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Blog Category: Office of General Counsel

Africa Leaders’ Summit “Driving Investment in Power Africa"

As a follow-up to the series of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) consultations conducted in the United States and East and West Africa this summer, the Commerce Department hosted Driving Investment in Power Africa program on the sidelines of the U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit. The Commerce Department event was coordinated by the Office of General Counsel Front Office, Commercial Law Development Program of the Department’s General Counsel’s Office in partnership with the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) and the US Agency for International Development. The program brought together investors in the African power market and U.S. and African government officials to discuss the role of U.S. government agencies in facilitating investment in power in Africa. The first draft of CLDP’s Guide to Understanding Power Purchase Agreements was also presented at the workshop. 

The dynamic mix of participants in the Driving Investment program engaged in a productive dialogue before a standing-room only crowd. Julie Wenah of the Office of the General Counsel welcomed the participants and General Counsel Kelly Welsh provided opening remarks. State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Ichord gave an overview of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative and USAID Power Africa Policy Coordinator Roseann Casey highlighted the broad array of US government support within Power Africa. International Trade Administration Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Murray stressed the role of power in driving increased investment in Africa, as well as the Department of Commerce’s commitment to facilitating trade and investment by U.S. companies in Africa.

Honored guests included Niger Minister of Commerce for Promotion of the Private Sector, Alma Oumarou and Rwanda Former Minister of Infrastructure, Professor Silas Lwakabamba. Also, three business delegation leaders from Secretary Pritzker’s May 2014 West Africa Trade Mission attended: Yolanda Parker of The Parker Group LLC, Kevon Makell and David Ellis of SEWW Energy.The highlight of the program was a roundtable discussion featuring a panel of CEOs of private-sector developers and lenders with additional contribution from the African government delegates in attendance.

Leading Our Team: The Office of General Counsel Senior Management Retreat

Deputy General Counsel Justin Antonipillai discussing Secretary's initiative

This year the Office of General Counsel hosted its yearly Senior Management Retreat at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The retreat started with an open and engaging conversation with White House Counsel, Neil Eggleston who discussed his experiences in the federal government and its utility in supporting the Obama Administration as White House Counsel.

In support of Secretary Pritzker’s “America is Open for Business” Agenda, the Office of the General Counsel hosted two panel sessions supporting Strategic Goals Two and Three, Innovation and Environment. One panel focused on the overall lifecycle of innovation and was led by Vikrum Aiyer, Deputy Chief of Staff for the United States Patent and Trademark Office and Gregory Godbout, Deputy Associate Administrator and Executive Director of 18F at the General Services Administration. On environment, the additional panel focused on the impact of climate change and the Administration’s response with guest speakers Brandi Colander, Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Department of the Interior and Tom Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Deputy General Counsel Justin Antonipillai discussed the Secretary’s vision on management, mentoring, and training at the Commerce Department

Deputy General Counsel Antonipillai in the Gulf: The Role of the Judiciary and Insolvency

On May 12, 2014, Deputy General Counsel, Justin Antonipillai and CLDP led a workshop on insolvency for over 30 UAE commercial court judges representing four of seven emirates, hosted by the Institute for Training and Judicial Studies (ITJS). The purpose of the workshop was to outline the role of the judiciary in the fair and expedited adjudication of bankruptcy cases, and share best practices to ensure equitable outcomes. CLDP expert Don De Amicis, the former General Counsel of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), provided input throughout the proceedings.

 Afterwards, Deputy General Counsel Antonipillai met with the UAE Minister of Justice, His Excellence Dr. Hadef Al Dhaheri along with the US Ambassador to the UAE, Michael Corbin. During the meeting, they discussed the upcoming CLDP commercial law-training program for UAE judges in the US as a necessary step in improving business and trade in the region in particular for US companies.

 

On May 14, 2014, Deputy General Counsel, Justin Antonipillai, led a commercial law liberalization workshop with Bahraini Parliamentarians, Shura Council members, and private sector leaders. The workshop, co-hosted by the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Ministry of Industry and Commerce, was the third in a series that provided in-depth training on insolvency law discussing restructuring strategies and Bahrain’s long-term commercial growth opportunities.

Deputy General Counsel Antonipillai’s meeting with the Minister of Industry and Commerce, His Excellency Dr. Hasan Fakhro, as well as representatives from the private sector and civil society organizations, bolstered relations following the Secretary’s recent visit to the region.

General Counsel Kelly Welsh Visits USPTO during Community Day

Celebrating diversity in the workplace is important to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). General Counsel Kelly Welsh joined USPTO General Counsel Sarah Harris in celebrating the USPTO’s 17th Annual Community Day. Annually, the USPTO hosts Community Day to rededicate the importance of diversity and the impact it has in creating innovative approaches in client engagement, team building, and better work product. The event brings the community of the USPTO together to show not only how they differ in individual backgrounds and lives, but how they can come together to form the greatest intellectual property community in the world. General Counsel Welsh also met with the USPTO’s senior leadership, legal chiefs, staff attorneys and support staff. After meeting with USPTO staff, an official program commenced with reflections by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Michelle Lee and Mayor of the City of Alexandria William Euille. Following the program, the community set up booths discussing their organizations and a food fair for the public.

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?

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