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Blog Category: International Trade Administration

Secretary Pritzker Affirms U.S. Support for Burmese Political and Economic Reforms

Good discussion on US business investment with Aung San Suu Kyi

As part of her week-long commercial diplomacy mission to Asia this week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker met today with supporters of Burma’s transition to democracy and the ongoing national peace process. At a roundtable with Burmese civil society leaders, she took the opportunity to learn more about the complexities of political and economic reform and to hear their concerns and views about future challenges for Burma.

In her remarks at the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker affirmed the United States’ commitment to supporting positive political and economic reforms in Burma. She urged the Burmese government to build on that progress by implementing measures that increase inclusive economic development and promote government transparency and accountability. Noting that a strong and vibrant civil society is critical to institutionalizing reforms and ensuring government accountability, Secretary Pritzker applauded the efforts of Burmese civil society leaders to advance citizen interests in pursuit of democracy.

The Commerce Department takes these issues very seriously. Since 2010, training in human rights, rule of law, and corporate social responsibility has been mandatory for Foreign Commercial Service Officers. Attention to these critical social issues not only strengthens the Department’s culture, but enhances its ability to support American companies as they expand overseas.

Spotlight on Commerce: Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to the Open for Business Agenda Strategic Plan.

Guest blog post by Phu Huynh, Chief of Staff (Acting), International Trade Administration

I was born in Saigon, five years before the Vietnam War ended. My family made a tough decision, one that benefitted me for a lifetime. My mother, five aunts, one uncle, four sisters and I were airlifted to the U.S. as Saigon fell. When we arrived in Chantilly, Virginia, we had very little.  But, we had each other, the support of a local church and our public school. My mother and aunts taught us about our Vietnamese and Chinese heritages, which fortunately centered around great food. Just as important, they pushed us to learn English and become thoroughly integrated in the American experience. I’ve been given the opportunity in my lifetime to take the best from both worlds—from my Asian heritage and from the rich diversity that is America. The values I extrapolated from both backgrounds are so similar and are shared across the globe—dedication to family, hard work, respect of others and their cultures and faiths.  I’m as likely to watch a Washington Nationals game with either Vietnamese banh mi sandwich or a hot dog.

I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in history, high hopes and no job.  I’d like to tell you that I’m here because I executed each element of my master plan perfectly or that I had good fortune. But, opportunities don’t just happen without context. I applied hard earned skills and landed an internship at the White House. I worked hard to perfect my technical skills, becoming expert on every administration department and agency.  I became a valued member of the team, in large measure, because no one else wanted to do the huge volume of detailed, non-political, technical work.  But I learned something else even more valuable—that leaders in politics are often in short supply, peace and prosperity don’t just happen and that enlightened leadership was more critical than the technical aspects of my work. I was genuinely willing to learn from those I believed were the best leaders, and they were willing to share their experience and wisdom with me. I got hooked on Washington and this inexplicable political world in which we operate.

Secretary Pritzker First-Ever Commerce Secretary to Visit Burma

As the first-ever U.S. Commerce Secretary to visit Burma, Secretary Penny Pritzker today encouraged Burmese leaders to continue making positive political and economic reforms to bolster U.S. private sector interest in the region.

Secretary Pritzker met Burmese President Thein Sein and discussed the ways our two countries can continue working together to improve the U.S.-Burma commercial relationship. Pritzker also met with Vice President Nyan Tun and various Burmese ministers and outlined ways in which the Commerce Department can help Burma increase trade with U.S. firms.  She reassured the Burmese leadership that U.S. businesses want to be part of the solution as countries across the region look to support a growing middle class, develop world-class infrastructure, unleash sustainable energy, and invest in their futures.

U.S. companies have made significant investments in the ASEAN region, which reached nearly $190 billion in 2012. That is more than U.S. investment in all of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) combined. ASEAN investment into the U.S. exceeds $27 billion and investment has grown over 1,400% and has increased 169% since 2001. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates Burma’s GDP growth accelerated to 7.5 percent in 2013, and expects that growth to continue. As the economy in countries like Burma continues to open, there will be expansive opportunities for U.S. companies to export more goods and services, supporting the modernization and development that will improve the quality of life for citizens.

