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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

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.

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. .

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Leads Energy Business Development Mission to West Africa

With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to electricity, the power development challenge is enormous. More than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, including more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa needs more than $300 billion in investments to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 – far beyond the capacity of any traditional development program.

Tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will leave for West Africa to lead 20 American companies on an Energy Business Development Mission with stops in Ghana and Nigeria. This mission will promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping American firms launch or increase their business in the energy sector in West Africa.  It will also help the African region develop and manage energy resources and systems, build out power generation and transmission, and distribution.  

Africa is home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and helping U.S. business expand their presence in these African markets is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration. There is tremendous potential for U.S. companies to sell their goods and services in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, which have energy needs that our firms have the goods, services, and expertise to address. Expanding trade and investment is a critical tool for economic growth and job creation in the U.S., and trade missions like this one are one way to help grow U.S. exports.

What’s NEXT for U.S. exports?

New data-based, customer service-driven initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets that are opening up around the world.

Exports are critical to the U.S economy. They fuel economic growth in our communities, support good middle class jobs, and unlock opportunity for American companies, entrepreneurs, farmers, ranchers, and workers, enabling U.S. companies to compete in the growing global marketplace. By selling Made-in-America goods and services to international customers, U.S. businesses – including small and medium-sized and minority- and women-owned businesses – are able to grow faster, hire more employees, pay higher wages, and help spread American ideas, innovation and values.

Recognizing the many opportunities exports create for our economy, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that the Obama Administration will build on the success of the National Export Initiative (NEI) by launching NEI/NEXT: a new customer service-driven strategy with improved information resources that will ensure American businesses are fully able to capitalize on expanded opportunities to sell their goods and services abroad. NEI/NEXT will help more American companies reach more overseas markets by improving data, providing information on specific export opportunities, working more closely with financing organizations and service providers, and partnering with states and communities to empower local export efforts.

In 2010, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative (NEI), a comprehensive government-wide effort to help U.S. companies increase exports, expand into new markets, and compete globally. Under the NEI, the United States has had four straight record-breaking years of exports – hitting an all-time high of $2.3 trillion dollars last year – up $700 billion from 2009. A new economic report released today by the Department of Commerce, shows that nearly one-third of the country’s economic growth since mid-2009 has been driven by exports. Nearly 30,000 businesses have started exporting for the first time. And most importantly, since 2009, the number of jobs supported by exports has grown by 1.6 million to more than 11.3 million – the highest in 20 years.

Even with all this success, far too many American companies remain focused on domestic markets. Less than 5 percent of U.S. companies export, and more than half of those exporters sell to only one market. To help bridge that gap, and look for new opportunities to help U.S. businesses export, the Department of Commerce, along with 20 federal agency partners last year began to take a fresh look at the NEI. This interagency group solicited extensive stakeholder feedback and incorporated lessons learned under the NEI, to develop an economic growth strategy that would help make trade a central part of America’s economic DNA. The end product of that interagency review, NEI/NEXT will take the NEI strategy to next level by institutionalizing our progress from the past four years and serving as a framework to guide the development of new, innovative initiatives.

NEI/NEXT will be implemented through the Export Promotion Cabinet and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), which consists of representatives from 20 federal departments and agencies with export-related programs. The Secretary of Commerce chairs the TPCC.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Announces Next Phase of the National Export Initiative -- NEI/NEXT

Today, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced NEI/NEXT – a data-based, customer service-driven initiative to ensure that more American businesses can fully capitalize on markets that are opening up around the world. Through five core objectives, NEI/NEXT will build on Administration-wide achievements under the National Export Initiative (NEI), to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States.

If you missed her speech, below is a collection of tweets from her account and audience members that summarizes her remarks.

Commerce and Department of Homeland Security: A new partnership built on shared principles

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

About a month ago, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson  and I each sent our respective workforces (around 280,000 people combined) a declaration of joint principles we developed to capture our shared mission.

Today, I want to share this message more broadly. We all owe Secretary Johnson, his leadership team, and the more than 240,000 men and women of the Department of Homeland Security a debt of gratitude for their hard and often dangerous work securing our borders and keeping this country safe.

Secretary Johnson is also keenly aware of the essential role DHS plays every day in facilitating the lawful trade of goods and services—trade that is vital to our economic security and competitiveness, and that is at the core of Commerce’s mission.

DHS and Commerce are therefore key partners in the Administration’s economic growth agenda. During our recent meetings, Secretary Johnson and I have recommitted ourselves to personally overseeing progress in a variety of initiatives that are priorities of both Departments.

