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Blog Entries from April 2012

Secretary Bryson Co-Chairs 2012 U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, Promotes Bonds of Bilateral Economic Prosperity

Yesterday, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary John Bryson co-chaired the 7th annual U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum meeting at the White House in efforts to boost our commercial ties with Brazil and continue opportunities to grow the U.S. economy.

The Secretary was joined by Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman, Fernando Pimentel, Brazil’s Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade, and Gleisi Hoffmann, Brazil’s Presidential Chief of Staff.

Together with 24 CEO’s from the United States and Brazil, the coalition worked to provide joint recommendations to the two governments on ways to strengthen the U.S.-Brazil economic relationship and advance bilateral trade.

Secretary Bryson praised the team on achieving key goals in their economic relationship, and encouraged further opportunity for even greater collaboration on trade investment, infrastructure, strategic energy, education and innovation. Secretary Bryson also announced that he will travel to Brazil for the next meeting this year.

USPTO Under Secretary Kappos Concludes 'European Road Show' on U.S. Patent Reform Laws

Kappos and Miklós Bendzsel signing a memorandum of understanding

Managing significant changes to the U.S. patent system brought about by implementation of last year’s major patent reform law is not just a project that stays within our borders. Since many outside the U.S. seek a U.S. patent, other nations have a keen interest in understanding how the America Invents Act will work and may wish to file comments on the rules packages associated with implementing the biggest overhaul to U.S. patent law since the system was born over 200 years ago.

Recognizing this interest, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos undertook a European “road show” last week, visiting six cities in four days to conduct stakeholder outreach events and meet with the heads of offices from several European intellectual property offices. In conjunction with local chambers of commerce, Under Secretary Kappos covered three important topics during these stakeholder outreach events: an overview of the significant changes being made to the patent system by the America Invents Act and progress in its implementation; the need for further harmonization of the world’s patent laws; and the benefits of a work sharing mechanism known as the Patent Prosecution Highway, or PPH 2.0.

NOAA: U.S. Records Warmest March; More than 15,000 Warm Temperature Records Broken

U.S. map showing locations of record-breaking temps

First quarter of 2012 also warmest on record; early March tornado outbreak is year's first "billion dollar disaster"

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists, record- and near-record breaking temperatures dominated the eastern two-thirds of the nation and contributed to the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States, a record that dates back to 1895. Over 15,000 records were broken as March 2012 became the warmest on record.

The average temperature of 51.1 degrees F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and 0.5 degrees F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months (or more than 116 years) that have passed since the U.S. climate record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.

This monthly analysis from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders.  Full release  |  NOAA visuaolization

BEA in the 1940s

Graph of rise of GDP

Ed. Note: This post is part of a series following the release of the 1940 Census highlighting various Commerce agencies and their hard work on behalf of the American people during the 1940s through today.

As the U.S. population has changed dramatically since 1940, so too has the U.S. economy. Just a few years prior to the 1940 Census, in 1935, employees of the Department of Commerce and the National Bureau of Economic Research created what we call the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA), a comprehensive set of economic accounts for the nation that provides unparalleled insight into the workings of our economy.
 
Let’s take a quick glance at the NIPAs and see how things have changed over the last 72 years. One commonly used measure of standards of living is GDP per capita—the total output of the nation divided by the population. Looking to national accounts table 7.1, we see that in 1940 U.S. GDP per capita was $8,824 in inflation-adjusted dollars. By 2011, it had increased nearly fivefold to $42,671. Over that period, the structure of the economy changed with services accounting for an ever increasing for spending. In 1940, consumer spending on services (everything from haircuts to heart surgery), according to NIPA table 1.1.10 accounted for 30 percent of GDP. By 2011, it was 47 percent—nearly half of economic activity.

Overseas Private Investment Corporation Provides End-to-End Infrastructure Financing and Makes the World a Little More Interconnected

The agencies which make up a U.S. Government mission overseas are not merely an alphabet soup of acronyms along for the ride. Working long hours behind the scenes both before and after the mission itself, applying skill and expertise to complex international negotiations under deadline pressure, they provide the very substance that makes foreign policy real, and which might just make the world a little smaller and a little more interconnected.

For that reason, one such agency – the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution – appreciated Commerce Secretary Bryson’s shout-out during his remarks to the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce in Mumbai last week.

“I have a good piece of news from OPIC,” Secretary Bryson said. “I’m sure that many of you are familiar with India’s Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation – IDFC. Yesterday (March 29), OPIC’s Board approved $250 million in financing to help IDFC expand lending for renewable energy projects, including solar, wind and energy efficiency, as well as for infrastructure projects. This will help meet an important need for more long-term capital to support India’s growing renewable energy sector.”

Indeed, it will. IDFC is India’s premier infrastructure lender, with an enviable track record in the sector.  As a specialized financial institution, it provides end-to-end infrastructure financing and integrated project implementation services for India’s most important priority sectors. 

Secretary Bryson Talks about Turkish-American Economic Cooperation

Secretary Bryson and Members of the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey

Today, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson delivered keynote remarks at a luncheon co-hosted by the Center for American Progress and the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON). The event, titled “Building on the Progress in Turkish-American Economic Cooperation,” comes at an exciting time in U.S.-Turkish relations, with bilateral trade reaching a record level of $20 billion this past year.

Turkey is the world’s-17th largest economy, and was the world’s second-fastest growing economy in 2011.

During his remarks, Bryson talked about the president’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports from 2010 to 2014. He noted that U.S. exports to Turkey have already doubled.

Over the past two years, the U.S. and Turkey have come together through the Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation. Secretary Bryson announced today that he plans to attend the next Framework meeting that will be held in Turkey in late June.