Secretary Pritzker was joined by a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.  Earlier this week, the delegation visited Vietnam and the Philippines where Secretary Pritzker met with government and business leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss the Commerce Department’s priorities for increasing trade and investment in the region.

Secretary Pritzker’s trip to the Asia-Pacific region demonstrates the importance of the region to the Obama Administration and the U.S. business community, and our shared commitment to increasing U.S. commercial activity with countries in the ASEAN region.

Secretary Pritzker Meets with Philippine President Aquino, Trade and Industry Secretary Domingo, and Finance Secretary Purisima

Secretary Pritzker meets with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

As part of a week-long commercial diplomacy trip to the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is in the Philippines to demonstrate the Obama administration's ongoing commitment to Asia. Along with members of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) and a delegation of U.S. CEOs, she is visiting the country to strengthen trade and investment and encourage deeper business-to-business ties.

The United States and the Philippines share a $24 billion per year trade relationship, one that was further bolstered by President Obama’s recent trip to the country in April. Today, Secretary Pritzker met with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, and yesterday with Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Gregory Domingo and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, to build on that strong U.S.-Philippine relationship.

Secretary Pritzker congratulated President Aquino for his successful leadership and commended both Secretary Domingo and Secretary Purisima on the Philippines’ recent economic accomplishments and reforms, which have resulted in strong growth. In fact, the country has doubled its GDP growth rate from 3.6 percent in 2011 to 7.2 percent in 2013. In addition, Secretary Pritzker noted that the already strong trade relationship between the Philippines and the United States has continued to grow, with U.S. exports to the Philippines increasing over the past year.

During the meetings, Secretary Pritzker reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the country and the ASEAN region and discussed opportunities for U.S. companies to support the Philippines’ infrastructure development needs, including the Clark International Airport. She also talked about outstanding U.S.-Philippine trade issues and steps the country could take to become an even more attractive destination for U.S. investment.

Data Expands the Tourism Industry

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse at Sunset in Acadia National Park.  Photo: Jeremy Stevens (www.sharetheexperience.org)

Every year thousands of visitors flock to the United States to explore the country and experience the culture. The travel and tourism industry has grown exponentially from 55 million international visitors in 2009 to 70 million in 2013.

Understanding the importance of this industry, President Obama recently set a goal to increase the numbers to 100 million visitors annually by the end of 2021. It’s a daunting number that may seem impossible, but state tourism offices all over America are jumping at the opportunity to expand and grow local businesses.

But how can these local businesses and tourism offices figure out the best ways to attract more visitors to their states?

One word: Data

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently released its 2013 report on International Visitation to the United States which outlines international visitor data for the following five categories:

Secretary Pritzker Promotes Entrepreneurship in the Philippines

Secretary Pritzker Promotes Entrepreneurship in the Philippines

Innovation and entrepreneurship are key drivers of economic growth, in the United States and around the world. As part of her commercial diplomacy mission to the Asia-Pacific region this week with leading American CEOs, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in a roundtable with Philippine entrepreneurs to learn more about the business environment in the Philippines and discuss ways that the Obama Administration can support business creation. The roundtable was hosted by Kickstart, a startup incubator, and IdeaSpace, a non-profit that supports technology entrepreneurs.

Two months ago, Secretary Pritzker launched the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, which President Obama announced last fall. PAGE is a partnership between U.S. government and the private sector to inspire business creation in the United States and around the world.  As the inaugural members of PAGE, 11 successful American entrepreneurs committed to traveling the world to provide access to mentorship, education and other opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Today’s roundtable is part of a series of discussions that Secretary Pritzker is holding to learn more about the opportunities for new business creation, as well as the obstacles that entrepreneurs face in different countries.  During the Secretary’s trade mission to the Middle East in March, she sat down with 15 Saudi entrepreneurs in Riyadh and learned about their plans for growth and what they needed to foster an entrepreneurial community. Also, two weeks ago, she visited an incubator where Ghanian entrepreneurs were developing businesses that served customers in the United States and Europe. These forums are an invaluable chance for the Secretary to learn about barriers to things like capital and education.

