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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Building on the Strength of U.S.-Brazil Economic Relationship

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro for the U.S.-Brazil CEO

Last week Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro for the U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum and other events aimed at strengthening the economic and commercial ties between the two nations.

The U.S.-Brazil CEO Forum was created in 2007 to bring private sector leaders from both countries together to develop joint recommendations on how to deepen our commercial ties, and to present those recommendations to the U.S. and Brazilian governments. The Forum has identified five areas as priorities: tax and trade issues; education and innovation; infrastructure; energy; and aviation.

Deputy Secretary Blank served as the U.S. Government’s co-chair for the CEO Forum along with Michael Froman, the Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs at the White House.  They were joined by their Brazilian co-chairs, Minister of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade Fernando Pimentel and Presidential Chief of Staff Gleisi Hoffman.  

The meeting was led by about 20 CEOs from both countries, whose priorities for improving the economic and commercial relationship between Brazil and the U.S. set the agenda for the meeting.  As one of the U.S. Government’s co-chairs, Deputy Secretary Blank gave an update to the members of the CEO Forum on the progress that the two governments made to implement the recommendations that the CEOs made at their previous meeting last year.  The CEOs then led the main discussion and came up with several new recommendations that will be formally released in the coming weeks, including:

  • Calling upon the governments to take advantage of the momentum from the recently-approved Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) to take on additional tax issues that could eventually pave the way for a Bilateral Tax Treaty.
  • Continuing to make progress on Brazil’s participation in the Global Entry Program, making it easier for Brazilians traveling to the United States on business to get through immigration at U.S. airports.
  • Continuing efforts to increase cooperation in the area of infrastructure and take advantage of the U.S. infrastructure trade mission, scheduled for May, to create opportunities for U.S. and Brazilian companies to partner on infrastructure improvements.
  • Continuing to cooperate on education and workforce development issues by supporting programs like President Obama’s “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative and Brazil’s “Scientific Mobility Program.”
  • Building upon the work of the Strategic Energy Dialogue and involve the private sector in energy infrastructure and policy discussions.
  • Building on cooperation between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Brazil’s National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) to engage in more formal worksharing efforts to support innovation.
  • Continuing work begun under the Aviation Partnership Agreement to advance aviation cooperation and use the Aviation Partnership as a model for other sectors.

In Rio de Janeiro, Deputy Secretary Blank met with more business leaders and also delivered remarks at a Columbia University event focused on innovation and economic development which was part of the launch of the university’s new Global Center in that city.   She emphasized the importance of U.S.-Brazil collaboration in areas such as infrastructure development, clean energy, student exchanges, and more.  Finally, she announced that U.S.-Brazil partnerships would continue to grow in the near future due to a high-level, infrastructure-focused trade mission to Brazil – as well as Colombia and Panama – that will take place in mid-May. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

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 Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

As Deputy Director in the Office of Business Liaison, my primary goal is to execute the Secretary's international trade missions. Our office executed an infrastructure trade mission to New Dehli, India last year, and we are currently planning a transportation and infrastructure trade mission to Colombia, Brazil, and Panama. The President wants to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, and I am proud to play in role in meeting the President’s established export goal. During trade mission promotion and planning, much of my time is spent interfacing with US companies, small and medium sized businesses, U.S. embassies, and trade associations.  I have also served on several White House interagency and Commerce policy initiatives:  Summer Jobs +, Doing Business in Africa, the Affordable Care Act, Hurricane Sandy response and recovery and the expansion of Commerce’s patent and trademark field offices. These new field offices will speed up the patent process and help American businesses innovate, grow, and create jobs.

I grew up in the Bronx and Puerto Rico. My grandmother migrated to New York City in the 1950’s and found work in the garment industry, which at the time, along with manufacturing, was a booming industry in NYC. My mom, was born in Puerto Rico and raised my brother and I on her own and worked in clerical jobs at Local 1199 SEIU and Bronx Lebanon Hospital until she retired last October.

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Announces New Manufacturing Council Members

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced the appointment of 26 members to the 2013 Manufacturing Council (Council). The Council, established in 2004 and directed by the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, helps to ensure that there is regular communication between the U.S. government and the manufacturing sector.

