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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

The Department of Commerce Supports U.S.-ASEAN Partnerships

ASEAN Member Nations

It’s no secret that Asia is a source of tremendous economic growth. For more than 35 years, the United States and The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) member countries have worked to foster economic development through trade and investment.

This week, officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will join a visiting delegation of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic ministers for the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Road Show events in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, California, as well as in Washington, D.C. U.S. government officials from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, USTR, and State. Trade ministers from ASEAN member states (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) will meet with Members of Congress, local government officials and business leaders to discuss various trade issues, commercial diplomacy, and trade-openness. The U.S. Department of Commerce is specifically committed to economic engagement with ASEAN in support of the White House Expanded Economic Engagement (E3) initiative. ASEAN’s rapid economic development, growing middle class, and combined total trade of over $200 billion in goods and services speak to the tremendous enterprise and potential of the region. 

By 2015, ASEAN seeks to establish a unified economic market. The United States supports the integration efforts by ASEAN to establish an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which will benefit both ASEAN economies and its U.S. business partners. The AEC would establish free flows of goods, services and foreign direct investment, as well as freer skilled labor and cross-border capital flows.

ASEAN’s progress toward establishing AEC, will have a strong impact on U.S.-ASEAN trade and investment. With a combined population of nearly 600 million people, an integrated ASEAN will lead to greater economies of scale and lower costs – which will help companies, workers and citizens in both the U.S. and ASEAN thrive.

The Commerce Department will continue to play a strong and active role in engaging with ASEAN. Commerce will do its part to foster more public-private relationships and support trade missions to ASEAN countries to help strengthen U.S.-ASEAN economic futures.

Working Together with Indian Country

Photo of Senior Adviser Dee Alexander

Guest blog post by Dee Alexander, Commerce's Senior Adviser on Native American Affairs

Last month, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank signed the “Tribal Consultation and Coordination Policy," (PDF) which establishes the manner in which the Department works with federally-recognized Indian tribes when developing Department policies that have tribal implications.

The Consultation Policy follows from President Obama’s Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation from November 2009 which strengthens former President Bill Clinton’s Executive Order on “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments” (PDF). Upon signing, President Obama stated the importance of the Presidential Memorandum: “History has shown that failure to include the voices of tribal officials in formulating policy affecting their communities has all too often led to undesirable and, at times, devastating and tragic results. By contrast, meaningful dialogue between Federal officials and tribal officials has greatly improved Federal policy toward Indian tribes.

Spotlight on Commerce: Peggy Leung-Dombrowski, Acting Chief Learning Officer, Office of Human Resources Management

Portrait of Peggy Leung-Dombrowski

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 Ms. Peggy Leung-Dombrowski, Acting Chief Learning Officer, Office of the Secretary

I was born and raised in Hong Kong (China), also known as Pearl of the East. Fifteen years ago, I would never have dreamt of working for one of the United States Government Cabinet level agencies, serving the American people, and working side by side with the brightest professionals in the Learning and Development (L&D) field. 

My father, who was a retired language translator for the British Government in Hong Kong by day, a professor at the University of Hong Kong by night, taught me the values of integrity, working hard, and perseverance. My father’s dictum was “People may steal your money but no one can ever take knowledge away from you.” He always encouraged me to travel and see the world, which allowed me to experience life in Australia, Canada, and the United States first hand. Then, I settled down in Virginia, pursued my passion, and received my Master of Education in Instructional Technology from George Mason University, which provided me the competencies to work in the L&D arena. 

Before joining public service in 2001, I worked in the private sector as a trainer, Instructional System Designer, and Training Manager. After serving the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for  eight years, I began my career in the Department of Commerce (DOC) in 2009. At Commerce, I am the Acting Chief Learning Officer, Chair of the Department’s Chief Learning Officers Council, serving all the bureaus of the Department. My responsibilities include making recommendations on training development direction, including Leadership Development, to support our workforce; managing the implementation, development, quality assurance, and extended application of the enterprise Learning Management System; and providing Department training policies, processes and procedures guidance. Throughout my Commerce career, I have been supported by many mentors and managers, including Dr. Fred Lang, and Tyra Dent Smith for their guidance and leadership. I also serve on the Department’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Council and am heavily involved in the Department’s D&I learning and retention strategies.

Digital Government Strategy Brings Big Changes to the Commerce Department

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy, an effort by the Administration to transform public-facing government services in line with 21st century expectations. The Department of Commerce has made some big strides in providing better information to citizens in a timely manner through multiple formats and increasing access to services on mobile devices. The goal is to make citizen services and information available anywhere, anytime, and on any device, and in formats that facilitate additional use by public developers and entrepreneurs.

Technology is changing so rapidly that nearly 50% of American adults own a smart phone today, up from 35% only one year ago. To help keep pace with the rapid deployment of mobile technology, Commerce is working hard to ensure our services and data are available to citizens in whatever format and on whatever device they prefer. For example, earlier this week, NOAA released a mobile app to provide free nautical charts for recreational boaters to ensure safer and easier boating. NOAA is putting the finishing touches on the iOS version of their Shortfin Mako Shark Live Release app for public release next week. The success of these apps builds upon the America’s Economy app from the U.S. Census Bureau that already has more than 90,000 downloads.