Secretary Pritzker's trip demonstrates that United States is firmly committed to deepening U.S. engagement with the Asia-Pacific region, and recognizes that there is tremendous opportunity for mutually-beneficial growth in the ASEAN region. By helping to remove barriers to new business creation, the Commerce Department is working to unlock the entrepreneurial spirit that will generate prosperity for both the Philippines and the United States.

Reliable Electricity and Energy Independence: Exporting Game Changing U.S. Developed Solar Energy Storage Technology to West Africa

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Alistair Jessop, Senior Vice President, Development, SolarReserve

Guest blog post by Alistair Jessop, Senior Vice President, Development, SolarReserve

SolarReserve has participated in two extremely well-organized and worthwhile business development trade missions led by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The first mission was in March to the Middle East, focusing on export opportunities for U.S. companies in the infrastructure sector, including renewable energy. Based on the great success of the Middle East mission, the company enthusiastically joined Secretary Pritzker on a second mission – this time the destination was West Africa.

SolarReserve is a leading worldwide developer of utility-scale solar and hybrid power projects which include advanced solar thermal technology. We have more than $1.8 billion of projects in construction and operation, of which $800 million are in Southern Africa. Our aim for the West Africa trade mission was to better understand the renewable energy goals, requirements and timelines of both Ghana and Nigeria with a hope to form relationships with key decision makers and form strong long-term joint venture relationships with local companies.

SolarReserve’s world-leading, US-developed, patented solar thermal technology with integrated molten salt storage has the potential to provide both Ghana and Nigeria a cost-effective, reliable, on-demand, zero emission supply of electricity. This solar thermal technology (which can be delivered either alone or coupled with photovoltaics), can provide a cost effective 24/7 reliable alternative to fossil fuel generation with the enormous benefit of zero emissions.  This technology could make a huge difference in countries across Africa, with regular power cuts affecting both Ghana and Nigeria’s national productivity as well as the lifestyles of those living in these countries. It’s not surprising we find boundless enthusiasm in the region for reliable renewable energy alternatives.

The high calibre of the meetings was incredible, with access to top level government officials and decision makers. One particular high point during the mission in Ghana was meeting John Dramani Mahama, the Ghanaian President, where the group were given the opportunity to ask direct and frank questions - and received clear and fair responses. It was remarkable to have this level of access to the President and a number of the cabinet ministers, and to be able to talk frankly about business opportunities and issues. We left these meetings with confidence in doing business in Ghana.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Leads CEO Mission to Show U.S. Commitment to Asia

The United States is committed to its commercial relationship with Asia. The U.S. economic engagement strategy in the Asia-Pacific region has three key pillars: strengthening partnerships with long-established trading partners, helping develop the “hard” and “soft” infrastructure that moves goods and people, and building and strengthening regional mechanisms that promote a level playing field for all of our businesses. Recognizing that there is tremendous opportunity for mutually-beneficial growth in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, the Commerce Department is focused on strengthening the trade relationship between the U.S. and ASEAN, and encouraging even deeper business-to-business ties.

As part of these efforts, next week U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will join a delegation of U.S. CEOs and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council on a trip to Vietnam, Burma, and the Philippines. These economies present enormous opportunity for U.S. businesses, and the trip is a huge step not only in furthering commercial ties, but also in advancing our overall relationship.

