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Blog Category: Office of General Counsel

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Wraps Up Successful Trade Mission with Visit to Qatar

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Business Delegation Wraps Up Successful Trade Mission with Visit to Qatar

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker wrapped up her Middle East trade mission in Qatar, where there are many opportunities for U.S. businesses due to the country’s growing economy as well as investments in infrastructure and transportation. As part of the National Vision 2030, Qatar’s broad strategy for growth and development, the country is focused on making meaningful advances in education, sustainability, and economic diversification. Qatar is currently preparing to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and is therefore undertaking numerous new construction projects, renovations and upgrades to prepare for the games and the influx of visitors they will bring. With more than $150 billion in infrastructure investments needed before 2022, U.S. companies are well-positioned to help Qatar meet its development goals. 

Twenty-one such companies are accompanying Secretary Pritzker on her trade mission to the Middle East, and they have been meeting with Qatari leaders to explore business opportunities. On Thursday, Secretary Pritzker and the business delegation met with His Excellency Eng. Essa Bin Hilal Al-Kuwari, President of the General Water and Electricity Corporation (Kahramaa). They discussed how U.S. companies can get more involved in future Kahramaa water, power, and smart grid projects. They also met with Nasser Al Mawlawi, President of the Public Works Authority (Ashghal), which is leading publically-funded road projects in advance of the 2022 World Cup. Ashgal has already selected several U.S. engineering and construction firms, including AECOM Technology Corporation, a member of the trade mission’s business delegation, to lead major projects. 

Secretary Pritzker also met with Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, who is in charge of preparations for the World Cup. Secretary Pritzker congratulated Al Thawadi on the successful bid to host the World Cup and highlighted the close collaboration between U.S. and Qatari companies on major infrastructure projects related to the event. 

Attracting Qatari investment to the U.S. was also a big focus of the visit. On Thursday, Secretary Pritzker met with Ahmed Al Sayed, CEO of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), founded by the Qatari government to diversify the country’s economy. She talked about the United States as an investment destination and highlighted SelectUSA, a Commerce-led federal initiative to promote business investment, as a resource for Qatar as the country seeks to expand its investment portfolio. 

Secretary Pritzker reached out to government leaders on her visit as well, notably His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, as well as Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. She emphasized the strong bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Qatar and the Commerce Department’s commitment to enhance our commercial relationship. 

Also on Thursday, Secretary Pritzker participated in an armchair discussion hosted by AmCham Doha and the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC). During the discussion, Secretary Pritzker expressed the Commerce Department’s strong support for U.S. companies working to help Qatar reach its development goals. 

This week’s trade mission has been a successful effort to connect U.S. businesses with export opportunities in the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a sustained economic partnership in the Gulf region.

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

Annual funding for the government expired on September 30. The Administration strongly believed that a lapse in funding should not occur. The Department is prepared for a lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations. Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations (PDF) in the absence of appropriations (a “shutdown plan”).

The plan may be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant. This plan (PDF) complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce. All employees who are Presidentially Appointed, Senate Confirmed will remain on duty.

In compliance with the restrictions of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Department of Commerce will maintain the following services and activities during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning, and support
• Law enforcement activities for the protection of marine fisheries
• Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities, and regulatory actions to prevent overfishing
• Essential natural resource damage assessment activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident
• Water level data for ships entering U.S. ports, critical nautical chart updates and accurate position information.
• Patent and trademark application processing
• Operation of the national timing and synchronization infrastructure as well as the National Vulnerability Database
• Maintenance, continuity and protection of certain research property and critical data records
• All services of the National Technical Information Service
• Export enforcement – the ongoing conduct of criminal investigations, and prosecutions, and coordination with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in furtherance of our national security
• Budget operations required to support excepted activities under a shutdown, such as tracking of obligations and funds control.

The following services and activities will not be available during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Most research activities at NIST and NOAA (excluding real-time regular models on research computers used for Hurricane and FAA flight planning)
• Assistance and support to recipients of grant funding
• Technical oversight of non-mission essential contracts
• Services and activities provided by:
−Bureau of Economic Analysis
−Economic Development Administration
−Economics and Statistics Administration
−Minority Business Development Agency
−Bureau of the Census
• Most services and activities provided by the International Trade Administration

Spotlight on Commerce: Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Serving as Deputy General Counsel in the Department of Commerce has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences in my career. The people with whom I have worked over the last three years are outstanding. The issues I have dealt with are interesting, challenging, and critical to the Department’s work. Most important, being Deputy General Counsel has presented a wonderful opportunity to fulfill my lifelong commitment to service. 

As Deputy General Counsel, my job is to provide legal advice to the various parts of this Department. However, my role, and the role of all of the attorneys within the Office of the General Counsel, goes well beyond simply providing legal advice to our clients. We work to make sure that the people of the Department do not simply get a review of the legal sufficiency of their work, but also a partner in their mission. That partnership between OGC and the rest of the Department has been a point of emphasis for me during my time at Commerce and is vital to the execution of the President’s vision for creating an America Build to Last. The creativity and dynamic engagement of OGC attorneys helps Commerce agencies execute their plans to build a 21st century America that has the tools, infrastructure, and expertise to thrive.  

Encouraging partnership between OGC and its clients is critical to fostering a ethos of service within OGC, and service–particularly of public service–is something I value highly and was a central tenant of my upbringing.  

