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Blog Entries from March 2012

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson Highlights Manufacturing and Exports in Florida

Secretary Bryson delivering his remarks at Pavilion Furniture

This week, U.S. Commerce Secretary and former CEO John Bryson traveled to Florida to meet with local business leaders and discuss his priorities for supporting advanced manufacturing and encouraging exports. On Thursday evening, Bryson delivered remarks to the National Association of Manufacturers Board of Directors dinner in Boca Raton, Fla. Friday morning, he visited the Port of Miami and took a tour of Pavilion Furniture, a Miami Gardens, Fla.  company that is working with the Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service to expand the exports of its products. Following the tour, Bryson delivered remarks and joined Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and local business leaders for a discussion about how the private and public sector can work together to expand exports and create jobs.

Business leaders participating in the discussion included Mike Buzzella, President and CEO of Pavilion Furniture, Raj Rangaswamy, President of Target Engineering, and Luis Arguello, CEO of DemeTech. Target Engineering, an engineering services firm, will be joining Secretary Bryson on a Commerce-led trade mission to India at the end of the month. DemeTech Corporation, a producer of surgical sutures and blades, previously joined a Commerce Department trade mission to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. has recently experienced dramatic job growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector. In the past two years U.S. manufacturing created over 400,000 jobs – over 80,000 in the first two months of this year alone. Bryson highlighted some of the Administration’s initiatives to support advanced manufacturing, including the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The Network, which President Obama proposed last week, would be a $1 billion investment in up to 15 institutes of advanced manufacturing research and experience across the country, designed to help make U.S. manufacturers more innovative and competitive.

Bryson also shared news on Commerce’s efforts to boost exports. This week marks the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Executive Order creating the National Export Initiative, when President Obama set the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. Earlier this week, the Commerce Department released new data showing that jobs supported by U.S. exports increased by 1.2 million between 2009 and 2011. In 2011, exports supported approximately 9.7 million jobs, and the value of U.S. exports of goods and services exceeded $2.1 trillion for the first time in U.S. history. 

In addition, Bryson discussed the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement (KORUS), which went into effect yesterday. Korea is the world’s 12th largest economy, and under the new agreement, about 80 percent of Korea’s tariffs on U.S. industrial products are now dropping to zero. KORUS is America’s most significant trade agreement in nearly two decades, and is estimated to increase U.S. exports by approximately $11 billion, support tens of thousands of American jobs, and open up Korea’s $1 trillion economy for America’s workers and businesses.

At both stops, Secretary Bryson stressed that The Commerce Department is dedicated to providing business across the country the resources they need to build products here and sell them everywhere.

U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement Provides Opportunities for U.S. Export Businesses

Korea Trade Agreement Enters into Effect

The United States-Korea Trade Agreement (KORUS Agreement) enters into effect today, reducing tariffs on almost all U.S. industrial exports to South Korea and making it easier for U.S. exporters to successfully compete in the Korean market.

With the implementation of the KORUS Agreement, tariffs will immediately be eliminated on almost 80 percent of U.S. exports to Korea.

Tariffs will also be reduced on other industrial exports that are not made automatically duty-free—the average tariff rate on U.S. industrial exports to South Korea will be reduced from 6.2 percent to 1.1 percent. Most remaining tariffs will be eliminated within 10 years. In addition, the KORUS agreement will eliminate tariffs on nearly two-thirds of all U.S. agricultural exports to Korea. The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) can help exporters figure out when tariffs on their products will be reduced or eliminated (PDF).

The KORUS agreement means more trade for U.S. businesses and more jobs for American workers. The tariff reductions give U.S. exports a competitive advantage in the Korean market, creating new opportunities for companies to do business in South Korea and providing opportunities to expand the reach of their businesses.

For example:

  • Zeeland Farm Services, Inc. (ZFS) is a family-owned and operated agricultural and transportation business with over 200 employees. ZFS was able to break into the Korean market in 2008, and their annual sales revenues in exports to Korea have been around the $5 million mark. The base tariff rates on ZFS’s product categories range from three percent for cottonseed exports to eight percent for soybean meal exports. Under the KORUS agreement, all of these tariffs would immediately drop to zero, giving ZFS a competitive advantage in the Korea market.
  • iWood Eco Design is a Louisville, Kentucky-based manufacturer of custom wood-framed sunglasses. The company currently pays an eight percent tariff on its exports to Korea, Under the KORUS agreement, these sunglasses will enter the country duty-free, immediately creating cost savings for the company. Expedited customs clearance commitments in the pending trade agreement would also facilitate greater access to international delivery services.
  • Pipe Line Development Company (PLIDCO), a Cleveland, Ohio-based manufacturer of pipeline repair and maintenance fittings, currently employs approximately 100 employees. International markets, including Korea and other Asian markets, comprise 74 percent of PLIDCO’s export revenue. PLIDCO currently faces tariffs of up to eight percent on its exports to the Korea. These tariffs will be eliminated under the KORUS agreement, enabling PLIDCO to better compete with other top exporters to Korea, including those from the EU and Iran.