The Council is comprised of up to 30 members that represent a diverse cross section of the manufacturing industry, including steel, textile, semiconductor, and medical manufacturers.  Their products support a wide range of industries such as the auto, apparel, aerospace, and energy efficiency sectors.

The Council advises the Secretary of Commerce on government policies and programs that affect U.S. manufacturing and provides a forum for proposing solutions to industry-related problems. The Council also works to ensure that the United States remains the preeminent destination for investment in manufacturing throughout the world. The Secretaries of Labor, Energy, and Treasury serve as ex officio members of the Council to better collaborate on cross-cutting issues the Council will address. See the complete list of members of the 2013 Manufacturing Council.

Doing Business in Africa Forum Presents Opportunities for American Businesses in Sub-Saharan Region

Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and Minority Business Development Agency National Director David Hinson Address the Doing Business in Africa Forum

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and David Hinson, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency

Earlier this week, we attended the Doing Business in Africa Forum at the White House. This was the first forum of the Doing Business in Africa campaign that the Commerce Department launched three months ago in Johannesburg, South Africa. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank gave the opening remarks and focused on strengthening commercial ties between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. She emphasized that as the continent’s wealth increases, so does the demand for improved infrastructure, energy services, and high-quality consumer and agricultural products – all of which American companies are well positioned to provide. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to six of the ten fastest-growing countries in the world, which helps explain why over the past decade, U.S. trade to and from Africa has tripled, with U.S. exports now topping $21 billion.  Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement, welcomed the group of federal government officials, African-born U.S. business and financial leaders, and African-American entrepreneurs, corporate executives, fund managers and investment advisors. Mr. Strautmanis emphasized the need for a collective approach from federal agencies to provide expanded investment and trade financing support to help U.S businesses become more effective global competitors, particularly in the Sub-Saharan region.

Amplifying that message, both of us, along with representatives from government entities including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Export-Import Bank, Small Business Administration, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. Trade and Development Agency and Millennium Challenge Corporation, described for the assembled group how all of our services are structured under the Doing Business in Africa campaign to help them seize opportunities in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. 

Deputy Secretary Blank Travels to BMW in Spartanburg, SC to Highlight Revitalization of American Manufacturing

Deputy Secretary Blank is joined by Brian Barron, Department Manager for X3 Assembly and Josef Kerscher, the President of BMW Manufacturing, on the Spartanburg assembly floor

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank visited BMW Manufacturing today and delivered remarks on the President’s plan to make America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing. The Deputy Secretary highlighted the President’s proposals for a new Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, the SelectUSA program, and the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.  Blank’s visit comes on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he outlined a broad agenda for revitalizing U.S. manufacturing, spurring innovation, and accelerating export growth.

During her remarks, Blank emphasized key Commerce programs that will drive President Obama’s “Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Manufacturing” plan. For example, Commerce is going to lead a team of federal agencies in the new Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership.  The President has proposed a new program to support communities that do the hard work and analysis to identify key projects that will bolster their ability to attract investment.  A competitive process will select communities that have done effective planning but need a little help to build additional assets.  For instance, the program could provide matching funds to co-invest in things like a business park or a new tech transfer program with local universities. Local leaders will need to show that they’ve put together a strong plan to attract investments from a particular industry where their community has a comparative advantage.  That means they’ll need to collaborate closely across the public and private sectors, local foundations, and local research and teaching institutions. By supporting communities that are actively working to become investment hubs, the program will help entice both manufacturers and their supply chains to come to a particular area. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Izella Mitchell Dornell, Deputy Chief Information Officer

Izella Dornell, Deputy Chief Information Officer, Office of the Secretary

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 Izella Mitchell Dornell, Deputy Chief Information Officer

As Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Department, I am responsible for leading the effort that provides Department Information Technology (IT) program and project oversight for all major IT investments all appropriately aligned with the Department and mission objectives and goals. My responsibilities also include facilitating the current shared service initiatives for the Herbert C. Hoover Building resident bureaus (Commerce headquarters), which include email cloud migration, web hosting, IT security, a tier one service/help desk call center, and video teleconferencing capability. I employ a combination of leadership and management skills to provide our team members with the necessary resources to enable their individual and collective professional growth. I also implement effective fiscal strategies, performance assessments, healthy customer service focus, and the management and operations for the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).