2012 Annual Office of General Counsel Awards Ceremony

On Thursday, December 6, 2012 General Counsel Kerry presided over the Office of General Counsel Annual Awards Ceremony.  He was joined by Acting Secretary Blank who delivered remarks, thanking the office for their tireless work over the past year.  The Acting Secretary acknowledged the great assistance that the office’s attorneys and support staff have provided to her and the entire Department of Commerce.

General Counsel Kerry detailed the broad range of accomplishments achieved by the OGC office over the past year.  He highlighted the successful litigation of the GPX case and efforts to move legislation through Congress as a result.  He also applauded contributions to various other litigation, legislation, reforms and regulation matters handled over the past year by each office within OGC.

GC Kerry and Deputy General Counsel Geovette Washington presented the Attorney of the Year Awards and the Support Staff of the Year Award.  The 2012 recipients are:

Attorney of the Year – Daniel Calhoun – Office of the Chief Counsel for Import Administration

Daniel was instrumental in insuring that Import Administration can, as a matter of domestic law, implement the WTO disputes on zeroing in a coherent process and has been a central player in disputes regarding antidumping and countervailing duty laws.

Support Staff of the Year – Stephanie Dyer – Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Administration, Ethics Law and Programs Division

Stephanie performed outstanding work in implementing a new financial disclosure report electronic filing system and the new reporting requirements of the STOCK Act, which were enacted earlier in 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.

GC Kerry discusses the US approach to privacy at an American Chamber of Commerce event in Italy

Panel at American Chamber of Commerce event in Italy

On June 21, 2012, General Counsel Kerry attended a privacy event in Italy -- Data Protection and Privacy Regulation: What Impact on Businesses and Consumers?

Files

General Counsel Kerry Travels to the EU to Discuss US-EU Commercial Data Privacy Efforts

On June 20, General Counsel Cameron F. Kerry arrived in Rome, Italy for the second leg of his trip to Europe to engage with senior government and private sector officials on consumer data privacy.  As President Obama said in the Administration’s policy blueprint, Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy (Privacy Blueprint), “[n]ever has privacy been more important than today, in the age of the Internet, the World Wide Web and smart phones.”  The Commerce Department is committed to protecting consumer privacy while encouraging innovation, entrepreneurship, and supporting jobs and growth.

Office of Chief Counsel for Industry and Security Helps BIS Secure $1.75 Million Enforcement Settlement

On May 24, 2012, the Office of Chief Counsel for Industry and Security (OCC/IS) assisted the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in reaching a settlement agreement under which Ericsson de Panama, S.A. agreed to pay $1.75 million to address 262 violations of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).  BIS charged Ericsson de Panama with implementing a scheme to evade the EAR over a multi-year period, with regard to telecommunications equipment owned by the Cuban Government.  The equipment was shipped to Panama, where it was repackaged to conceal its Cuban markings, sent with falsified paperwork to the United States for repair or replacement, and then exported back to Cuba via transshipment through Panama.  The equipment involved is controlled under the EAR for national security, anti-terrorism, encryption, and sanctions reasons.  The settlement also requires an external audit of all 2012 transactions involving items subject to the EAR that are exported or re-exported to Cuban customers by Ericsson de Panama or any of its corporate affiliates. 

This settlement represents the latest in BIS’s enforcement efforts to ensure the integrity of the export control system.  BIS plays an integral part in advancing the nation’s security, foreign policy, and economic interests, and investigations and settlements like this one uphold this vital mission.  OCC/IS represents and supports BIS in all administrative enforcement matters. 

Guidance Published on Implementation of Administration Policy on Scientific Integrity

On March 30, 2012 General Counsel Kerry updated prior memoranda implementing the Administration Policy on Scientific Integrity.  The update provides additional guidance consistent with the policy recommendations of Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), who issued an Administration policy on scientific integrity, implementing a Presidential memorandum of March 9, 2009.  In particular, the memorandum promotes the accurate and clear presentation of scientific and technological information to the public and further supports the professional development of Department personnel.  This memorandum establishes policy directives for the Department of Commerce to ensure the highest integrity of science and scientific products developed and utilized by the Department and its bureaus.  The updated memorandum and the December 6th and June 15th memoranda are attached below.

Files

General Counsel Kerry delivers remarks at Suffolk University’s 2012 Global Sustainability Conference “Why Global Bribery Is Not A Market Entry Strategy: Corruption In The Global Marketplace.”

Today, General Counsel Kerry delivered remarks on Department of Commerce efforts to level the playing field for American businesses by working with international partners to implement anticorruption and anti-bribery measures.  The remarks were delivered at Suffolk University at the Center for Global Business Ethics and Law 2012 Global Sustainability Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.  General Counsel Kerry's speech highlighted that “fighting corruption is a priority for the United States Government.  We have been working with other countries to encourage them to join us in the fight – and our work is bearing fruit.  This Administration is dedicated to striking the right balance between fostering commerce and promoting good conduct by the business community. I don’t see this as a trade-off. I think we can have both, and that we should have both.” 

The Department of Commerce remains committed to fostering economic growth and job creation both at home and abroad, and efforts to encourage anticorruption measures throughout the world provide a more open, transparent, and lucrative business environment both for US businesses and international partners.