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General Counsel Kelly Welsh Travels to Beijing and Wuhan, China

GC Welsh travels to China

General Counsel Kelly Welsh traveled to Beijing and Wuhan, China, the week of January 12 to discuss how the United States and China can work together to promote commercial rule of law.

President Obama and Secretary Pritzker have repeatedly emphasized the importance of a commitment to a strong rule of law for promoting economic growth. General Counsel Welsh bolstered the U.S.-China dialogue by spending time with academics, legal professionals, the media, Chinese government officials, and U.S. business leaders.

In a speech at the Beijing American Center, General Counsel Welsh spoke to a large audience about the importance of a transparent, accountable, and predictable commercial legal system.

General Counsel Welsh said:

During my experience as a senior executive and general counsel for U.S. companies, I saw the link between a strong commercial rule of law and economic growth first hand. When deciding which countries to invest in, or to market our services in, the strength of a country’s rule of law was always a critical factor in our company’s decision-making.

General Counsel Welsh led the U.S. delegation for the 19th U.S.-China Legal Exchange, a longstanding public dialogue with China’s Ministry of Commerce under the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) Commercial Law Working Group.  Experts from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (an agency of the Department of Commerce), the Federal Trade Commission, and the private sector, presented to large public audiences at Tsinghua University and Wuhan University on topics of key concern to both the United States and China:  U.S. laws and policies on air pollution, and commercial cybersecurity and data privacy.

The General Counsel also met with Chinese government officials to discuss the U.S. approach to cybersecurity, including the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, and to urge China to enforce its laws criminalizing bribery of foreign public officials, to ensure that all companies compete on a level playing field throughout the world.

The General Counsel’s trip highlights the importance for Secretary Pritzker and the Department of Commerce of promoting strong commercial rule of law wherever U.S. companies do business. By promoting a strong rule of law, the United States and China can work together to create a global business climate that fosters growth and innovation.

CLDP Launches Power Purchase Agreements Handbook

The recently published “Understanding Power Purchase Agreements” handbook was highlighted as a major achievement of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative during the Power Africa Private Sector Partners Meeting on January 28 in Washington, DC. 

Power Africa is an initiative to increase the number of people with access to power in sub-Saharan Africa.  At the Private Sector Partners Meeting, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Power Africa Coordinator Andy Herscowitz noted the important role the handbook will play in promoting power projects.

The handbook — produced through a partnership between the Office of General Counsel’s Commercial Law Development Program and the African Legal Support Facility — features over a dozen leading power project contract experts from the US Government, African Governments, banks, development finance institutions, developers and law firms. The best practices guide is intended to provide a common understanding of the most important terms in Power Purchase Agreements, which are at the core of most privately-financed power projects. The book is available for download on the Commercial Law Development Program’s website.

Remarks of General Counsel Kelly R. Welsh at Beijing American Center

Remarks of General Counsel Kelly R. Welsh at Beijing American Center on January 13, 2015.

Click for full remarks in English and Chinese.

Office of General Counsel Awards Ceremony 2014

OGC Awards 2014

The Office of General Counsel held its Annual Awards Ceremony with Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and General Counsel Kelly Welsh on December 2, 2014. The ceremony recognized two Attorneys of the Year and a Support Staff of the Year.

General Counsel Welsh applauded the broad range of accomplishments of OGC staff in 2014, and he highlighted the office’s contributions to advancing the mission of the Department of Commerce.

Deputy Secretary Andrews delivered remarks at the ceremony, thanking members of OGC for their tireless work on behalf of the Department. Deputy Secretary Andrews also presented awards to OGC employees with 30, 35, and 40 years of public service.

Deputy General Counsel for Strategic Initiatives Dawn Yamane Hewett presented the Distinguished Employee Awards to 32 OGC employees from across the country for their outstanding contributions to OGC efforts and initiatives. She also recognized the creation of NOAA’s Attorney Honors Program and honored the program’s founders.

Finally, General Counsel Welsh and Deputy General Counsel Justin Antonipillai presented the Attorney of the Year Awards and the Support Staff of the Year Award.

Lauren Didiuk and Benjamin Friedman received the Attorney of the Year Award.

Lauren Didiuk is the Chief of the Contract Law Division of the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Finance and Litigation. Ms. Didiuk was chosen as Attorney of the Year for being an outstanding leader who has demonstrated an uncanny ability to resolve difficult matters. She worked tirelessly through the recent government shutdown and provided legal support to the Department’s first Federal Funded Research and Development Center, the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

Ben Friedman is the Deputy General Counsel at NOAA.  Mr. Friedman was chosen as Attorney of the Year for his exceptional service in assisting the Department as a whole with a number of oversight investigations.  He has provided instrumental legal guidance on key issues for the Department and frequently rises abovet his routine duties to advise myriad members of OGC.

Christine Martin was recognized as the Support Staff of the Year. Christine Martin works in the Weather, Satellite and Research Section and the Fisheries and Protected Resources Sections of NOAA’s Office of General Counsel. Ms. Martin was instrumental in the successful completion of the 15th floor SSMC3 renovation project. She also provided outstanding support in a wide spectrum of other activities, including: personnel management, supply management, travel management, and records management. 

U.S. - China Transnational Bribery Dialogue

Deputy General Counsel for Strategic Initiatives, Dawn Yamane Hewett, speaking

On October 27th, 2014, Department of Commerce Deputy General Counsel for Strategic Initiatives Dawn Yamane Hewett and the Office of the General Counsel hosted the Fifth U.S. – China Transnational Bribery Dialogue under the auspices of the Ninth Joint Liaison Group Anti-Corruption Working Group (JLG ACWG), a bilateral law enforcement dialogue led by the U.S. Justice and State Departments. The U.S.-China Transnational Bribery Dialogue, first held in 2010, is a bilateral initiative aimed at fostering discussion and sharing best practices on transnational bribery laws and compliance, with a view to decreasing trade barriers such as bribery in international business transactions. The Chinese delegation was led by the Ministry of Supervision, and included representatives from the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice, as well as the People’s Bank of China.   Private sector representatives from business associations, U.S. companies, and law firms also participated in the dialogue and asked questions about the Chinese anticorruption campaign and China’s enforcement of its foreign bribery law.  The U.S. and Chinese government representatives agreed on the importance of fighting transnational bribery and working together to improve the international business environment for all of our companies.

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

Power Africa: Power Purchase Agreements Consultation Workshop

Led by Nnamdi Ezera and Mohamed Badissy, The Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) held a Regional Stakeholders Workshop on Refining the Annotation of Africa Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) in Abuja, Nigeria. The program featured 70 participants, including government officials and representatives from power utilities, transmitters, distributors and regulators in West Africa. The program is a follow-up to a CLDP program in March 2014 to review and annotate the most heavily negotiated and disputed provisions of power project contracts. This second program aimed to gain much-needed government stakeholder perspectives and ownership of the annotated PPA. It was attended by the Nigerian Minister of Power and CEOs from the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, and the Africa Finance Corporation. Julie Wenah provided reflections from Secretary Pritzker’s West Africa Trade Mission and Trade and Investment Speech the previous month in Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria as well as the Administration's commitment to double access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa. Attorney-experts from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and international and Nigerian firms gave presentations on offtake obligations, power payments, force majeure, sovereign guarantees, and dispute resolution. The issues raised and the perspectives gleaned from the workshop will be the basis for potential power-market reform, and will be included in the final PPA Annotation tool.

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.