I consider myself a Texan, but I grew up in Alabama, graduating at the top of my high school class in Birmingham, Alabama, with a keen interest in science and mathematics. I earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, and a master’s of business administration degree from the University of Houston. Because I am a firm believer in education, I completed several Executive Leadership programs at Harvard, Simmons College, and Penn State University.

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Visits Washington, D.C. Auto Show

Deputy Secretary Blank Inspects a Display Model at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank visited the Washington, D.C. Auto Show. While there, she visited various exhibits including Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, GM, Honda, and Volkswagen. At each exhibit, Blank spoke with representatives of each car maker and “kicked the tires” of the models on display.

Many of the Commerce Department’s bureaus support the auto manufacturing industry. For example, the International Trade Administration works hard to increase exports of domestically-produced autos and auto parts. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has numerous ongoing partnerships with automotive manufacturers and their suppliers on advanced technologies, such as alternative fuel sources, advanced materials and automation. NIST also provides advanced measurements, standards, and calibrations for the manufacturing of vehicles and for the automotive components themselves. To improve the next-generation of automotive safety, NIST works with automobile manufacturers and suppliers to provide the underlying measurement infrastructure.

Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, the American auto industry has added more than 290,000 jobs – the best growth since 1997 and U.S. passenger vehicle sales reached approximately 14.4 million units in 2012, up 13.4 percent from 2011’s 12.7 million, marking the highest level since 2007.

Deputy Secretary Blank Highlights Workforce Skills Development as Key to Attracting Investment, Creating Good Jobs

Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank delivered keynote remarks at an event focused on the importance of developing a skilled workforce in order to attract more investment and create more good jobs.

The event, hosted by German Ambassador Peter Ammon, attracted CEOs of German-owned companies that have invested in the United States (such as STIHL, BMW, Volkswagen, and Siemens) as well as leaders of U.S. community colleges, universities, and think tanks. 

Blank cited key Obama administration programs that are strengthening the links between colleges and employers–ensuring that more graduates are ready to fill jobs that are open right now in areas such as advanced manufacturing. She also praised the German Embassy’s newly-announced “Skills Initiative,” an effort to help more German companies form partnerships to train American workers and expand their operations in the U.S.

Blank emphasized that education and training are crucial not only for helping individual workers find good jobs, but also for fostering a deeper pool of talented and skilled citizens throughout society. She noted that the U.S. has historically led the way to establish free public education and world-class public universities. She also cited Germany’s unique “dual system”–a model that blends education with hands-on training–which is well-known for helping young people who have graduated high school but who are not pursuing four-year degrees.

Blank stressed the importance of continued leadership and partnership between the U.S. and Germany overall, noting that hundreds of thousands of Americans go to work each day at German companies that operate in the U.S., and vice versa.

“Our People. Our Future.” Helping One Another Through Service

National Day of Service logo (Learn. Serve. Pledge.)

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce

As we head into the inaugural weekend, I’m looking forward to the National Day of Service on Saturday. Four years ago, President-elect Obama asked all of us to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by participating in a National Day of Service. We’ve made this a tradition in every year since then. The president believes that the strength of our country comes from our people. That’s why the theme of this year’s inauguration is “Our people. Our future.” It is through the combined hard work of Americans in the four years since the president first took office that we’re getting back on track. But our work isn’t done. There is still plenty of work to be done in our nation and in our communities and the president is asking for our help.

That is why on Saturday, I will be visiting a local elementary school in Washington, D.C. to lend a hand in beautifying the building and improving the learning environment for children who will be America’s next generation of leaders. Thousands of fellow Americans in all 50 states will be helping their neighbors by:

  • Rebuilding homes destroyed by natural disaster
  • Providing guidance on how to start a business or get a job
  • Mentoring students
  • Cleaning up their local parks
  • Providing for the less fortunate among us
  • Educating members of their community on medical concerns and resources available
  • Serving our veterans and military families in return for their service to us.

To participate in the National Day of Service, go to www.2013pic.org/service and learn about ways to participate. Then, sign up to serve on Saturday, January 19, to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and pledge to serve in your community in the future.

Once you have selected your project, continue the conversation with others in your community and across America on Twitter. The Day of Service hashtag is #iserve and we’d love to hear what you are doing to make our future a brighter one.

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.