The KORUS agreement is also an important step toward meeting President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goal to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. This commitment to supporting exports is one way the Commerce Department is working to support an American economy that’s built to last.

Risk of Major Flooding in Spring is Low for the First Time in Four Years

U.S. Spring Flood Risk Map for 2012

Drought lingers in southern Plains and Southeast, expands in West and upper Midwest

For the first time in four years, no area of the country faces a high risk of major to record spring flooding, largely due to the limited winter snowfall, according to NOAA’s annual Spring Outlook, which forecasts the potential for flooding from April to June.

“We’re not forecasting a repeat of recent historic and prolonged flooding in the central and northern U.S., and that is a relief,” said Laura Furgione, deputy director, NOAA’s National Weather Service. “The severity of any flooding this year will be driven by rainfall more so than the melting of the current snowpack.”

The Ohio River basin including portions of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, along with parts of Louisiana and Mississippi are the only areas with an above-normal risk of flooding as soil moisture and river levels are currently above normal. Additionally, odds favor above-average April rainfall for the Ohio River basin.

River and stream water levels are normal to below normal for most of the country and there is less snow pack than in previous years. As a result, there is a normal flood risk from the Northeast, through the mid-Atlantic, across most of the northern Plains and into the Northwest. However, heavy spring rainfall can lead to flooding at any time, even in areas where overall risk is considered at or even below normal.  Drought outlook infographic  |  Full NOAA release

SelectUSA Brings Investment to the United States

SelectUSA logo

Guest blog post by Barry Johnson, executive director of SelectUSA

Today, Commerce Secretary John Bryson met with a number of U.S. ambassadors to countries where SelectUSA, the first federal initiative to help drive investment to the United States to create American jobs, is being implemented. The Commerce Department recently launched SelectUSA in ten countries, including China, Brazil, India and South Korea, and their discussion focused on opportunities for further collaboration. The ambassadors were visiting Washington as part of the State Department’s Global Chiefs of Mission Conference.

One of Secretary Bryson’s top priorities is attracting more investment to the United States to create good American jobs. The Commerce Department, through SelectUSA, is helping to tell the story of why America is the best place for companies from around the world to invest, to hire and to build the future of their businesses.

As part of SelectUSA, the Commerce Department will serve businesses seeking to invest or expand in the U.S. and the state, cities and regions that they seek to attract  and host the business. SelectUSA serves as an information clearinghouse on federal rules, regulations and resources; advocates on behalf of the U.S. as the premier investment destination; and functions as an ombudsman to resolve federal-level problems, issues and impediments to investment.

The Commerce Department just finished two-day training sessions with commercial service officers in ten fast-growing pilot markets to conduct outreach to potential investors and perform SelectUSA investment promotion. Together, these countries represent approximately 30 percent of all foreign direct investment (FDI) in the United States. They also reflect both the largest and fastest growing sources of FDI, as well as posts that have been the most active on investment promotion issues.

NACIE Promotes Innovative Lab-to-Market Strategies to Spur Economic Growth

Erskine and Kappos at NACIE meeting

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary Matt Erskine, Economic Development Administration

Today I joined my colleagues, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office David Kappos and Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Phillip Singerman, at a meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) in New Orleans. The quarterly meeting of NACIE’s board coincided with local Entrepreneurship Week activities and brought together over 250 entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders to discuss how we can best support them.

NACIE is a public-private partnership started by the Department of Commerce to provide guidance on how we can best support the growing businesses that will create the jobs and industries of the future. When I addressed the forum, I highlighted the Obama administration’s commitment to making investments in innovation and entrepreneurship including the recently announced $15 million Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which will boost rural innovation clusters and the soon-to-be-announced next round of the i6 challenge to reward innovative, groundbreaking ideas that accelerate technology commercialization.

NIST/CU 'Star Comb' Joins Quest for Earthlike Planets

Infrared starlight (three solid band) by comparing the missing light to a laser frequency comb reference "ruler" (sets of bright vertical bars indicating precise wavelengths, which increase from left to right).  Credit: CU/NIST/Penn State

If there is life on other planets, a laser frequency comb developed at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) may help find it.

Such a comb—a tool for precisely measuring frequencies, or colors, of light—has for the first time been used to calibrate measurements of starlight from stars other than the Sun. The good results suggest combs will eventually fulfill their potential to boost the search for Earth-like planets to a new level.

The comb was transported to the Texas mountains to calibrate a light analyzing instrument called a spectrograph at the Hobby-Eberly telescope. A University of Colorado Boulder (CU) astronomer and Pennsylvania State University students and astronomers collaborated on the project.

