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  • 04/26/2012 4:53 PM

    Last week, Deputy Assistant USTR for Small Business and Market Access Christina Sevilla spoke on the “Exporting for Small Business” panel at the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Units (OSDBU) Annual Conference.  The OSDBU Procurement Conference is a national conference fostering business partnerships between the Federal Government and small, minority-owned, veteran-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, HUBZone, and women-owned businesses.  Now in its 22nd year, the OSDBU Directors Conference is a premier event for small business throughout the United States.

    According to organizers, this was the first time that the OSBDU conference -- primarily focused on Federal Government contracting opportunities for small business --- also included a panel on Small Business exporting with interagency participation, given the National Export Initiative’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and priority attention to small businesses who are new to exporting.  And according to the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency, minority-owned firms are more likely to export compared to non-minority-owned firms, regardless of firm size.  For example, minority-owned firms in wholesale trade; professional, scientific and technical services; and finance and insurance were more likely to export compared to non-minority firms in those same industries.  Among firms generating 50% to 100% of their annual $1 million plus sales through exports, minority-owned firms were four times (4.2%) as likely to export compared to non-minority firms (1%). Minority firms are also five times more likely to conduct business in a language other than English compared to non-minority owned firms.

    Christina Sevilla speaks on Exporting for Small Business panel at OSDBU Conference
    Deputy Assistant USTR Christina Sevilla, second from right, participates in "Exporting for Small Business" panel

    Foreign language capability can be a huge advantage for U.S. minority and diaspora entrepreneurs seeking to make export sales to U.S. trade agreement partners in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. Sevilla spoke about the benefits to small businesses of U.S. trade agreements, such as the new agreements with Colombia and Korea.  Trade agreement partners can be easier markets for small firms to access due to the reduction and elimination of tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers, and speedier customs procedures to get products to market under the agreements.  Reducing tariff costs and cutting red tape can make a big difference to a small company seeking to export for the first time or to enter a new market.

    She also highlighted new opportunities for small business suppliers to access foreign government procurement markets under the revised WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) that will be available when it enters into force, possibly as early as 2013.  For example, the revised agreement will give U.S. suppliers access to more than 150 additional central government entities in European Union Member States, including Bulgaria, Finland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Sweden.  U.S. suppliers will also gain access to a number of additional central government entities in other GPA Parties, including in Aruba, Hong Kong, Israel, Liechtenstein, Korea, and Switzerland.

    Small and minority-owned and women-owned firms which have successfully competed for U.S. government contracts may now consider foreign government contracts a promising new opportunity opened up by U.S. trade negotiations.

  • 04/24/2012 1:39 PM
  • 04/23/2012 12:50 PM

    Ambassador Kirk tries his hand at hammering a pewter mug at the Royal Selangor pewter company in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, before meeting with leaders of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers. Ambassador Kirk is in Southeast Asia this week to outline key U.S. trade objectives with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

     Ambassador Kirk hammers a pewter mug in Malaysia

    Following his two-day stop in Kuala Lumpur, Ambassador Kirk will fly to Singapore where he will deliver a speech at Singapore Management University.

  • 04/18/2012 7:53 AM

    Washington, DC – Elected officials and leaders across business, industry, agriculture and services issued statements supporting President Obama and Colombian President Santos’ announcement on Sunday that the U.S-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement would enter into force on May 15, 2012.

    Since the agreement won strong bipartisan approval in Congress last fall, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has worked diligently with stakeholders and the Colombian government to ensure all necessary steps were taken to secure what President Obama called a “high standards agreement.”

    Upon entry into force on May 15, 80 percent of U.S. exports of industrial and manufactured products to Colombia will become duty free. This will boost U.S. exports, and help to support more and better jobs for American workers.

    Here’s what leaders are saying so far:

    “This is great news for ranchers, farmers and businesses in Montana and across the country. In just thirty days, U.S. exporters and workers will be competing on a level playing field in this crucial market for American goods, and this will boost U.S. exports by a billion dollars and create the jobs we need here at home. We know that when Americans compete on a level playing field, they win. So this agreement entering into force is vital to giving U.S. workers a leg up in the global economy by removing Colombia’s barriers to our manufactured and agricultural goods from Montana and across the country.” – Max Baucus (D-MT), Senate Finance Committee Chairman

    “This agreement will have a positive economic impact in Miami-Dade County, where international trade already generates billions of dollars for our community,” – Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Miami-Dade County Commissioner

    “This landmark agreement opens the door to new business opportunities, economic growth, and job creation in the U.S. and Colombia. Today our two countries can celebrate as we take our partnership to a new level.” – Thomas Donahue, U.S. Chamber President and CEO

