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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the National Association of District Export Councils Conference


Thank you, Kendee, for the introduction, and thanks to NADEC Chair Jonathan Szucs and Vice-Chair Anne Burkett for your work to have us all here today. 

And thank you to all members of the District Export Councils across the country for taking time to come to Washington for this event.  We are grateful for the work that you do to help exporters and future exporters back home.  Your engagement in trade promotion activities is integral to the Department of Commerce and helps us advance the work of our staff. 

I’m excited about today’s conference because it gives me a chance to share with you some of the Commerce Department’s work, and how it may provide opportunities for your communities.

You all know the reasons why trade is so important to not just your businesses, but to the American economy.

Each year, U.S. companies export trillions of dollars in goods and services. But the truth is: The U.S. – when compared to its competitor nations – underperforms. 

We must continue to emphasize that exporting is not just for vast, multinational companies. In fact, the vast majority of companies that export are small or medium-sized.

Yet too many U.S. small or medium-sized businesses are still not exporting to their full potential – or even at all – because they view it as a risk, or because they lack the necessary information, resources, and network to execute.

This translates not only to missed opportunities for GDP growth, but also missed opportunities to create good-paying jobs here in America.

This is why we have our seamless worldwide network for trade assistance: Because the potential is there, but often U.S. businesses need assistance to turn opportunities into real business.

That’s where you all come in. DECs play a critical role in connecting us to the voice of the exporter and speaking the language of business – creating better understanding, helping identify new partners, and opening up a new world of international markets.

And we’ve seen the remarkable impact of this system. In 2022 alone, the U.S. Commercial Service:

•        Assisted 51,000 clients;

•        Responded to 200,000 inquiries from U.S. exporters;

•        Supported 625,000 American jobs; and

•        Facilitated $134 billion in exports of U.S. goods and services. 

85 percent of clients assisted were small or medium sized businesses, while over 6,400 clients were from underserved communities. And for every $1 allocated to the U.S. Commercial Service budget, about $360 are returned to the U.S. economy. 

This is incredible progress. And the work continues – but in order for that work to flourish, we have to remain focused on the future.


The U.S. is the world’s largest economy, with one of the most diverse populations in the world – a source of unparalleled innovation, creativity, and strength.   

Our duty to ensure that the benefits of trade are felt broadly, across our business ecosystem, means expanding outreach and opportunities for businesses in underserved communities, including rural, minority-, women-, LGBTQIA+-, veteran-, and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. 

To better serve clients in rural areas, we established a Rural Export Center to deliver necessary support for rural companies that may lack access to a local network of service providers.

We also launched our Global Diversity Export Initiative to reach our underserved business communities – committing ourselves to bringing new, diverse businesses into our trade ecosystem. 

DECs have been invaluable partners in these efforts. Your work has helped support many of our events across the country, already connecting underserved businesses to local export resources in 10 cities since the program began.

We have also entered into strategic partnerships with 12 business organizations across the country, including the National Business League, Asian American Chamber of Commerce, National LGBT Chamber, the Organization of Women in International Trade, and the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council to help maximize our reach.


In creating a more diverse and inclusive economic landscape across the world, we must also be committed to creating a climate-conscious one as well.

The Biden-Harris Administration is serious about combatting climate change and promoting clean energy.

To help U.S. companies unlock clean energy opportunities, the International Trade Administration has made the competitiveness of U.S. clean tech and climate solutions industries a key priority. This includes focused efforts to enhance our engagement and partnerships with clean tech companies; overcome trade barriers with foreign markets; and enhance supply chain resiliency and maximize opportunities for increased funding.

As part of that mission, we are also recruiting international delegations across the world to meet with U.S. companies at some of the largest trade shows in the country focused on solar, wind, waste, and water technologies. 

A great example of this burgeoning work is ITA’s collaboration with the Business Network for Offshore Wind on a four-year program to connect U.S. companies to offshore wind export opportunities in Europe, Asia, and South America. Most recently as part of this partnership, we were able to facilitate connections between the U.S. and nearly 80 international partners during a recent forum in Baltimore.


Innovations in clean energy exports go hand-in-hand with the expansion of America’s tech industry. Thanks to the CHIPS and Science Act $500 million appropriation from Congress, we’re making tech stretch beyond the bounds of Silicon Valley, creating new innovation and manufacturing hubs across the country to lead the 21st century global economy.

Our tech ecosystem is the world’s largest, with venture capital deals in the United States totaling $341.5 billion and early-stage investments totaling $86.7 billion just in 2021.

