Ericka Ukrow is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the Office of Finance and Insurance Industries
The Department of Commerce has responded to the needs of its clients and partners – it is stepping up efforts to expand private sector trade finance with the inaugural meeting of the Trade Finance Advisory Council (TFAC).
The Council is comprised of 20 private-sector leaders representing banks, financial technology companies, other trade finance organizations, exporters, and a research institution charged with advising the U.S. Commerce Secretary on policies and programs that can help expand access to private sector trade finance for U.S. exporters, especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and educate them about the resources available.
In her remarks last month to the Council, Secretary Penny Pritzker underscored the importance that trade finance plays in supporting trade. “Nearly all global merchandise trade, worth in excess of $18 trillion annually, is supported by some sort of finance or credit insurance. Put simply: without trade finance, there is no trade,” she said.
More of Secretary Pritzker’s tweets can be found here:
Acknowledging that the federal government is a critical source of American exporters’ financing needs, Secretary Pritzker reminded all participants that ultimately, it is the private sector that finances approximately 98 percent of U.S. export transactions. Accordingly, she affirmed the Department’s commitment to working collaboratively with the private sector in supporting efforts that will enhance the financing environment of our exporters and their foreign buyers.
Deputy Secretary Andrews shared Commerce’s priorities and vision for the TFAC. “Without adequate levels of trade finance,” he said, “companies considering whether to expand overseas might never do so; and companies already engaged in exporting may not expand to new markets. This limits the potential for a key element of our country’s economic growth strategy – ultimately costing us jobs that otherwise would have been created. That is why access to finance has been an important part of the Administration’s export agenda.We need industry to help us find solutions to the systemic barriers that impact this sector,” he added.
Council’s Key Priorities
Under direction of the Advisory Council Chair Chris Bozek, a seasoned banker and now Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s North America Head of Trade and Global Product Executive, Council members deliberated and established four initial areas of focus:
- Innovation and Financial Technology
- Collaboration and Partnerships
- Education and Outreach
- Market Information
These key areas align with the Secretary’s shared vision.
Recognizing the important role of federal export financing agencies and regulators in the dialogue, Commerce invited representatives from the Export-Import Bank, Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of The Treasury to brief members on their perspectives in this area.
Council members also had the opportunity to learn about existing Commerce resources that support U.S. exporters such as the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), the Strategic Partnership Program, guides to exporting and trade finance, market intelligence reports, and trade missions. They also learned about financing programs and services that the Minority Business Development Agency offers to its client companies.
In his closing remarks, Acting Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis, Ted Dean, assured members that “in collaboration with the broader U.S. government, Commerce stands ready to work with Council members to ensure they have the support they need to provide important insights on opportunities to enhance the trade finance environment for our exporters.”
It was an inspiring environment, underscoring that achieving an enhanced financing environment for American exporters is not a task that government can do alone. It must be built on a commitment of collaborative work between the government, private sector and academia. This meeting marked a key step to embracing this path.
The Council is scheduled to hold its second meeting in early spring of 2017.