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Blog Entries from June 2012

General Counsel Kerry Leads Administration Efforts to Support Long-Term Economic Growth in Iraq

General Counsel Kerry standing a podium

Guest blog post by Cameron F. Kerry, Department of Commerce General Counsel

On June 28, 2004, Iraq's first democratically elected government assumed full sovereign authority. Eight years later, I joined Iraqi counterparts to discuss Iraq's next great challenge: integrating itself into the world economy. Overcoming this challenge is a critical step in Iraq's transition since, as President Obama has noted, “Iraq is assuming its rightful place among the community of nations.”

The Department of Commerce mission in Iraq is to help the country assume this role while working to expand and facilitate increased U.S. business opportunities. As part of this mission, I had the honor of co-hosting two conferences focused on Iraq’s economic growth strategy. Iraq faces the challenge of generating trade and investment at the same time as managing the expansion of its resource wealth to ensure economic diversification. While these challenges are significant, I was encouraged by the universal agreement between panelists, government officials, and private sector representatives that these challenges can be overcome by the adoption of a commercial law framework that emphasizes predictability, transparency, and economic security.

The first of these conferences, co-hosted by Iraq’s Minister of Finance Rafi al-Issawi, brought together experts from U.S., multilateral, and private institutions to discuss with Iraqi counterparts how under-developed commercial law and financial mechanisms can act as barriers to trade and investment. A common theme in the two days of discussion was how the rule of law is vital to a welcoming economic environment in Iraq in which U.S. and Iraqi businesses can predict and plan their investments, purchases, and sales with greater certainty.

NIST Kicks Off New National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence

NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved

Guest blog post by Donna Dodson, Chief, Computer Security Division and Acting Director, National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, National Institute of Standards and Technology

This week, Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a workshop to kick off the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), a new public-private collaboration that will bring together experts from industry, government and academia to design, implement, test and demonstrate integrated cybersecurity solutions and promote their widespread adoption.

IT is central to financial, communications, healthcare and physical infrastructures and even entertainment systems. It is also under constant attack by cybercriminals looking to steal business data, personal information and devices, or disrupt private and government business with malicious code, denial of service and Web-based attacks.

We were excited to bring together representatives from various industry sectors (health, utility, financial, and more), along with those from government agencies, academia and other organizations to learn how the center will operate and how the public can participate. In the photo here, NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved.

The NCCoE will provide a state-of-the-art computing facility where researchers from NIST can work collaboratively with both the users and vendors of products and services on holistic cybersecurity approaches. NIST is hosting the center in collaboration with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md.

By providing a test bed where new ideas and technologies can be tried out before being deployed, the center provides the opportunity to thoroughly document and share each solution, supporting specific industry sector business challenges. This will encourage the rapid adoption of comprehensive cybersecurity templates and approaches that support automated and trustworthy e-government and e-commerce.

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Wrapped up Her Visit to Turkey with Concrete Steps to Advance the U.S-Turkish Commercial Relationship

Acting Secretary Blank Co-Chairs the U.S.-Turkey Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation  with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk,  Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Minister of the Economy Zafer Caglayan

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank wrapped up her visit to Turkey after co-chairing the second meeting of the U.S.-Turkey Framework for Strategic Economic and Commercial Cooperation (FSECC) with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in Ankara yesterday. The Turkish delegation was led by Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Minister of the Economy Zafer Caglayan.

The FSECC was created following the first meeting between President Obama and Turkish President Gul in April 2009. The two leaders tasked the U.S. and Turkish governments to create a framework to help substantially increase the trade and investment flows between both countries to help strengthen the economic dimension of our partnership. The meeting focused on opportunities for increased bilateral trade and investment relations to create jobs in both countries, and the ministers agreed on several concrete steps to advance the U.S-Turkish commercial relationship. The Acting Secretary promoted increased Foreign Direct Investment, including calling for greater Turkish FDI to the U.S., highlighting Commerce’s SelectUSA initiative. The four principals made a joint statement after the meeting.

