partnerships in the region, and TPP will expand those partnerships even further.

Over the last 25 years, our trade partnerships with our Latin American and Caribbean neighbors have done far more than just ensure market success. They have maintained the trajectory of our growth agenda by deepening the ties that bind our commercial communities. The International Trade Administration’s Foreign Service Officers and Trade Specialists on the ground throughout Latin America, working with both local and U.S. businesses, will continue to play a central role in deepening economic partnerships in the region.

In order for us to continue the success of the last 25 years, a shared growth agenda through new trade agreements like the TPP will further strengthen our supply chains and ensure an equal and tariff-free treatment with all of our TPP partners. I am deeply excited for this historic opportunity to advance our mutual and strategic interests through furthered collaboration on a global stage.



New Opportunities in Colombia

November 24, 2015

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

Laura Ebert is the Colombia Desk Officer in the International Trade Administration.

As a fan of Netflix’s drama series ‘Narcos’, I was both nervous and excited to see just how much Colombia has changed since the days of Pablo Escobar. I visited the country for the first time in July and returned a few weeks ago with John Andersen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere. Our goal for the trip was to identify new business opportunities in cities across Colombia. I was impressed by the new, modern Colombia and can confirm that the country has indeed come a very long way. In fact:

  • Colombia is on the verge of completing a historic peace process to end 50 years of civil war.
  • Over the past 20 years, GDP has doubled and foreign direct investment into Colombia was more than $16 billion in 2014
  • The rate of Colombians in extreme poverty has fallen from a high of 21 percent in 2006 to 6 percent in 2013.
  • The country’s young population (25 percent of Colombians are under 14-years-old) means the country is bursting with new ideas, energy, and enthusiasm for the future.

During our visit, I saw many examples of the new and modern Colombia. For example, the city of Barranquilla has become Colombia’s international commercial hub. This city of 2.4 million people on the north Caribbean coast impressed me with its crazy traffic, heavy rains, and multitude of skyscrapers—all under construction. With a thriving port and major waterway, the Magdalena River is a natural hub for commerce. The city looks north, towards the United States, meaning there is a lot of interest in doing business with U.S. companies. Some of the reasons Barranquilla may be the next place a U.S. company does business includes the city’s:

  • Commitment to transparency and good governance.
  • Ambitious new plans and projects, such as a new 34,500 m2 expo center, Puerta del Oro, which means procurement opportunities for U.S. companies.
  • Convenient transportation options including an airport with big plans for expansion.
  • Business opportunities in major industry sectors like metalworking, chemicals and plastics, construction materials, transportation and logistics, internet and telecommunications services, health and pharmaceuticals, tourism and health tourism.

Another great example is Medellin, Pablo Escobar’s hometown. Medellin, a city of 3.4 million people, has transformed into an innovation hub for the country. Recently, Medellin was named the most innovative city of the year by the Wall Street Journal. Innovative clusters have developed in industries such as textile and garment manufacturing and design; business tourism and trade shows; electric energy; construction; medical and dental services; and information and communications technologies. Public, private, and academic partnerships are working together to develop new products. One example is public-private corporation Ruta N, which acts as a center of business and innovation in Medellin. The corporation promotes and develops successful knowledge-based businesses. Ruta N anchors a new technology cluster in the north of the city designed to attract businesses in the areas of science, technology, and innovation, particularly in the health, energy, and telecommunications sectors.

If you think the new Colombia holds promise for your growing business, here’s how to get started:

See you in Colombia!





CONEXPO Latin America: “Loads” of Opportunity for the Construction and Mining Business

September 8, 2015

Erin Aucar recently completed an internship at the International Trade Administration’s Office of the Western Hemisphere. 

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

The owners and organizers of CONEXPO, the world-renowned construction equipment trade show, are bringing 100 years of experience to Latin America! From October 21-24, 2015, in the city of Santiago, Chile, CONEXPO Latin America will bring together international experts, the latest equipment, and groundbreaking (literally) technologies. The event allows manufacturers and buyers to build their international presence and show new products, technology, and future developments for the region.

Market Development Cooperator Program grant winner, the Small Business Development Center at Duquesne University, is helping U.S. companies take advantage of this exciting opportunity with assistance through the IMPACT Project. The IMPACT Project is part of a four-year MDCP grant to designed to increase trade with Pacific Alliance countries (Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile) while sustaining economic growth, supporting American jobs, and strengthening the global competitiveness of U.S. firms. While shared booth space through the IMPACT Project is already sold out, there are three other ways your company can still participate:

  1. Send a Catalogue. The IMPACT Project can accept catalogues from 7 more companies to show in the booth. With this option the company does not need to travel to the country, just provide the catalogue or company literature. Cost is $300 and includes up to two pages of Spanish language translation. Contact Dr. Mary McKinney at Deadline is September 21st, 2015.
  2. Secure your own booth space at the show. Contact Kathy Arnold of Association of Equipment Manufacturers at for more information.
  3. Walk the show. If you’d like to network in Chile, but aren’t ready to set up your own booth display, entry to the show is only $10 and no-preregistration is required. If you do make the trip down to Chile, be sure to stop by the IMPACT booth! ITA’s Commercial Service team from Chile will be there to answer questions and provide assistance.

CONEXPO Latin America’s host country, Chile, is a Pacific Alliance member whose economic growth has averaged over 5% a year for the last 20 years. A mining and exporting powerhouse, Chile is investing in infrastructure for its ports, mining, and construction industries. The show promises to attract qualified buyers from all over Latin America. Projected growth of the construction industry in the region is $47.4 billion between 2013 and 2022. The Pacific Alliance countries, including Chile, tend to favor U.S. products for their high quality and technological innovation. This advantage, along with the protections and benefits afforded to U.S. companies through our Free Trade Agreements with all four Alliance members, makes CONEXPO Latin America a prime opportunity to develop your business in the region. Indeed, there are ‘loads” of reasons to participate on CONEXPO Latin America!


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