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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.
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
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.
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.
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.
U.S. Commerce Department General Counsel Cameron F. Kerry Delivers Final Policy Address at the German Marshall Fund of the United States
On August 28, 2013, General Counsel Cameron F. Kerry delivered a policy address at the German Marshall Fund on the international impact of privacy and security issues. Please click the link for the remarks, entitled "The Impact of Privacy and National Security on International Commerce in the Digital Age." The speech reflected on the work of the Commerce Department to sustain and promote the digital economy. General Counsel Kerry described work on privacy legislation and international engagement and expressed concern that any step back from the US-EU Safe Harbor Framework would "set the trading relationship between the U.S. and EU backward...."
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Department of Justice announced on February 15, 2013 the establishment of a National Commission to Develop Guidelines for Forensic Labs. http://www.commerce.gov/blog/2013/02/21/nist-doj-form-commission-develop-guidelines-forensic-labs
On January 9-16, the Commercial Law Development Program and the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Administration held ethics training for Egyptian Customs Authority (ECA) officials in Alexandria, Port Said, and Cairo. The training supports the ECA’s implementation of a comprehensive integrity program, to include the adoption of Ethics rules and guidelines, as well as a plan to engage key stakeholders. For further information on the program, see the CLDP website: www.cldp.doc.gov
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.