During the meeting, Acting Secretary Blank announced that the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration will lead an Aerospace and Defense Industry Trade Mission to Turkey in December 2012. She also applauded the work that has been done so far to increase bilateral trade between the U.S. and Turkey.  She emphasized the work that must be done to continue to advance the U.S.-Turkey trade relationship, such as overcoming market access barriers, furthering cooperation on intellectual property rights, and enabling businesses to take advantage of opportunities in key sectors such as renewable energy, financial services, and infrastructure.

Chicago Today, Russia Tomorrow

Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez and Chicago U.S. Export Assistance Center Director Julie Carducci present Export Achievement Certificate to BayRu CEO Aaron Block. (Photo Commerce)

Cross-posted from ITA Tradeology blog by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Today I was fortunate enough to speak at the SMC3 conference in Chicago about the progress we’ve made toward achieving the President’s goal of doubling U.S. exports. SMC3 is a supply chain industry association that provides technology to shipping and logistics companies across the country, the very same companies who ensure the efficient transportation of American exports. Each year, the conference brings together representatives from America’s most active manufacturing, trucking, rail, shipping, and logistics firms.

The success of U.S. exporters depends in part on U.S. businesses being able to quickly and efficiently get their products to market. So it was fitting that I gave these remarks in Chicago, home to some of America’s most important freight and transportation corridors. According to the latest data, the Chicago metropolitan area is the 7th largest export market in the U.S. with merchandise shipments totaling nearly $34 billion.

Chicago is also home to some of America’s top exporters. I was pleased to honor an innovative company, BayRu, with an Export Achievement Certificate while in Chicago. Their online store, http://www.bay.ru, BayRu is one of the fastest growing e-commerce sites in Russia. On bay.ru, Russian shoppers can buy a wide range of American consumer goods found in catalogues like E-bay and Amazon and then have those products shipped to more than 160 cities across Russia and other CIS states.

NIST Goes the Distance for the Olympics

NIST technician Christopher Blackburn uses a microscope to precisely align a retroreflector over the center of a hash mark on a measuring tape. Photo credit: Bruce Borchardt

In yet another Olympian feat of measurement, researchers at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently calibrated a tape that will be used to measure out the distance of this summer's Olympic marathon—a distance of 26 miles 385 yards—to 1 part in 1,000.

Measurement is a vital aspect of the Olympic Games. Officials measure the height of jumps, the speed of races, and the mass of weights to determine who wins a medal and who goes home. The marathon is no different. Because of the difficulties in measuring out the distance, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) only recognized best times and didn't begin awarding world records for marathons until 2004 when a method using a device called a Jones Counter was officially recognized as sufficiently accurate.

Developed by a father-son duo in the early 1970s, the Jones Counter is a simple geared device that counts the revolutions of a bicycle wheel. To calibrate the device, course measurers lay out a calibrated measuring tape at least 30 meters in length. Once they have determined the number of revolutions that equal that distance—and a couple of successively longer distances—they follow painstaking procedures for laying out the rest of the course. The measurements, which can take hours to complete, will ensure that the shortest distance a runner will run will be at least the required distance and no more than about 40 meters over, corresponding to an error of about one part in 1,000.  Full story

Disaster Recovery Funding Available Now for Counties with FY 11 Disaster Declarations

Map of eligible and ineligible U.S. counties for disaster assistance

Guest blog by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Applications are now being accepted for investments in regions experiencing severe economic distress as a result of natural disasters that were declared as major federal disasters between October 1, 2010, and September 30, 2011. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) received an appropriation of $200 million from Congress to address economic recovery challenges in regions impacted by a major disaster.

More than 1,400 counties in 44 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia are eligible for the federal funding. Successful projects will support long-term economic recovery; demonstrate a clear connection between the project scope of work and the applicable disaster; demonstrate that the project will foster job creation and promote private investment; align with a relevant strategic, economic development, or disaster recovery plan; and demonstrate the incorporation of disaster resiliency. Applications are accepted on a continuing basis and processed as received.