Secretary Bryson also emphasized the importance of stronger bilateral investment, including efforts such as SelectUSA.

Bryson ended his remarks by saying, “Let’s do everything possible to usher in a long and prosperous era–as the bonds between our two nations continue to grow in the 21st century.”

Creating High-Quality Jobs in Growing Industries through Public-Private Partnerships

Sandia Science and Technology Park

Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine

There are dynamic collaborations and initiatives supporting regional growth strategies across the country. Today, I addressed a group of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and technology commercialization leaders brought together by Technology Ventures Corporation during their Deal Stream Summit. This premier conference seeks to facilitate investment partnerships between federal labs, start-ups, innovators, and the venture community to bolster commercialization of technology and increase competitiveness. I discussed the Obama administration’s commitment to advancing innovation and accelerating the commercialization of new technologies to the marketplace.

Earlier in the day, I visited the Sandia Science and Technology Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With their focus on advanced technologies, technology parks such as this are vital to America’s economic future. These public-private ventures bring together innovators with entrepreneurs and transform theoretical ideas for the marketplace. It’s quite a dynamic environment for the businesses located there, such as ATA Aerospace, Emcore Photovoltaics, and Nanogenesis. And the end results? They include the development of new and unique products, the creation of high-quality jobs, the growth of vibrant communities, and an improvement in the quality of life—both in the immediate region and well beyond.

Secretary Bryson Addresses the Industry Trade Advisory Committees

Secretary Bryson Addresses the Industry Trade Advisory Committees

Earlier today, Secretary John Bryson addressed the advisers of the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) at a quarterly plenary session at the Department of Commerce. The Secretary laid out his priorities in manufacturing, trade and investment.

The ITACs are comprised of U.S. business leaders who assist the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative with trade policy. Secretary Bryson was joined by U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk and 16 of the ITAC committees to discuss the importance of new and upcoming trade initiatives.

This meeting takes place just weeks after the 2nd anniversary of President Obama’s National Export Initiative. The work of the ITACs is helping to build on the all-time record of $2.1 trillion in U.S. exports last year. Export-supported jobs also increased by 1.2 million from 2009 to 2011.

Secretary Bryson praised the advisers for their work on the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement, which recently went into effect. This agreement dropped tariff rates to zero on about 80 percent of U.S. goods exported to Korea. Secretary Bryson also thanked the ITACs for their continued work on efforts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Secretary also discussed the importance of advancing America’s bilateral relationships through strong and balanced growth in areas such as trade and investment, and cited his recent trade mission to India as an example of this.

The National Weather Service in the 1940s

Women hovering over weather maps

Ed. Note: This post is part of a series following the release of the 1940 Census highlighting various Commerce agencies and their hard work on behalf of the American people during the 1940s through today

The 1940s was a pivotal decade for the National Weather Service and the entire field of meteorology. Advancements in technology during the ‘40s, spurred by World War II, provided the scientific foundation for modern day weather forecasting throughout the world.

The agency, founded by Ulysses S. Grant in 1870 and called the Weather Bureau, was originally housed in the War Department. It was later moved to the Department of Agriculture in 1890, and then in 1940 President Roosevelt transferred it to the Department of Commerce. In 1970 the agency was renamed the National Weather Service when it became part of the newly-created National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce.

In the 1940s, most of the modern technology forecasters rely on today had not yet been invented, such as satellites and super computers. Weather observations were painstakingly logged by hand.

By 1940, the Weather Bureau operated 35 radiosonde stations (weather balloons), allowing for the routine measurement of atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, wind direction and speed. In 1942, the Weather Bureau received 25 surplus radars from the military, launching the network of weather surveillance radars.

USTDA Awards Two Clean Energy Grants During India Trade Mission

Henry Steingass (far right), USTDA Regional Director, and Mark Dunn (far left), USTDA Regional Manager, pose for a photo with Commerce Secretary John Bryson during a luncheon in Mumbai Mar. 26, 2012

Guest blog post by U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)

To support India’s plans to improve energy efficiency throughout the country while opening India’s market for increased U.S. exports of clean energy technologies, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) concluded two grant agreements during Secretary Bryson’s five-day infrastructure trade mission to India. The delegation included 16 U.S. companies and three U.S. agencies, including USTDA.

"India has ambitious energy infrastructure development goals," stated USTDA Regional Director Henry Steingass. "We are pleased to join this trade mission to support those goals, and to help open the market for U.S. clean energy technologies, which are among the best in the world."

India's growing population and rapid economic expansion are placing a strain on the country’s energy infrastructure. Approximately 400 million people do not have grid connectivity, while many households in electrified villages do not have access to grid supply. Growing demand is increasing the frequency of power outages in urban areas as well. In response to these challenges, Indian utility companies are making heavy investments in clean energy infrastructure, and these grants will support those investments while opening the market up for the cutting edge technologies of U.S. clean energy businesses.

The first grant will support a feasibility study for Azure Power, a private sector solar power developer that will assess the development of a rural micro-grid solar power project.  Azure aims to set up over 100 micro-grid solar systems, with each system covering an average of 2-3 acres of rural land with little or no connectivity to existing electrical grids.  The second grant will support a feasibility study for CESC Limited for the implementation of smart grid technologies across their electricity distribution networks in Kolkata, India.  The study will develop a smart grid pilot project as well as the requirements for broad implementation.

These projects respond to the joint commitment made by President Obama and Prime Minister Singh in late 2009 to greatly expand energy efficiency and clean energy cooperation and to form a Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE). In addition to substantial improvements to India’s clean energy infrastructure, successful implementation of these two projects could generate more than $250 million of exports for U.S. companies.