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May

  • 05/30/2013 4:42 PM

    By Nadya Khapochkina, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement 

    On May 29th and 30th, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in conjunction with the Interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC), chaired a public hearing on U.S. negotiating objectives for the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement. A comprehensive TTIP agreement would augment the United States’ already extensive trade relationship with the European Union (EU), and would build a stronger economic partnership that would benefit businesses of all sizes and increase employment opportunities and growth on both sides of the Atlantic. Over sixty interested witnesses testified at the TTIP hearing, representing a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including manufacturers, farm groups, service suppliers, labor unions, consumer groups, environmental organizations, and state governments.

    USTR and other agencies are engaged in a 90-day consultation process regarding the proposed TTIP agreement. USTR-led teams have held many meetings with Members of Congress, and USTR received more than 360 submissions on TTIP from a variety of stakeholders via an online Federal Register solicitation. This ongoing dialogue with Congress, the private sector, and the public has given USTR negotiators a valuable opportunity to hear from stakeholders before beginning the negotiations, and will ensure that the final TTIP agreement takes important public interests into account. And this will not be the final opportunity to provide views; USTR will welcome additional input throughout the negotiation process. 

    The United States and the EU account for nearly half of global GDP and thirty percent of global trade. Each day, goods and services worth nearly $3 billion are traded across the Atlantic, and the investment relationship between the United States and European Union reached nearly $4 trillion in 2011. Roughly 13 million jobs in the United States and the EU are supported by transatlantic trade and investment. 

    The United States and the EU will seek to negotiate an agreement that eliminates tariffs and reduces non-tariff barriers that increase the costs of transatlantic commerce. The two sides will also seek to address emerging challenges for global trade. A transcript of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership public hearing is available here

  • 05/25/2013 8:57 AM

    By Christina Sevilla, Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Small Business, Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness

    This week, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) released a new report requested by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) entitled “U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement: Effects on U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.” Under the U.S.-Korea trade agreement, the U.S. and Korea established a Working Group on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to explore and develop ways for small businesses to take greater advantage of the new economic opportunities created after full implementation of the agreement. To inform the Working Group’s efforts, USTR requested that the ITC examine the agreement’s effects on exports by U.S. small and medium-sized businesses, which account for a significant share of U.S. exporters both to Korea and in general. The ITC sought information from these businesses on the effects of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement on their production, distribution, and export strategies, the benefits of specific provisions of the agreement, as well as challenges those businesses may have faced in exporting to Korea.

    The report found that most small companies responding to the ITC’s request for information expressed the view that the agreement had already proven helpful, and would benefit their companies even more over time. Responses came from small firms in diverse sectors of the economy, including agriculture (wine, tree fruit, potatoes, hay), manufacturing (tool and die, aircraft parts), and services (media, software). Several businesses reported immediate sales increases and creation of new business relationships and improved intellectual property protections. Some raised concerns about remaining non-tariff measures, in particular sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) restrictions.

    In the agriculture sector, for example, the report found that under the agreement, Korea immediately eliminated its MFN duty of 24 percent ad valorem on eligible imports of U.S. cherries, and according to the three firms responding in this sector, the elimination has been the primary driver behind increased U.S. cherry exports to Korea. Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, a Washington State-based grower, packer, and marketer of fruits, said that elimination of the duty on U.S. cherries has greatly reduced prices at the retail level, bringing new consumers to the market for cherries. Still, cherry exporters expressed concerns about a Korean fumigation requirement. The trade agreement established a Committee that provides the U.S with a forum to raise this and other sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) concerns with Korea.

    The report also found that small manufacturers who responded to the ITC expressed the view that the U.S.-Korea trading environment has improved since the agreement entered into force; those firms reported new business possibilities, a strengthening of existing relationships, and more regular sales patterns. Transpo Industries, a New York company that manufactures and supplies safety products and new technology materials for bridges, roadways, tunnels, railroads, airports, and ports reported easier movement of its product into the Korean market since the agreement entered into force, and the company advised ITC that it is “aggressively” pursuing additional trade opportunities afforded under the provisions of the agreement.

    Finally, in the area of services, the businesses surveyed reported substantial new opportunities in Korea, attributable at least in part to what they regard as the improved intellectual property environment. For example, CMJ Holdings Corp., a New York small business that connects music fans and music industry professionals with new music through interactive media, live events and print, credited the combination of strong intellectual property rights (IPR) protections and low prices for legal access to music for substantially reduced music piracy in Korea, creating additional value for U.S. artists’ work.