The delegation will stop first in Vietnam, where Secretary Pritzker will meet with government leaders and entrepreneurs to discuss the Commerce Department’s priorities for increasing trade and investment in the region. Vietnam’s economy is experiencing sustained growth following a rapid rate of expansion in the last decade. Energy is one industry sector with a number of opportunities for U.S. businesses in Vietnam. An upcoming reverse trade mission with the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) will connect U.S. companies with leaders in Smart Grid development and implementation. General Electric is already finding success in the country, signing a $94 million contract to bring 52 wind turbines to the Mekong Delta. This deal will support 245 U.S. jobs, and was supported by the International Trade Administration’s Advocacy Center

From Vietnam, the delegation will head to the Philippines, where Secretary Pritzker will deliver remarks on America’s economic engagement in the Asia Pacific region, as well as meet with government and business leaders. The economy in the Philippines has shown much resilience despite tragic natural disasters and volatile financial markets. Economic growth has been consistent during the last two years and is projected to remain so through 2016. Reconstruction efforts could lead to acceleration in the economy and present business opportunities for American companies with experience in sectors like construction and infrastructure.

The trip will wrap up with a final stop in Burma, where Secretary Pritzker will affirm the United States’ support for positive political and economic reforms in meetings with civil society leaders, government officials, and the Burmese business community. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates Burma’s GDP growth accelerated to 7.5 percent in 2013, and expects that growth to continue. Business confidence also is improving, as reflected in a rapid increase in new business registrations – both domestic and foreign-owned. As the country develops, it is well positioned to leverage modern technology available from U.S. firms. U.S. exports to Burma have ranged from electrical machinery, optical and medical equipment, vehicles, and other machinery. As the economy continues to open in Burma, there will be expansive opportunities for U.S. companies to export more goods and services, supporting the modernization and development that will improve the quality of life for Burmese citizens.

Recognizing Those Supporting American Exports

Icelantic Skis was one of 65 companies and organizations recognized by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker with a President’s E Award for supporting U.S. exports.

Guest blog post by Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Ken Hyatt.

Cross posted from ITA's Tradeology blog.

We at the Department of Commerce produce a lot of numbers, but we always try to see behind the export numbers into what they create – jobs, growth, and development.

It was easy to see behind the numbers today, as I joined Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to recognize and congratulate 65 companies and organizations that have supported the expansion of U.S. exports.

These companies and organizations earned the 2014 President’s E Awards, the highest honor bestowed upon those that are committed to expanding the U.S. economy through exports.

The awardees include an assortment of small and medium-sized businesses in a variety of states and business sectors. From Kansas-based Pioneer Balloon Company to California-based Robinson Pharma, both of which have expanded their exports with support from U.S. government agencies including the Department of Commerce.

Secretary Pritzker Highlights General Electric Investment in the Nigerian Community

Secretary Pritzker joins Jay Ireland, GE Africa President and CEO, after a roundtable discussion with representatives from General Electric (GE) Healthcare and the Government of Nigeria

While in Nigeria, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives from General Electric (GE) Healthcare and the Government of Nigeria where she heard about what opportunities existed for U.S. companies to provide solutions to Nigeria’s health care issues, specifically in the areas of infant and maternal care. Before beginning the roundtable discussion, Secretary Pritzker was escorted by GE executives through a “Continuum of Care” walk through display which highlighted the many solutions GE is using to improve maternal and newborn health in the region.

After the walk-through, Secretary Pritzker sat down for a roundtable discussion where she heard more about the formation and the recently signed Healthymagination Mother & Child initiative. This first-of-its-kind, 5-year initiative, signed by GE, Nigeria’s Ministry of Health and USAID, will focus on increasing capacity in the primary health care system and providing affordable financing options to support the reduction of preventable child-maternal mortality in Nigeria. Specifically, the imitative is focused on bringing more mobile and alternative powered health technology to the region along with robust training and education programs for nurses and midwives to help reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. Both of which will help Nigeria meet its Millennium Development goals.

During the trade mission, Secretary Pritzker highlighted that U.S. businesses want to be in Africa. She discussed how American companies not only invest time and resources in countries like Nigeria, but they also make investments in the communities in which they operate as well.

GE is an example of one such company that has not only been investing in infrastructure and power projects in Nigeria, but has also been actively involved in ways to improve healthcare outcomes and efficiency, including maternal and infant care.in Nigeria. both through its corporate social responsibilities platform as well as furthering its commercial interests. .