“The comb worked great,” says NIST physicist Scott Diddams. “In a few days, it enabled measurement precision comparable to the very best achieved in the same wavelength range with much more established techniques—and we hope the comb will do much better as the new technique is perfected.”

The NIST comb calibrated measurements of infrared starlight. This type of light is predominantly emitted by M dwarf stars, which are plentiful in Earth’s part of the galaxy and might have orbiting planets suitable to life.

On the Two-Year Anniversary of the National Export Initiative Successes Abound

National Export Initiative

Guest blog post by Commerce Secretary John Bryson

Today marks the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Executive Order creating the National Export Initiative (NEI), when President Obama set the ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years.

To mark this anniversary, we released new data today showing that jobs supported by U.S. exports increased by 1.2 million between 2009 and 2011. Building on strong growth in 2010, exports supported approximately 9.7 million jobs in 2011 and the value of U.S. exports of goods and services exceeded $2.1 trillion for the first time in U.S. history.

This new data further confirms the good news that exports support an increasing number of American jobs. At the same time, it is also a reminder that we cannot afford to let up on our efforts to help U.S. businesses build it here and sell it everywhere. We must maintain the track record of the past two years and intensify our support of U.S. companies in selling their goods to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live beyond our borders by helping to create opportunities and a level playing field. We know that when American businesses and workers get a fair shot, they can compete and they can win.

The NEI's Second-Year Anniversary: Supporting American Jobs

The Port of Baltimore – one of the top ports in the country – handles around 30 million tons of cargo and 400,000 containers annually.

Guest blog post by Francisco Sanchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Earlier today – on the second anniversary of the President’s National Export Initiative – Commerce Secretary John Bryson announced that the number of American jobs supported by U.S. exports increased 1.2 million from 2009 to 2011. In total, U.S. exports now support 9.7 million jobs, serving as a bright spot in our economy, and helping to fuel our economic recovery. In addition, last year, there were a record $2.1 trillion in U.S. exports.  And there is a lot more room to grow.

Never has that been more clear than today.

I was in Baltimore this morning to see our efforts to support U.S. exporters first-hand. The Port of Baltimore – one of the top ports in the country – handles around 30 million tons of cargo and 400,000 containers annually. As the head of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), I was proud to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the Port of Baltimore to expand cooperation on export promotion activities here at home.

The Port was also one of 12 U.S. organizations that participated in the February 2012 ports trade mission to India that I led on behalf of the Department of Commerce. During this mission, the Port of Baltimore signed a sister-port Memorandum of Understanding with the Mundra Port, in an effort to increase trade between the two ports. Two way trade between India and the U.S. grew to $58 billion in 2011 and is an NEI priority market. That is why Secretary Bryson will be leading his first trade mission to India at the end of the month to further opportunities for U.S. businesses in this region.

Promoting Best Practices in Exports and Foreign Direct Investment to Spur Economic and Job Growth

Promoting Best Practices in Exports and Foreign Direct Investment to Spur Economic and Job Growth

When President Obama first announced the National Export Initiative (NEI) two years ago—with its goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014—there may have been some who wondered what this had to do with domestic economic development. But the answer is simple: a lot. From the worker in an auto plant owned by a foreign firm, to the many service businesses across the country selling to overseas visitors, to the U.S. companies from every sector selling their products and services to foreign buyers, America’s economic vitality is very much tied to the world market. And the benefits are many: more jobs, higher wages, and the overall prosperity that comes when we are selling to billions of consumers worldwide.

One often-overlooked element of international trade is foreign direct investment (FDI). The United States is the largest recipient of FDI in the world. Foreign-owned companies operating in the United States support more than 5.3 million U.S. jobs, and U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned firms account for 21 percent of U.S. exports. The total stock of FDI in the United States—$2.3 trillion—is equivalent to nearly 18 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

But there is room for such investment to grow: the U.S. share of world FDI has been declining since the 1990s, as other economies aggressively compete to attract such investment. One impediment to FDI growth in the United States has been the lack of concrete tools and strategies available to local economic development practitioners that could help them more effectively leverage their communities’ competitive strengths to expand exports and attract FDI.

Global Biometric Leaders Attend International Biometric Performance Conference at NIST

image of thumb print

Anyone who enjoys police dramas on TV knows that biometrics such as fingerprints and DNA are used to match criminals to crimes. But increasingly, biometrics are being used in public and private arenas to ensure access to computers and buildings, or to authenticate that you are really you when traveling internationally with an e–passport. One day, biometrics may be used to authenticate who you are when banking or buying something on the Internet.

Last week, biometric experts from across the globe have been attending the International Biometric Performance Conference at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md. This applied research conference was focused on identifying fundamental, relevant, effective and new performance metrics for biometric systems and determining and sharing best practices for performance evaluation and calibration as they relate to design specifications and day-to-day operations. The goal is for people and computer systems to know reliably who is who.