    The U.S.-Korea trade agreement entered into force on March 15, 2012, opening a trillion dollar Asian economy to U.S. exports of goods and services. Going forward, the USTR will continue to monitor the implementation of the agreement, and work closely with U.S. small and medium-sized businesses and American companies of all sizes to help them take advantage of the new opportunities the agreement provides.

  • 05/24/2013 1:43 PM

    The Obama Administration will continue to open new markets to promote increased agricultural trade around the globe, while at the same time supporting jobs here at home. That was the message that Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Chief Agricultural Negotiator, brought to a seminar entitled “Writing the Rules for 21st Century Trade: New Solutions for Old Problems in the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Negotiations,” hosted by the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week. Ambassador Siddiqui highlighted USTR’s continuing efforts to open new markets, touched on the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and offered a preview of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.

    AIS Chamber of Commerce

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service, Ambassador Siddiqui said, 2012 was a record year for U.S. agricultural exports ($145 billion). Those exports support approximately 1 million jobs for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural exporters. In fact, said Ambassador Siddiqui, U.S. agricultural exports have grown by 44 percent overall since 2009, and USTR will continue its work to open markets to U.S. agricultural exports, including in the context of ongoing and upcoming trade agreement negotiations. 

    USTR’s Dan Mullaney also spoke to International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council seminar earlier in the day. Mullaney previewed the proposed TTIP agreement, and emphasized the importance of the U.S.-EU economic relationship. By focusing on a broad range of trade and investment issues, Mullaney said, the United States will continue to open new markets.

    On May 29th and May 30th, USTR will hold a public hearing on TTIP, please click here for further details.

  • 05/22/2013 9:22 AM

    Note: This is a cross post from the Feed the Future blog. To see the original post, please click here.

    Ambassador Isi Siddiqui is attending The Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative’s fourth annual Global Security Symposium today in Washington, D.C. The symposium is on “Capitalizing on the Power of Science, Trade, and Business to End Hunger and Poverty: A New Agenda for Food Security.” As chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Siddiqui is responsible for bilateral and multilateral negotiations and policy coordination regarding food and agricultural trade.

    We face dual challenges in food security: We need to get food to the people who need it today and grow more for the people who will need it tomorrow. Open, well-functioning markets can help. 

    Global markets are an essential element of food security. Open markets for agricultural commodities, agricultural inputs, and food products help to efficiently move these goods from those who develop and produce them to those who need them, benefitting both producers and consumers. 

    Markets that allow businesses and countries to share technologies help producers increase yields and output, reduce post-harvest losses, and adapt to climate change, while preserving the incentives for future innovation and transfer that are critically important to improving food security. 

    The U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, is driving a new model for development that, among other activities, integrates trade. Trade policies that promote open markets enable job creation, and can sustain and accelerate economic growth around the world. 

    The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) lends our expertise and broader global work—increasing the transparency, predictability, and openness of agricultural trade through bilateral and multilateral exchanges—to the initiative’s goals of reducing global hunger, poverty, and undernutrition. 

    At the World Trade Organization (WTO), for example, we’ve put forth proposals in the area of trade facilitation that would go a long way toward removing barriers to agricultural trade by cutting and reducing border delays. Reducing delays for import clearances is particularly important for perishable food and agricultural products to help ensure that quality products reach consumers. 

    We’re also working closely with our partners at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) on the APEC action plan on food security to continue progress toward our shared goal of free and open trade by 2020. Trade agreements, such as the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), and ongoing negotiations like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are also important tools to facilitate trade, provide reliable market access, and establish dependable distribution systems and supply chains. 

    Recognizing that agricultural production needs to substantially increase to meet growing global demand for food, USTR promotes science-based, transparent, and predictable regulatory approaches that foster innovation, including in agricultural biotechnologies. These types of approaches contribute significantly to a safe and reliable global food supply as the world’s population grows, and they help producers adapt to climate change. 

    Through Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs), we engage countries in discussions on trade and investment policy reform. We have TIFAs with Feed the Future focus countries like Ghana, Rwanda, Liberia, and key regional economic organizations like the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), to name just a few. 