    “The U.S. – Colombia trade agreement will increase opportunities creating jobs for America’s small and minority businesses which are the primary exporters in foreign markets. This will enhance business deals between the two countries and bring Latin America closer as a trading partner.” – Roger A. Campos, President & CEO, Minority Business RoundTable

    “We are extremely pleased to see this FTA set for implementation. Our extensive efforts over the nearly six years since the agreement was first signed have finally become a reality and U.S. wheat exports will now compete on an equal basis with other major exporters." – Alvaro de la Fuentes , U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Regional Vice President for South America

    “[Retail Industry Leaders Association] RILA and our members are delighted to see that the benefits of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement will finally be realized next month. We applaud President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk for their work to implement this long-anticipated trade promotion agreement. The Colombia FTA will benefit retailers by bringing certainty and stability to the trade relationship between the United States and Colombia” – Stephanie Lester, Vice President of International Trade, Retail Industry Leaders Association

  • 04/18/2012 7:51 AM

    Yesterday, Ambassador Kirk held a conference call with members of the Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee (IGPAC). Ambassador Kirk provided an update on implementation of U.S. trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama, as well as the Obama Administration’s enhanced efforts to enforce U.S. trade rights.

    The discussion focused on the benefits of the trade agreements, including the recent announcement by President Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia that the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement will enter into force on May 15, 2012. Ambassador Kirk noted the positive response to the President’s announcement, adding that USTR certified that Colombia has met the requirements for entry into force of the agreement. Ambassador Kirk also noted progress made by the Colombian government under the Colombia Action Plan Related to Labor Rights, including the establishment of a new ministry of labor and additional resources to prosecute perpetrators of violence against union members.

    Ambassador Kirk also highlighted USTR’s efforts to enforce U.S. trade agreements, saying that while “trade expansion is one aspect of our work, equally critical is trade enforcement.” He described USTR’s lead role in the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC), which was established by President Obama. As laid out in the President’s Blueprint for America and as part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to leveling the playing field for international trade, ITEC will draw from various agencies to focus on enforcement and pursue trade issues with more resources than previously available. Ambassador Kirk cited a recently filed World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement case against China’s export restraints on rare earths as an example of a complex case that requires the kind of rigorous analysis that ITEC will enable.

    To conclude, the Ambassador commented that steps need to be taken by Congress as Russia joins the WTO this year. Specifically, he said Congress needs to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, so that the United States has more WTO enforcement tools available and to ensure that U.S. exporters can compete on a level playing field against their international competitors in Russia.

  • 04/16/2012 1:34 PM

    Assistant United States Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East L. Daniel Mullaney recently led a delegation of USTR, Commerce and State Department officials to meet with the Government of Tunisia under the auspices of the U.S.-Tunisia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council, relaunched last fall. Tunisia is charting a path towards greater economic openness, transparency, and deepening bilateral trade and investment ties with the United States, and with partners in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.

    USTR officials Mullaney, Deputy Assistant USTR for Eurasia and the Middle East Mark Mowrey, Deputy Assistant USTR for Small Business Market Access Christina Sevilla, Department of Commerce North Africa desk officer Christopher Wilken, and U.S. Embassy-Tunis Commercial Attache Isabel Rioja-Scott met with a large Tunisian delegation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by Ambassador Faysal Gouia. The two sides discussed issues under the Market Access, Services, Investment and Intellectual Property Rights working groups and specific steps that the parties could take to improve the business climate and lay the groundwork for greater and more comprehensive trade liberalization, which would support Tunisia’s economic growth and employment goals. The U.S. delegation also met with officials responsible for Small and Medium Enterprises, and the Tunisian private sector, including the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce, the Tunis Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Tunisian Union for Industry, Commerce, and Artisans (UTICA), to hear their views on how to strengthen U.S.-Tunisia commercial ties and regional integration. The Tunisian private sector is particularly interested in attracting investment, franchising opportunities, forging business partnerships with U.S. firms including in third country markets, and helping small and medium businesses find trade opportunities with American and regional partners.

    America and Tunisia have a history of diplomatic and commercial ties dating back more than 200 years, from the American Friendship Treaty with Tunisia signed in 1799. The U.S. is committed to a strong partnership and growing two-way trade with Tunisia as it transitions to a new era of openness.

     USTR-led delegation at TIFA meeting with the Government of Tunisia

    USTR-led delegation meets with Tunisian private sector representatives


  • 04/13/2012 3:09 PM

    This weekend, Ambassador Kirk will accompany President Obama at the sixth Summit of the Americas (SOA) in Cartagena, Colombia. This year’s Summit theme, “Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity,” reinforces the spirit of partnership that has been at the core of the Obama administration’s policy.

