Guest blog post by Francisco J. Sánchez who is Under Secretary for International Trade  in the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration.
When we think about the vast work the Commerce Department does with exports, what do we picture? Food, perhaps. Textiles. Cutting-edge technologies. But what many don’t consider are the legions of international students who attend American colleges and universities. It might sound odd, but they are considered “exports.” Indeed, education plays a critical role in the work we do every day in the International Trade Administration.
That’s why I’m so pleased to announce that starting April 2, 2011, I will lead the largest education and services trade mission in the history of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Accompanied by 56 U.S. colleges and universities, we will travel to Indonesia and Vietnam to expand U.S. educational opportunities for international students.
America is home to the best opportunities for higher education in the world. More students come to the U.S. to study than any other country on the planet. International students’ tuition and living expenses alone brought almost $20 billion to the U.S. economy in the 2009-2010 academic year.
Our goals for this trip are extensive. Expanding U.S. educational opportunities for international students will have some direct benefits to our national economy. By increasing domestic jobs and aiding innovation and research while strengthening our relations and ties abroad, the fact is that sharing our colleges with foreign-born students will make America that much more rich and robust.
We chose Indonesia and Vietnam because both markets are expected to offer increases in export opportunities for U.S. companies over the next five years. But we already share strong ties as the two countries currently have more than 20,000 students attending college here now.
Indonesia’s ranking as the fourth-largest nation in the world and one of the G-20’s strongest economies gives it tremendous potential as a market for U.S. universities. And Vietnam’s growing population, coupled with a steadily increasing per capita income, makes it an equally top-notch partner. Our friends in Vietnam place a high value on education which will yield a high return to the educational systems in the U.S. and will help develop strong consumers of U.S. products when they return to their country of origin.
The mission in April will explore opportunities for international student recruitment and partnerships with higher education institutions. I expect the student fairs, to be held at each stop, to be highlights of the trip, in addition to the matchmaking and networking sessions with local schools and faculty.
The colleges and universities we’ve partnered with are excited to be a part of this historic mission, and I know they can’t wait to get started. I’m thrilled to be leading this mission and look forward to the positive impact I know it will have on our economy.