    In East Africa in particular, there is great opportunity for spurring growth by ensuring Feed the Future and the U.S.-East African Community (EAC) Trade and Investment Partnership (TIP) synergies. The EAC and the United States have taken important steps to advance the TIP, which supports regional integration of the EAC and recognizes the importance that trade and investment play in economic and social development, including in agriculture. Through this partnership, we’re focusing on trade facilitation, a regional investment agreement, stronger private sector linkages, and capacity building. 

    USTR, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development work collaboratively to help countries move from aid to trade. 

    Together, our efforts to create transparent, efficient global markets help advance global food security. 

    Follow USTR on Twitter @USTradeRep and read more on the USTR blog. Join USTR and other U.S. Government trade agencies on Twitter every Thursday this May for #TradeChat.

  • 05/21/2013 10:02 AM

    By Christina Sevilla, Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Small Business, Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness

    On Monday, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro delivered remarks at the official launch of a U.S.-Tunisia Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) program at the Embassy of Tunisia in Washington, D.C., with the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Acting Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Alina Romanowski and Tunisian Ambassador to the United States Mokhtar Chaouachi.

    Funded and led by USAID, the SME program seeks to boost Tunisia’s regional trade with North and sub-Saharan Africa, and with partners like the United States. The initiative seeks to promote broad-based Tunisian growth by building the capacity of small business development centers (SBDCs) and providing technical assistance to small firms. Tunisia’s SME centers will connect via an online platform to SBDCs in the United States, with the goal of fostering more small business partnerships and trade opportunities between our countries.

    AMS TunisiaAmbassador Sapiro joins President & CEO of International Executive Service Corps Thomas Miller,
    Tunisian Ambassador to the U.S. Mokhtar Chaouachi, and Acting Assistant Administrator for USAID’s
    Middle East Bureau Alina Romanowski at the Tunisian Embassy.

     The new SME initiative is part of the United States’ renewed engagement with Tunisia under the U.S.-Tunisia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which provides an ongoing platform to discuss a wide range of trade and investment issues, and the Obama Administration’s Middle East and North Africa Trade and Investment Partnership, which is aimed at enhancing our broader economic cooperation with Arab countries in transition. Last year, in TIFA discussions in Tunis and in regional Deauville Partnership discussions at the Dead Sea with Morocco, Egypt, Libya, and Jordan, governments identified support to small and medium businesses as key to furthering economic growth and jobs.

    Since the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has been working to usher in a new era of broad-based economic opportunity, and the United States is a key partner in helping Tunisia achieve its goals of greater prosperity and opportunity for its people. In 2012, bilateral trade in goods surpassed $1 billion, with U.S. exports to Tunisia totaling nearly $600 million, led by grains, fuel, vegetable oil, and machinery. U.S. imports from Tunisia nearly doubled over the course of the last two years, and currently stand at $700 million. To learn more about the Trade and Investment Framework with Tunisia, please click here.  For more information on the SME initiative, please see this fact sheet.

  • 05/17/2013 10:18 AM

    By Sanjana Dubey, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    This week, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro spoke on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the entry into force of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event entitled “Growth, Jobs, and Opportunity for the United States and Colombia: The U.S.-Colombia Trade Agreement on its First Anniversary.” In the course of her remarks, Ambassador Sapiro addressed the new opportunities stemming from increased market access and the elimination of regulatory barriers under the Agreement.

    Ambassador Sapiro at U.S.-Colombia anniversary event

    Ambassador Sapiro highlights the development and opportunities of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion
    Agreement on its one-year anniversary. 

    Ambassador Sapiro discussed the significant growth of U.S. exports to Colombia across many sectors in the past year. From May 2012 through March 2013, U.S. goods exports to Colombia totaled $15.9 billion, up 20 percent from exports during May 2011 through March 2012. The past year’s manufacturing exports to Colombia include increases of 46 percent in petroleum and coal products, 61 percent in transportation equipment, and 17 percent in computer and electronic products. U.S. Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME) that export have benefited from the elimination and lowering of trade barriers like burdensome customs procedures, non-transparent regulatory regimes, and other barriers to market access.

    Prior to entry into force of the agreement, Ambassador Sapiro said, Colombia was already the second largest purchaser of U.S. agricultural products in South America, but the improved access afforded by the trade agreement has opened the market even further. From May 2012 through March 2013, U.S. exports of agricultural products to Colombia increased by 62 percent, with strong export growth in soybeans, wheat, grapes, pork, and dairy products. She explained that the Agreement provided a vehicle for both countries to engage on key outstanding issues related to the U.S.-Colombia agricultural trade relationship, and has helped resolve longstanding regulatory issues that had impeded greater bilateral trade.