Minority Businesses Export to Support Jobs in Long Island

Under Secretary Sanchez (center), Congressman Tim Bishop (right) and Shakir Farsakh, director of the Long Island Export Assistance Center (left)

Cross-posted from ITA Tradeology blog by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Washington can be a sweltering place in the summer. And this year is no exception. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to escape the heat of Washington today for Long Island, New York. There, I joined forces with my friend and colleague Congressman Tim Bishop to help highlight the benefits of exports and the impact they have in strengthening the economy.

We’ve always known exports to be among best ways to boost domestic economic output. Just last year, the United States had a record-setting $2.1 trillion in exports which supported nearly 10 million American jobs.

Rather, the question has always been “how can we expand the message of exporting to more businesses?”

This was the challenge laid forth by President Obama in 2010 when he announced the National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

Well, the data are in! One of the great things about our country is our diversity. And according to the U.S.  Census Bureau, that same diversity is boosting our economy. A report released this month, using data from 2007, shows that exports by minority-owned American businesses make significant contributions to our economy.

Acting Secretary Blank Encourages Turkish Investment to Create American Jobs

U.S.-Turkey

U.S. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank visited Istanbul today to meet with U.S. and Turkish business leaders to advance commercial and trade relations between the United States and Turkey. This is the first visit to Turkey by a U.S. Commerce Secretary in 14 years.
 
Acting Secretary Blank, along with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, are leading a delegation of senior U.S. Government officials, including representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, U.S. Export-Import Bank and the National Security Staff.
 
Throughout the meetings and events, Acting Secretary Blank highlighted President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan's goal of elevating our commercial relationship with Turkey to the strategic level, contributing to the peace and prosperity of citizens of both countries and the world.
 
Acting Secretary Blank and Ambassador Kirk met with U.S. companies that are active in the Turkish market to hear their views on the commercial environment in Turkey, and learn how the U.S. government can help grow their businesses, and support jobs and growth in Turkey and in the United States.

EDA: Economic Recovery in Fremont, California's Auto Community

Ed. note: Cross-posted from U.S. Department of Labor's "Auto Communities" blog by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development (EDA)

We all know the situation a few years ago when President Obama took office: the American auto industry was shedding jobs by the hundreds of thousands and General Motors and Chrysler were in financial crisis. In the year before GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, the auto industry lost more than 400,000 jobs. Had President Obama failed to act, conservative estimates suggest that it would have cost at least an additional million jobs and devastated vast parts of our nation's industrial heartland. But that did not happen because the president quickly intervened to save the U.S. auto industry from collapse. Today, GM, Ford and Chrysler have all returned to profitability.

President Obama's decision to respond so boldly was about more than the auto companies. It was about standing behind the countless workers, communities and businesses—large and small—that depend on the automotive industry. It was also about revitalizing American manufacturing.

Across the administration, federal agencies have outlined an agenda to support growth, job creation, and competitiveness in U.S. manufacturing. The U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration (EDA) has a strong track record of working with automotive communities to develop plans for economic recovery. The agency's efforts to help revitalize the nation's auto industry have been significant in Fremont, California, where a large auto assembly facility operated by the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) was shut down in early 2010. The plant had employed nearly 5,000 workers, with thousands more dependent on it. The blow to the local economy was severe.

Letter from Secretary Bryson to Commerce Employees

Official portrait of Secretary Bryson

Dear Commerce Team,

I have informed the president that I am resigning as Secretary of Commerce.

The work that you do to help America’s entrepreneurs and businesses build our economy and create jobs is more important now than ever and I have come to the conclusion that I need to step down to prevent distractions from this critical mission.

I feel privileged to have been part of the progress we have made together for our businesses and workers as they “build it here and sell it everywhere.”

As I step down from the Cabinet, Dr. Blank will continue to serve as Acting Secretary. As you know, she provided very able leadership in this role last year, and I have every confidence that on her watch going forward, the Commerce Department will continue to fulfill its mission with excellence.

In my personal capacity, I will continue to do everything I can to support the president and America’s businesses as they continue to advance innovation, U.S. competitiveness, and prosperity for our people in the months and years ahead.

Thank you for your many thoughtful and kind notes over this last week. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve with you.

Sincerely,

John Bryson