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Blog Entries from May 15, 2013

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Commemorates the Anniversary of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement

One of the Commerce Department’s top priorities is to strengthen the economic ties between the United States and our trading partners. One year ago today, the ties between the United States and Colombia became much stronger with the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank marked during her remarks today at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce and the Counsel of American Companies (CEA) in Bogotá, Colombia. 

Prior to the implementation of the Trade Promotion Agreement, also known as the U.S.-Colombia FTA, the average tariff rate on U.S. industrial exports to Colombia was higher than 10 percent. The agreement immediately eliminated tariffs on more than 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports to Colombia when it took effect last year, with the remaining tariffs being phased out within 10 years. This makes it easier for U.S. firms to export to Colombia. In fact, from June 2012 through March 2013, U.S. goods exported to Colombia have increased 19 percent compared to the same period in the year before. In 2012, U.S. goods exports to Colombia reached $16.4 billion and made up nearly a quarter of all Colombia’s imports of goods. 

Colombian firms have also benefited from the Trade Promotion Agreement, which experts estimate could create hundreds of thousands of Colombian jobs over the next few years. Under this agreement, more than 600 Colombian companies have started exporting to the United States for the first time, and Colombia continues to experience a trade surplus with the United States, its largest trading partner. 

Due in part to the Trade Promotion Agreement, U.S. businesses are increasingly interested in exploring trade with Colombia. The 20 firms accompanying Acting Secretary Blank on her trade mission this week represent just a snapshot of the U.S. business community that is looking for new opportunities to invest in Colombia. 

The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement is one tool helping the United States work toward the goals of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, a government-wide strategy to promote American exports and support an additional 2 million export-related jobs by the end of 2014. By working together, the United States and Colombia have successfully fostered economic growth and strengthened the relationship between both countries. The Commerce Department is committed to further strengthening this relationship by encouraging increased trade and creating more economic development opportunities for businesses in both countries. 

For more information about the U.S.-Colombia FTA, visit http://www.trade.gov/press/press-releases/2013/colombia-factsheet-051513.pdf

Greeley and Hansen Plans to Increase Infrastructure Export Opportunities in Latin America

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Guest post by John C. Robak, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Greeley and Hansen

ED Note: Greeley and Hansen is a global leader in developing innovative engineering, architecture, and management solutions for a wide array of complex water, wastewater, and water-related infrastructure challenges. The firm has built upon nearly 100 years of proven civil and environmental engineering experience in all phases of project development and implementation to become a premier provider of comprehensive services in the water and wastewater sectors.

I’m honored to represent Greeley and Hansen on this trade mission with Acting Secretary of Commerce Dr. Rebecca Blank to promote U.S. exports related to infrastructure in Latin America.  While Greeley and Hansen has previously completed water infrastructure projects throughout the region, we’re looking at these high-growth areas as key markets for additional expansion of our business.  Steve Knode, Deputy Senior Commercial Officer, and his team have done an outstanding job in bringing together world-class U.S. companies for this mission.  Specifically for our firm, the local Commercial Officers have arranged meetings with many leading organizations to help connect our firm with high-level government officials and business leaders in our areas of interest. 

I’ve participated in two previous Department of Commerce trade missions, including a mission to southern Africa last November, led by Under Secretary of Commerce Francisco Sánchez, which provided many valuable business contacts in South Africa and Zambia.  To date, Greeley and Hansen has made several follow-up trips to Africa to meet with these contacts to further discuss specific potential business opportunities for our firm.  We also are planning a follow-up visit to Egypt after a recent trade mission there.  I’m certain that this mission to Latin America will be equally successful for establishing beneficial business leads.

Already, this mission has allowed us to make several key connections.  For example, I’ve met with senior municipal utility leaders at SABESP, the Brazilian waste management company owned by São Paulo state; along with other civil engineering firms in Brazil.  Prior to the one-on-one meetings, the delegation has had several briefings led by Brian Brisson, Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs (Brazil), Nathan Younge, Regional Director, Latin America for USTDA, along with an informative presentation from Brian O’Hanlon of OPIC.  Further, the networking opportunities with Dr. Blank (who has been very accessible to the delegates for comments and questions) and Embassy and Commercial Services staff have provided invaluable information about the range of potential opportunities and barriers for any U.S. firm interested in doing business in the region.

In talking with these experts directly, I’ve been able to better assess the market for our services relative to the country’s planned development of water infrastructure.  It’s clear that Brazil offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. businesses looking to expand internationally, and, as was stated during the briefings, it’s hard to think of a global company of the future that will not have a presence in Brazil.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the trip in Colombia and visiting Panama, as these other growing Latin American economies also represent tremendous potential export opportunities for U.S. companies directly involved in infrastructure.  I’m confident that, for Greeley and Hansen, this Department of Commerce trade mission to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama will be fruitful for us and all involved.

Aviation Partnership Reaping Benefits for America and Brazil

Aviation Partnership Reaping Benefits for America and Brazil

Guest blog post by Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

Yesterday, as part of my infrastructure business development trade mission to Brazil, Assistant Secretary Susan Kurland of the U.S. Department of Transportation and I took a tour of the facilities at Embraer -- a Brazilian aircraft manufacturer. Embraer is one example of a Brazilian company making substantial investments in the United States, and employs more than 1,000 U.S. workers to support its U.S. operations in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Melbourne, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Mesa, Arizona; and Windsor Locks, Connecticut. At the Commerce Department, one of the core components of our mission is to increase foreign investment in the United States, and Embraer continues to realize the benefits of choosing the U.S. as a place to do business. It was gratifying to hear from Embraer’s senior leadership about their plans for further investments in America, because of the United States’ strong aviation industry.

As we toured the 190 Model Airplane with the company's CEO, Frederico Fleury Curado, I was impressed by the quality and innovation in Embraer's product. And, like many companies doing business with and in the United States, Embraer continues to develop strategic partnerships with U.S. companies that create jobs and advance new technologies. In fact, Embraer imports more than $2 billion in U.S. aircraft components into Brazil each year to support its operations.  Embraer has built partnerships with American suppliers  like Rockwell Collins and GE, as well as, companies like Rolls Royce and BAE, which have major manufacturing facilities in the U.S.  These companies export from the U.S. to Embraer facilities in Brazil.  These cross border supply chains demonstrate the ways in which the private sector is deepening commercial ties between our two nations.

Connecting U.S. companies with opportunities in Latin America is what this trade mission is all about. The 20 U.S. firms that are joining me on this infrastructure business development trade mission to Brazil, Colombia and Panama offer a broad range of products and services that enable them to serve as partners on the ambitious infrastructure modernization projects that all three countries are undertaking. Strengthening the connections between the U.S. private sector and Latin America is a win-win for all parties, and I look forward to the continued progress that will be realized as a result of our trip this week.