    Ambassador Sapiro commended the Colombian Government for making strides in improving the observance of labor rights, protecting workers from violence, and prosecuting perpetrators of violence, but she noted that challenges remain. Sapiro told the audience that the U.S. Government will continue to engage with Colombia in support of the ongoing implementation of its Labor Action Plan commitments, and its labor-related obligations under the trade agreement.

    Since the agreement’s entry into force, the Colombian Government has been pursuing sound policies to promote market openness and competitiveness, and has been rewarded with expanded trade. The one-year anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement, observed on May 15th, underscores the strengthening of the U.S.-Colombia relationship, and the enormous potential for trade growth between the two countries.

  • 05/16/2013 3:47 PM

    Good afternoon, 

    I am excited to celebrate World Trade Month with all of you.  ADMAll over the country, organizations are celebrating World Trade Month with informational and interactive events to educate the public on how trade grows the U.S. economy and supports high-quality jobs for American workers. 

    The Administration’s ambitious trade agenda for 2013 recognizes the important role of trade in our economy, and its contribution to President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goals. We have further intensified ongoing negotiations with Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member countries with the aim of securing a high standard trade agreement to open markets for U.S. exports in the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region. We are also in the midst of a consultation process in anticipation of launching negotiations with the European Union toward a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would further strengthen the world’s largest trade and investment relationship. At the World Trade Organization (WTO), we continue our work to advance trade facilitation and expand the Information Technology Agreement. 

    Meanwhile, enforcement of our existing trade agreements remains, and will continue to be, a cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s trade policy. The Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC), an initiative announced during President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address, has increased trade enforcement efforts and leveraged existing resources more efficiently across the Administration. Further, the ITEC played a critical role in providing research and analysis to four important WTO cases, ensuring that our trading partners play by the rules. 

    A balanced and comprehensive approach to trade policy ensures that high-quality ‘Made in America’ products are sold to customers around the world, supporting millions of American jobs that are critical to workers, families, farmers, ranchers and businesses. As the Obama Administration continues to pursue initiatives that advance U.S. interests and reflect our values, we at USTR will continue to build on the achievements of the last four years – and look ahead to success in our newest pursuits. 

    We look forward to engaging with our global partners, with Congress, and with all of you to ensure that trade continues to move us forward to President Obama’s goal of an economy built to last with well-paying jobs for a growing middle class. 

    Thank you,

    Ambassador Demetrios Marantis

  • 05/16/2013 11:01 AM

    The U.S.-European Union (EU) economic relationship is already successful, Acting U.S. Trade Representative Marantis told a group hosted by the Washington International Trade Association (WITA) this week, and we are optimistic that the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could provide an additional boost. Ambassador Marantis was on hand to talk about U.S.-EU economic growth as part of WITA’s ongoing TTIP-specific series of events. EU Ambassador to the United States João Vale de Almeida also participated in the panel discussion, which was moderated by former Congressman and German Marshall Fund Fellow Jim Kolbe.

    ADM wita pic

    Ambassador Marantis discusses the U.S.-EU economic relationship at the WITA roundtable.

    The United States and the EU account for nearly half of global GDP, and 30 percent of global trade. Each day, goods and services worth nearly $3 billion are traded across the Atlantic, and our investment relationship reached nearly $4 trillion in 2011. The U.S. Government estimates that some 13 million jobs in the United States and the EU are supported by transatlantic trade and investment. By both comprehensively addressing the remaining barriers to U.S.-EU trade and pioneering new disciplines on global trade issues of common concern, the TTIP promises to make the transatlantic relationship an even stronger driver of jobs and prosperity on both sides, Ambassador Marantis said.

    Ambassador Marantis also touched on the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) intensive stakeholder outreach during the run-up to negotiations, which could be launched later this summer. USTR is consulting with Congress, trade stakeholders, and members of the public to shape its negotiating objectives for the proposed agreement, and has received several hundred written public comments via a Federal Register notice. A public hearing on the proposed agreement is scheduled for May 29th and May 30th.

    Ambassador Marantis closed his remarks at WITA by expressing optimism about the proposed negotiations, and reiterated USTR’s commitment to a groundbreaking agreement that delivers substantial benefits to workers, farmers, consumers, and businesses.