Even still, U.S. start-ups nationwide face stiff headwinds from foreign competitors. These new SMEs are “born global” and must establish “first mover” positioning in competitive strategic sectors.

The U.S. Commercial Service is engaging leveraging its knowledge and worldwide network across the public and private sectors to help these start-ups protect, maintain, and grow their businesses in foreign markets.


One of the markets that is becoming increasingly vital to our export efforts is Africa.

Last June, I traveled to Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire to meet business leaders and key stakeholders. And just last month, I met with the President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, or PAC-DBIA.

And the overarching message is clear: we must continue building fruitful business relationships on the continent, and we are already rolling up our sleeves.

The Commerce Department has pursued an aggressive, proactive strategy to accomplish this – like evolutions in our financing tools that will leverage private capital for Africa, to a new Global Procurement Initiative partnership between USTDA and the Government of Kenya, to a new model of engagement to elevate our commercial diplomacy with African governments, and much more.

The Digital Transformation with Africa initiative, or DTA, is also a critical component that we are helping lead on. Since DTA’s launch in December, Commerce has begun partnering with African countries to develop a digital infrastructure for a digital economy through the Africa Digital Policy Council.


In addition to engaging in new markets, we are also focused on maintaining longstanding trade relationships.

Through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF, we are working with 13 other partners to deepen U.S. economic engagement in the region.

IPEF is at the center of the Biden Administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. It reflects the President’s commitment to putting workers at the center of our economic and foreign policy while strengthening ties with our allies and partners.

With 60 percent of the world’s population, 40 percent of the global GDP, and 28 percent of total goods and services trade, the Indo-Pacific region is projected to be the largest contributor to global growth over the next 30 years. 

In the years ahead, the region will drive as much as two-thirds of global economic growth.  This only serves to highlight the significant infrastructure shortfalls across the region, as well as our role in addressing them.

Commerce is collaborating with EXIM and others to enhance our efforts towards identifying bankable projects and attracting the capital needed to fund them.

Just recently, we held our first in-person negotiation round in Australia, where our negotiators had a productive discussion on how to approach financing for the workstreams in IPEF.

On supply chains, we are working establish goals for better policy coordination to create more reliable supply chains between the region that American consumers and American businesses can rely on in the long run, laying the groundwork for lasting cooperation.

We are also looking at way to improve the connectivity of the energy markets in the region and create a more transparent business environment for U.S. businesses and investors in IPEF markets.


Our colleagues at NOAA’s Office of Space Commerce and ITA are forging the next frontier of business opportunities it presents. They are working hard to promote a robust and responsive U.S. industry that is the world leader in space commerce.

This is a special area of interest for me. I recently met with representatives from this developing industry at the Space Symposium in Colorado to explore the latest technology and see where U.S. companies are headed. 

One goal we have for space is to grow the customer base for U.S. commercial space goods and services. Consistency, transparency, predictability is critical in achieving that growth, and that can only happen if we're driving innovation and setting the standards for the rest of the world.

Some of you may be familiar with the work of our Advocacy Center, which helps U.S. companies win business overseas. What you may not be aware of, however, is that over the past year, the Advocacy Center has contributed to seven international space contract wins totaling roughly $406 million.

This paints a clear picture of the immense value that lies in creating partnerships that will generate the conditions for all our businesses to succeed.

As part of the inaugural U.S.-France Comprehensive Space Dialogue held in Paris last November, we organized a special session involving government and industry representatives from both nations. It was my honor to brief President Macron on the results of that session during his state visit in December.

Based on our success with France, we held a similar engagement with Japan in March as part of the 8th U.S.-Japan Comprehensive Space Dialogue. For the first time, the talks included a session involving representatives from U.S. and Japanese industry, in addition to U.S. and Japanese governments delegates.

I also believe space technologies and space commerce, aided by the U.S. private sector, can play an important role in driving technological and private sector development in Africa – and both Secretary Raimondo and I are planning trips to Africa later this year, buoyed by the prospect of this emerging business frontier.

And to bring us full circle – your very own NADEC Chair, Jonathan Szucs, and his company, Advanced Superabrasives, know all about this topic. He proudly proclaims his company the record holder for the farthest export for a North Carolina company – with its very own diamond grinding wheels as a critical component of the Mars Rover. Well done Jonathan!

With that, thank you very much for inviting me here today to share with you some of the exciting work we are doing to make U.S. business a more equitable global enterprise.

With the help of our DEC members, we can foster opportunities abroad to also create opportunities right here at home – reaching even more American companies and helping them grow their businesses, and our economy, through exports.