    Through equal partnership and the power of proximity, the United States is working effectively with an increasingly capable set of partners to address key challenges facing the people of the Americas. President Obama and Ambassador Kirk will focus on advancing core U.S. interests in the region.

    At the fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009 in Trinidad & Tobago President Obama challenged the region to embrace regional cooperation based on partnership and shared responsibility. Many nations embraced that call and the results have been significant. Key commitments include:

    • Promoting Robust and Inclusive Economic Growth: As improving economic policies governance continues to lift millions of people in the region out of poverty and into the middle class, opportunities for U.S. firms abound, and we are moving decisively to seize them.

    • Strengthening Energy Partnerships: The United States receives more than half its imported energy from the Western Hemisphere. Experts believe that proportion will increase significantly in the coming years, making stronger partnerships essential. Canada is our largest supplier of imported energy, and Mexico is our third largest. We also have also launched strategic energy dialogues with Brazil and Colombia – two leading energy exporters of the future.

    • Promoting Educational Exchanges for Partners of the Future: The interpersonal and cultural connections that bind the United States and our regional neighbors are among our strongest assets. Through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas, we will increase educational exchanges in both directions by assisting students find opportunities for foreign study and developing public-private partnerships to fund them.

    • Improving Citizen Security: The Administration has put the security of people in their daily lives across the Americas at the center of a next-generation citizen security strategy that emphasizes an integrated and multilateral partnership to strengthen the institutions that will build and sustain the rule of law, address the root causes of crime, and guarantee long-term public security.

    • Building New Global Partnerships for the 21st Century: The Inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC), a product of the Summit process, is an essential tool for the collective defense of democracy. The United States will continue to work with our strong regional partners through the IADC framework.

  • 04/13/2012 9:24 AM

    The United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic held the sixth meeting of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) Environmental Affairs Council (EAC) today in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the State Department represented the United States at this meeting.

    During the meeting, the CAFTA-DR Parties reaffirmed their strong commitment to work together to preserve and protect the environment through implementation of the CAFTA-DR Environment Chapter and the Environmental Cooperation Agreement. The success of the implementation of the Environment Chapter along with cooperative activities under CAFTA-DR demonstrates the importance of increased trade and stronger environmental protection.

    The Council Members also met with members of the public. The Council Members shared progress on implementation of the Environment Chapter and on important results achieved on environmental cooperation and capacity building. The CAFTA-DR Secretariat for Environmental Matters gave a presentation during the public session regarding the enforcement of environmental laws under the CAFTA-DR Environment Chapter.

    The CAFTA-DR entered into force for the United States and El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua during 2006, for the Dominican Republic on March 1, 2007, and for Costa Rica on January 1, 2009. To date, the United States has dedicated more than $77 million to support trade and environment capacity building through environmental cooperation in the CAFTA-DR region. CAFTA-DR environmental cooperation focuses on efforts to strengthen implementation and enforce environmental laws, protect biodiversity, increase market-based conservation, and improve private sector environmental performance.

  • 04/12/2012 5:01 PM

    Yesterday the Administration’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, released an economic report on intellectual property-intensive industries and their impact on the U.S. economy. The report, “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus” was written by the Department of Commerce, working with the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and the chief economists of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Department of Labor, and other Federal agencies. This report identifies the full range of sectors that generate intellectual property, as well as the jobs, exports, and wage premiums those sectors support.

    The findings of this report underscore a key point included in the President’s Trade Agenda: “promoting [a] trade policy that keeps pace with 21st century innovation can support the growth of well-paying IP trade-related job in the United States.” Specifically, the report found that intellectual property is critical to our balance of trade, since goods from the IP-intensive industries account for 60% of all US merchandise exports, and 19% of our services exports. The study also shows that intellectual property is a key driver of our economy: IP-intensive industries create 27.1 million jobs and indirectly support another 12.9 million jobs. All told, nearly 30 percent of all U.S. jobs are directly or indirectly attributable to the IP-intensive industries. And these are jobs that pay well. The average weekly wage in the IP-intensive industries overall is 42% higher by 2010 and its 73% for patent industry jobs and 77% for copyright industry jobs.

    The findings in this report highlight the importance of intellectual property through our economy. USTR will continue to grow and sustain innovative jobs through our trade agenda, including by advancing a robust intellectual property chapter in the TPP negotiations; ensuring that our trade agreements are properly implemented; and using the “Special 301” process of reporting on intellectual property protection and enforcement and bilateral engagement, to enhance the protection and enforcement of IPR in our trading partners, and ensure greater market access so that legitimate U.S. exports of IP-intensive products can reach global consumers.