  • 05/15/2013 12:02 PM

    Speaking on a conference call with the members of the Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee (IGPAC) this week, Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis highlighted the Administration’s ambitious trade agenda for 2013, and the continuing contributions of the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of supporting up to two million additional export-supported U.S. jobs by the end of 2014. Ambassador Marantis touched on several of USTR’s most important initiatives, including the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), and he detailed the ways in which these proposed agreements would help support jobs in IGPAC members’ states.

    Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

    USTR is in the midst of intensive stakeholder and Congressional consultations as it prepares to launch TTIP negotiations this summer. Ambassador Marantis noted USTR’s strong desire to stay in close contact with state and local officials throughout the TTIP negotiations.

    Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

    Ambassador Marantis spoke with IGPAC members on the latest TPP developments, including the Administration’s April 24th notification to Congress of its intent to include Japan in the negotiations. USTR issued a Federal Register Notice seeking public comment on Japan’s participation in TPP; public comments must be submitted by June 9th. The Ambassador emphasized the significant economic benefits that the inclusion of Japan in the TPP will deliver to all of the participating countries.

    Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)

    The proposed TISA agreement would be a powerful new tool for promoting U.S. exports by removing barriers to the international supply of services, Ambassador Marantis told the participants on the call. Every $1 billion in U.S. services exports supports an estimated 4,000 U.S. jobs. While the United States is currently the world's largest services trader, we have yet to achieve our full export potential.

    IGPAC members are appointed by the U.S. Trade Representative and provide policy advice on issues involving trade, trade negotiations, and the operation of trade agreements in the framework of state-specific concerns. USTR engages with IGPAC regularly to solicit advice and feedback on U.S. trade policy and its effect on state issues. Closing the call, Ambassador Marantis reiterated USTR’s commitment to ongoing consultations with state and local officials throughout the country.

  • 05/13/2013 5:17 PM

    Today, Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Central and South Asia Mara Burr spoke at the Afghan Trusted Network Leadership Roundtable, which focused on positive developments in trade and investment between the United States and Afghanistan. The roundtable, entitled “Building Bridges with the Afghan People: Engagement for Prosperity in the New Afghanistan,” was held as part of the USAID Global Diaspora Forum.

    DAUSTR Burr Addresses Diaspora ForumDeputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Mara Burr addresses Afghan Trusted Network Leadership
    Roundtable on U.S.-Afghanistan trade and investment.

    Burr spoke on trade and investment cooperation between the United States and Afghanistan, and on Afghanistan’s work to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the end of 2014. Membership in the WTO, a significant accomplishment, will bring Afghanistan into full participation in the multilateral trade system as a country that is committed to rules-based international trade. Accession to the WTO would signal to both foreign and domestic investors that Afghanistan has made significant improvements to its legal and regulatory system, and will strive to create a positive environment for trade and investment.

    Burr also touched on the progress that the two countries made at the last United States – Afghanistan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meeting held on February 27, 2013 in Washington, D.C. At that meeting, Afghanistan and the United States agreed to pursue a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Joint Efforts to Empower Women Entrepreneurs. Burr told the audience that the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is hoping to complete that MOU by early June. The U.S.-Afghanistan TIFA was signed in 2004, and has helped to improve government to government and government to business discussions, and has served as an important mechanism for bilateral dialogue on trade and investment. In closing, Burr reiterated the long-term commitment of the United States to the people of Afghanistan to ensure that economic development in the country is sustainable.

  • 05/10/2013 9:35 AM

    Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – Yesterday, officials from the United States, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua held the Environmental Affairs Council (EAC) meeting under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). Representatives from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the State Department participated in this meeting on behalf of the United States.

    During the meeting, the CAFTA-DR Parties reaffirmed their strong commitment to work together to enhance the mutually supportive nature of trade and environmental protection through implementation of the CAFTA-DR Environment Chapter and the Environmental Cooperation Agreement. The Council Members reviewed progress on implementation of the Environment Chapter and shared important achievements, including those involving environmental cooperation and capacity building.

    The Council Members also had the opportunity to meet with numerous stakeholders and engage in a robust question and answer session. During the public session, the CAFTA-DR Secretariat for Environmental Matters described the environment submission process through which members of the public can allege that a party is failing to effectively enforce its environmental laws. 