We also have released the additional data for public consumption. For example, the International Trade Administration has released an application programming interface (API) for Export Trade Events so that data can be used by other organizations to pull the most relevant events for their members. The Department's Bureau of Industry and Security created the Commerce Control List Order of Review Decision Tool, a new web-based tool to assist exporters in understanding changes being made as part of the Administration's Export Control Reform Initiative. All information available for public use is on Data.gov and also on our new Developer page. The release of this data and APIs is intended to provide developers, researches, entrepreneurs and others with the ability to access government data in ways that make it easier to use and program.

Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Visits Consular Section in Colombia to Promote Travel and Tourism

On the heels of Travel and Tourism Week, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank visited the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia today as part of the trade mission she is leading this week to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama.

Currently, the U.S. consular section in Colombia is the sixth busiest worldwide by volume of visa applicants. So far this year, the record for one day processing was 3,001 applicants—the highest in the world for that day. On average, the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia receives 2,300 applicants a day for travelers visiting the United States for tourism, work, or education purposes.

The Acting Secretary’s visit directly supports the Obama Administration’s commitment to promoting travel to, and tourism within, the United States. Travel and tourism, which represents the United States’ number one service export, is a crucial stimulator for the American economy. In March 2013, spending by international visitors to the United States totaled more than $14.4 billion, an increase of nearly 3 percent when compared to last year.

Acting Secretary Blank Supports U.S. Companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts Abroad

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Acting Secretary Blank Supports U.S. Companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts Abroad

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank visited Bogotá, Colombia, today, to see how a U.S.-based company is helping to promote corporate social responsibility in a country where it does business.

In 2007, the world’s largest software company Microsoft joined forces with the nonprofit Trust for the Americas, the nonprofit Centro Laudes Infantis and the local government to create “Mi Llave,” a program designed specifically to increase computer literacy.  The centers, including one that Acting Secretary Blank visited, provide economic and social opportunities to youth and vulnerable populations through access to technology, technical and vocational skills training, and more. Since its inception, 15 additional centers have opened across the country.

Acting Secretary Blank toured the facility and heard first hand testimonials from individuals who have benefitted from the services the centers provide.  More than 13,000 people have been trained, and more than 270,000 people have received access to computers and the Internet since training began at Mi Llave centers.

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.

Acting Secretary Blank Meets with Brazilian CEOs, Promotes SelectUSA Investment Summit

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank is joined by Josué Gomes Da Silva, Chairman and CEO, Coteminas and Marcelo Bahia Odebrecht, President of Construtora Norberto Odebrecht S.A. at a Roundtable with Brazilian CEOs

Yesterday, Acting Secretary Blank met with a group of Brazilian CEOs to hear their priorities for doing business with the U.S. and to propose possible areas for close collaboration with American businesses. One area in which U.S. and Brazilian firms can work together is on infrastructure development, which is one reason why Acting Secretary Blank is currently leading a trade mission of 20 U.S. firms in a wide range of infrastructure industry sectors to Brazil, Colombia and Panama. These companies offer everything from cutting-edge technologies to top-notch services in engineering, management consulting, and more -- and they are well equipped to help Brazil meet its robust goals for infrastructure improvements.

Acting Secretary Blank emphasized the importance of a strong bilateral investment relationship -- many global manufacturers, including some in Brazil, are now looking to return manufacturing operations to the U.S., to expand operations here, or to invest in the U.S. for the first time. That´s because there are a host of factors that make America a very attractive place to do business: low domestic energy costs and a stable supply of energy, high labor productivity, strong research institutions that can serve as partners in developing new products, intellectual property protections, and a stable business investment environment.

Infrastructure Business Development Trade Mission to Brazil, Colombia and Panama Begins Today

This week, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank will lead an infrastructure business development trade mission to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama, countries that have created robust infrastructure development plans for the coming years. This mission directly supports President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which set the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and creating an additional 2 million jobs supported by exports. Throughout the course of the mission, 20 U.S. firms will join the Acting Secretary, with the goal of expanding their business opportunities in Brazil, Colombia, and Panama.

Today is the first full day of the trade mission and Acting Secretary Blank will participate in a roundtable with Brazilian CEOs to discuss possible areas for collaboration with U.S. businesses, particularly in the area of infrastructure. This discussion serves as a follow-up to the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum, which Acting Secretary Blank co-chaired along with Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Michael Froman in Brasilia in March.

On Tuesday, Acting Secretary Blank will meet with members of the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo (FIESP), a Brazilian industry association that includes more than 130,000 companies representing a wide range of industrial activities. The Acting Secretary will highlight U.S. businesses’ efforts to support Brazil’s infrastructure development goals and connect U.S. and Brazilian firms to explore further procurement opportunities. She will also visit Embraer while in Sao Paulo, to highlight a Brazilian company that has invested in America and created U.S. jobs. Embraer has also worked with many suppliers in the U.S. and has strong partnerships with a variety of U.S. companies.