  • 04/06/2012 2:14 PM

    Yesterday Ambassador Ron Kirk and Secretary of Commerce John Bryson attended a plenary meeting of the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) at the Department of Commerce. They provided remarks and participated in a question and answer session with ITAC advisors. Remarks referenced the overall competitiveness of U.S. products, trade barriers, the benefits of the free trade agreements and President Obama’s commitment to enforcement.

    With respect to enforcement, the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) is intended to level the playing field for American workers and businesses by bringing a more aggressive “whole-of-government” approach to addressing unfair trade practices, and it will significantly enhance the capabilities of the United States to challenge unfair trade practices around the world. The ITEC will provide more resources to ensure that everyone is competing on a level playing field. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has a leading role in trade enforcement and will be appointing the ITEC Director.

    Ambassador Kirk speaks to members at ITAC meeting
    Ambassador Kirk speaks to members at ITAC meeting

    The remarks also focused on the wide range of U.S. trading partners and their effects on U.S. businesses, including comments on Japan, Canada and Mexico’s desire to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Ambassador Kirk emphasized that trade with Canada and Mexico topped $1 trillion last year, additionally he commented on the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on March 15th.

    Additional briefings were provided to the ITACs by USTR staff, including Tim Reif, General Counsel for USTR; Christine Turner, Assistant USTR for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement; L. Daniel Mullaney, Assistant USTR for Europe and the Middle East; Barbara Weisel, Assistant USTR for the South East Asia Office; Chris Wilson, Assistant USTR for WTO and Multilateral Affairs; and Christine Bliss, Assistant USTR for Services and Investment.

    The USTR and the Department of Commerce created the Industry Trade Advisory Center to jointly administer the work of sixteen ITACs, a Committee of Chairs, and over 375 industry executives.

  • 04/04/2012 1:29 PM

    Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis visited Los Angeles's dynamic apparel, fashion, and creative industries on April 2 and 3 to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade expansion and enforcement initiatives. He first visited 3 apparel manufacturers -- Karen Kane, New Fashion Inc, and Blue River Denim -- for a close view of the success these factories have had in manufacturing and promoting high fashion "Made in the USA" apparel. Ambassador Marantis also gathered with a group of designers, apparel manufacturers, retailers, and other industry leaders at the California Market Center for a roundtable discussion of issues that concern them, including ways that trade agreements, like the TPP and the recently entered into force U.S.-Korea trade agreement, can boost U.S. made apparel exports to the region. They also discussed how President Obama's newly announced Interagency Trade Enforcement Committee (ITEC) can help address increasing concerns with counterfeiting and intellectual property rights.

    Ambassador Marantis at New Fashion Products Inc.
    Ambassador Marantis at New Fashion Products Inc.

    Ambassador Marantis visits Blue River Demin
    Ambassador Marantis visits Blue River Demin

    Ambassador Marantis at Karen Kane Factory
    Ambassador Marantis at Karen Kane Factory

    On Tuesday, Ambassador Marantis participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives of LA-based film studios, independent filmmakers, unions, and the Mayor's office to talk about the Obama Administration's trade agenda and export opportunities for U.S. creative industries. Highlighting the $12 billion trade surplus in this export-intensive sector, Ambassador Marantis outlined how the Administration is working to further enhance opportunities by pursuing trade agreements like the TPP, enforcing those agreements, and strengthening relationships on the bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels. Discussion topics included the recent successful negotiation of enhanced market access for US films in China, the path forward to an ambitious outcome in the TPP negotiations, and how the TPP can help LA-based small- and medium-sized businesses.

  • 04/03/2012 4:45 PM

    On Saturday, USTR held a meeting of the U.S.-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Trade and Investment Council in Georgetown, Guyana. Assistant United States Trade Representative (AUSTR) for the Western Hemisphere John Melle led the U.S. delegation. Director of Trade for Trinidad and Tobago Norris Herbert led the CARICOM delegation. CARICOM is a group of 15 Caribbean nations and dependencies. The Trade and Investment Council was established on July 22, 1991.

    During the March 31 meeting, the United States and CARICOM leaders discussed progress towards a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). The United States expressed openness to a potential extension of benefits available under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) to eligible CARICOM member states and other Caribbean nations. The Council agreed to explore greater cooperation on various issues including small businesses and intellectual property, among others. The United States and CARICOM pledged to continue close cooperation, and agreed to hold the next Council meeting in the United States.

    Following the Council meeting AUSTR John Melle stated, “Our joint goal is for the Council to serve as a forum for deepening and strengthening our work on trade and economic issues. I am pleased to say that we made progress on a number of important issues and renewed our commitment to facilitate the growth of trade and investment among our countries.”