    The Joint Communiqué can be found here

    Background 

    Since 2004, the United States has dedicated over $85 million to support environmental cooperation in the CAFTA-DR Region. Through this cooperation, the CAFTA-DR governments are working to strengthen implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, protect biodiversity, increase market-based conservation, and improve private sector environmental performance. Results of this work include: improving or adopting over 170 laws and regulations addressing issues like waste water, air pollution and solid waste, bringing more than 1.3 million hectares of land under improved natural resource management, and training over 56,000 people in enforcement and implementation of environmental laws, public participation, cleaner production, natural resource management, and biodiversity conservation.

  • 05/09/2013 4:26 PM

    By Roya Stephens, Office of Public and Media Affairs

    This Weekly Trade Spotlight highlights the exciting work of Colby Kirk and John Hancock, who interned at the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) last summer in the Textiles Office. Kirk and Hancock, who were recently profiled on the “Modern Fellows” blog, used the knowledge they gained at USTR to open “J&C Suiting,” which sells custom suits hand-tailored in Pakistan.

    When Georgetown Masters of Science in Foreign Service graduates Colby Kirk and John Hancock first started summer internships at USTR, they didn’t know that their experiences would lead them to start a business, but that’s exactly what they did. Utilizing lessons from their internship in textile quality, customs, trade preference programs, and international trade agreements, Kirk and Hancock launched their home-grown, hand-sewn business.

    J & C 1

    Colby Kirk and John Hancock return to USTR to discuss their new venture, J&C Suiting. 

    Kirk and Hancock came to USTR with no background or prior interest in textiles, but under the direction and mentorship of Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Textiles and Apparel Gail Strickler, the two threw themselves into the world of textiles, and quickly learned the importance of this industry to many developing countries. Their internship portfolio included identifying quality textiles, understanding trade preference programs, measuring customs duties, and researching the textile industry in countries of interest. Hancock previously lived and worked in Pakistan and was well-versed in the strong Pakistani hand-tailoring tradition, and often brought high-quality, low-cost tailored suits to his friends back in America. As they learned more about textiles trade, Kirk and Hancock began to see how they could use their growing knowledge of textiles to lay the foundation for a wider business endeavor that would support development in Pakistan and enable American customers to purchase low cost, high-quality bespoke suits.

    J & C 2

    Kirk and Hancock display the inside construction of one of their hand-tailored suit jackets from Pakistan. 

    The two young entrepreneurs put their plan into action immediately; after long days at USTR’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, they would work on their business plan, practice taking suit measurements, and begin sourcing tailors with the help of their Pakistani-based friend and business partner Abbas Tariq. While both Kirk and Hancock agree that their lack of a business background left them at a slight disadvantage, Kirk was thankful for his internship experience, saying “the technical knowledge of trade agreements, and also the knowledge of textiles in particular are key to what we do.” They believe that their experience working on textile and apparel issues in trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and preference programs like the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) provided them with vital information and guidance as they sought to develop their business.>

    It appears that the stitches for J&C Suiting are falling into place. The two recent graduates have been accepted to Georgetown’s entrepreneurial incubator program and are excited to expand their business. They are exploring ways to increase their client base while maintaining their personal interactions, and hope to move some of their production into Haiti, a country that also has a rich history in tailoring. Haiti benefits from the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act (HOPE II), which provides preferential treatment for Haitian exports of apparel, textiles, and certain other goods.

    J & C 3

    The young entreprenuers show the distinctive J&C Suiting label of a completed product. 

    Kirk and Hancock have even begun to consult fledgling companies trying to establish businesses in developing countries. Hancock reflected on some of their initial business endeavors, saying “we know how to talk to the Pakistani customs agents when we’re importing Italian fabrics and we have an understanding of value added tax and what that means for a textile”. He admits that while they may not have the most efficient process, they know the right questions to ask and often share their lessons from USTR to help others understand textiles preference programs, value-added tax, apparel duty rates, fabric-sourcing, and customs and duties. The young entrepreneurs also encourage businesses to utilize government support, apply for grants provided by the World Bank and other development agencies to facilitate business in developing countries, and explore the USTR website to learn about countries with preference programs, duty rates, and other elements that are vital to trade with developing countries. To learn more about J&C Suiting, please visit their website here, and for more on USTR’s Office of Textiles and Apparel, click here.