National Climate Assessment Underscores Urgent Need for Americans and Our Businesses to Prepare for Climate Change in the United States

Cover of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment report

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

The effects of climate change on our planet are becoming more evident, and its impact on our communities, and key sectors of the economy, is becoming more profound.

As part of its overall efforts to provide scientific information about climate change, the Obama Administration released the third U.S. National Climate Assessment. This report – a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan – is a comprehensive, authoritative scientific assessment about climate changes that are happening now in the U.S. and further changes that we can expect to see throughout this century.

The report communicates the impacts of climate change according to geographic region of the U.S., and by economic and societal sector—including agriculture, energy, and health. These tailored findings help translate scientific insights into practical, useable knowledge that can help decision-makers and citizens anticipate and prepare for specific climate-change impacts.

Among the 12 key findings, the report concludes that evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country. Over the next 100 years, we can expect these impacts to further increase unless the global emissions of heat-trapping greenhouses gases are stabilized or reduced. 

While these findings are indeed sobering and provide real-cause for concern, there is also reason for hope. Ultimately, the amount of climate change, severity of impacts, and how we will prepare for those impacts will be largely be determined by the decisions we make today. 

Commerce Department Recognizes Employees’ Service

This week marks Public Service Recognition Week – an opportunity to honor the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees.

There are more than two million Americans who have answered the call to serve our country and many of them have dedicated their careers to making our government work better. Their tireless efforts many times go unnoticed or unrecognized – and this week is an occasion to highlight the important work they do and thank them for their service to our country and our citizens.

The Commerce Department has employees working in all 50 states and around the globe focused on strengthening our economy. Commerce employees, and the work of our 12 bureaus, touches the daily lives of the American people in many ways, with a wide range of services in the areas of trade and investment, economic development, innovation, entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship, and statistical research analysis. From National Weather Service weather forecasts, to the Census Bureau’s decennial census statistics, your work helps improve everyday life.

To recognize the incredible work of Commerce employees, Secretary Penny Pritzker, along with other Administration officials, and Commerce leadership will participate in a number of events with employees to honor their dedication and commitment to their work and thank them for their service. Commerce is also launching the “Coffee with the Secretary” series this week – an opportunity for 20 employees to meet informally with Secretary Pritzker for coffee and to share their thoughts and ideas.

Taking Action to Attract the World’s Top Talented Professionals

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Today, the Obama Administration announced new steps to make it easier for highly skilled workers and talented researchers from other countries to contribute to our economy and ultimately become Americans. These measures are part of administrative reforms first announced in 2012, and reflect our commitment to attracting and retaining highly-skilled immigrants, continuing our economic recovery, and encouraging job creation.

Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that would—for the first time—allow work authorization for the spouses of H-1B workers who have begun the process of applying for a green card through their employers. Once enacted, this proposed rule would empower these spouses to put their own education and skills to work for the country that they and their families now call home.  This rule change was requested in a “We the People” petition to the White House.

At the same time, DHS is also proposing another new rule to make it easier for outstanding professors and researchers in other countries to demonstrate their eligibility for the EB-1 visa, a type of green card reserved for the world’s best and brightest. Just as great athletes and performers are already able to provide a range of evidence to support their petition for an EB-1, professors and researchers would be able to present diverse achievements such as groundbreaking patents or prestigious scientific grants.

These measures build on continuing Administration efforts to streamline existing systems, eliminate inefficiency, and increase transparency, such as by the launch of Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center that gives immigrant entrepreneurs an intuitive way to navigate opportunities to start and grow a business in the United States.

New Expansion to Support New Opportunities

Guest blog post by Arun Kumar, Assistant Secretary for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service

Last week, Commerce Secretary Pritzker made an important announcement that demonstrates the United States’ commitment to supporting developing economies and the Department of Commerce’s commitment to U.S. businesses competing overseas.

The Department’s International Trade Administration will open offices in five new markets, bringing Foreign Commercial Service (CS) officers into some of the world's most rapidly developing economies. In cooperation with the U.S. State Department, we will open offices in Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Burma this calendar year.

These new offices, and our staff additions in other offices around the world, will make us more capable of supporting U.S. exporters. We can support more Gold Key Matchmaking, we can conduct more market research, and we can help connect U.S. companies to more global markets.

As a new member of the Department of Commerce team, I'm very excited to be a part of this major expansion - especially in such important markets for U.S. businesses.