  • 05/06/2013 6:15 PM

    May is World Trade Month, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), along with export, trade, and finance-related federal agencies will host a series of Twitter Q&A Sessions for U.S. companies. The Twitter chat series will provide U.S. companies with exporting solutions and resources to begin or expand exporting goods and services to overseas markets.

    Through the chats, businesses can ask questions and connect directly with U.S. government agencies that play a role in President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI),#TradeChat which seeks to grow and create jobs by increasing exports. USTR plays a key role in executing the NEI by opening markets and securing access for U.S. businesses around the world. In addition to USTR, the Department of State, the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the International Trade Administration (ITA), the Small Business Administration (SBA), BusinessUSA, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), and the Export-Import Bank of the United States all play a role in supporting the NEI, and will participate in the chat.

    Businesses can participate in the event by tweeting their questions using the hashtag #TradeChat during the scheduled times listed below.

    Schedule and topics

    Thursday, May 9th at 2:00pm EDT: Export Opportunities

    Agencies will share information about export assistance, international business partnership programs, match-making, and market research. U.S. companies will also learn about the new BusinessUSA.gov website and how this one-stop resource can help businesses begin exporting or increase their exports.

    Thursday, May 16th at 2:00pm EDT: Financing

    Export financing is often a key factor in a successful sale. U.S. companies should be aware of the many financing options available from U.S. government agencies to assist them with the export and trade process. This Twitter chat will provide firms with more information about the available financing options, including buyer financing, insuring foreign receivables, and working capital loans and guarantees.

    Thursday, May 23rd at 2:00pm EDT: Training and Travel Opportunities 

    U.S. government agencies often host training, webinars, workshops, seminars, trade missions and trade fairs for U.S. companies interested in doing business overseas. This Twitter chat will provide firms with the knowledge they need to utilize these resources and events and connect directly with foreign buyers. 

    Joining the discussion

    To participate, sign into your Twitter account at the start time and submit a question on the topic using hashtag #TradeChat. Agencies will respond to as many Tweets and questions on the topic as possible. Questions can also be submitted in advance using the online form on http://www.ustda.gov/TradeChat

    For information on the Twitter chat series, visit http://www.ustda.gov/TradeChat. A live feed of the chats will be broadcast and archived on USTDA’s website for individuals who are not connected to Twitter. 

    Highlights from the Twitter chat series will also be available on Storify here.

  • 05/03/2013 5:05 PM

    By Eliza Levy, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement

    Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could lead to significant growth of U.S. exports to the Asia-Pacific region, Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis told conference participants at this week’s Global Business Dialogue “Eleven Plus One: Japan’s Bid to Join the Trans-Pacific Partnership” event. The conference examined Japan’s prospective participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations through the viewpoints of a series of speakers and panelists. Over 140 guests attended the conference event, including members of the business community, embassy officials, academics, U.S. government officials, and members of the press.

    During his remarks, Ambassador Marantis laid out the Administration’s robust trade agenda and specifically focused on the TPP and the significance of Japan’s participation in this important regional initiative. Although Japan’s inclusion in the negotiations brings promising opportunities, Ambassador Marantis said, there will be real challenges for the U.S. and other negotiating partners to surmount. He noted that the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will continue to consult extensively with Congress and stakeholders as it ensures that Japan meets the high standards of the proposed agreement.

    ADM Global Business DialogueActing U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis speaks at an event hosted by the Global Business Dialogue.

    On April 24th, the Administration notified Congress of its intent to include Japan in the TPP negotiations. With Japan’s entry, TPP countries will account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP and about one-third of all world trade. Japan’s participation in the TPP will offer unprecedented opportunities to further open Japan’s market and establish a level playing field in Japan for U.S. goods, services, and investment, and will dramatically enhance the TPP’s overall economic potential to support additional U.S. trade and jobs.

    There were three panels; the first provided an overview of the TPP, the second examined issues for industry and agriculture, and the third assessed views from other TPP partners. During the first panel, “The Big Picture: An Overview of Japan’s Bid to Join the TPP,” Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler outlined the details of the agreements with and actions by Japan that enabled the United States to conclude bilateral consultations with Japan on joining TPP negotiations. During the panel, Minister Takeo Mori of the Japanese Embassy provided Japan’s perspective on its upcoming participation in the TPP negotiations. In addition, the event included remarks from Distinguished Visiting Fellow of the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.