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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

Former Secretaries of Commerce Urge Congress to Pass Trade Promotion Authority

Former Secretaries of Commerce Urge Congress to Pass Trade Promotion Authority

Guest blog post by William M. Daley, former Secretary of Commerce (1997-2000)

Free trade agreements are critical to strengthening American competitiveness, spurring economic growth, and bolstering job creation. With the trade agreements we currently have in place, U.S. exports hit a record-high for the fifth straight year in 2014, reaching $2.34 trillion and supporting 11.7 million American jobs. Goods exports to the 20 economies that have trade agreements with the United States reached a record $765.1 billion in 2014– an increase of 4.3 percent from 2013. 

As Commerce Secretary under President Clinton, I led a number of efforts to open new markets to U.S. goods and services, and to help American companies navigate the trade landscape in foreign countries. I visited more than 40 countries to promote U.S. exports, expanded the Department's overseas commercial staff to support U.S. exporters, and aggressively monitored the impact of trade practices of other nations on U.S. business and workers. I saw firsthand how free trade agreements benefited American businesses, and supported good-paying jobs for American workers.  

We must ensure that President Obama can utilize the same tools to negotiate and implement new trade agreements that have been afforded to every President since President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Along with nine other Commerce Secretaries whose tenures span back to 1973,  we all agree – passing Trade Promotion Authority is not a Democratic or Republican request; it is a bipartisan issue that Congress must address now.

The letter from the former Secretaries of Commerce is included below:

As former Secretaries of Commerce, we strongly support Trade Promotion Authority for President Obama. From our experience, it is critically important for American businesses to access new customer markets while staying competitive in the world economy. American companies grow and succeed in the global market place through high-quality high-standard trade agreements that help our firms gain access to new overseas markets. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, we must not allow opportunities to pass us by.

Working to Strengthen Economic Relationship, Secretary Pritzker Concludes Commercial Diplomacy Trip to Pakistan

During her trip, Secretary Pritzker also held bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Islamabad, Pakistan this week as part of the Administration’s efforts to boost bilateral trade and investment with Pakistan and strengthen the partnership between our governments and people.

As part of her first official visit to the country, Secretary Pritzker joined Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to launch the first-ever U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week, a bilateral initiative intended to highlight the potential for growing the relationship between the United States and Pakistan. She thanked senior government officials for their dedication to improving the partnership and acknowledged that the economic relationship between the two countries has, over the years, buttressed the overall relationship and is still growing.

U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week included the third U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference, an event intended to engage the private sector from both the United States and Pakistan, and strengthen business-to-business ties.

Secretary Pritzker opened the Business Opportunities Conference on Tuesday. Addressing an audience of more than 400 people, many attending from overseas, the Secretary applauded the work being done by the Pakistani and American private sector companies represented. She commended them for engaging with government agencies seeking to improve Pakistan’s business and investment climate and called on them to continue their efforts to expand trade and investment between Pakistan and the United States.

In Tunisia, Secretary Pritzker Meets with Government Officials, Business Leaders, and Entrepreneurs to Discuss Ways to Improve Economic Opportunity

To demonstrate the United States’ commitment to Tunisia’s transition to democracy, and to underscore the reforms needed to attract investment, generate economic growth, and create jobs in the country, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker led a delegation to Tunisia this week. In addition to offering a keynote address at the Investment and Entrepreneurship Conference, hosted by the Partnership for New Beginnings and the American Chamber of Commerce in Tunisia, Secretary Pritzker met with Tunisian government officials, business leaders, and entrepreneurs to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing the country’s economy.

In a meeting with representatives from the American Chamber of Commerce in Tunisia, Secretary Pritzker received input on the country’s current business environment and discussed potential opportunities for U.S. firms in the market. For example, Tunisia’s location on the coast can make it an ideal hub for operations in the Middle East and Africa. Others spoke about the opportunities in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector, specifically.

About 70 American firms operate in Tunisia right now, but there is substantial room for that figure to grow should Tunisia make certain economic reforms that will create a more inviting business climate. Some of these reforms include streamlining the investment code, restructuring the banking sector, creating a more transparent, reliable, and modern tax and customs structure, and developing a strong public-private partnerships law that increases transparency and predictability for domestic and foreign firms.

An Important New Tool in our Data Revolution

Commerce Data Advisory Council banner

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Today we have reached an important milestone in the data transformation movement with the naming of members to Commerce Department’s new Data Advisory Council (CDAC).  The 19 leaders we have selected will help guide the Department in revolutionizing our approach toward data optimization and usability. They are bright stars in private and public sectors: thought leaders on data; respected and well-equipped to facilitate this transformation. Members’ expertise mirrors the spectrum of Commerce data -- demographic, economic, scientific, environmental, patent, and geospatial.  Their agenda?  To help us foster innovation, create jobs, and drive better decision-making throughout our economy and society. Their first meeting will take place April 23-24 in Washington, D.C.

Selecting from an impressive and wide array of experience, innovation, education and talent was not an easy task.  The individuals we have chosen are extraordinary for a host of reasons evident in their positions and achievements.  But perhaps one of the most compelling traits they share is keen awareness that success is built upon the ability to listen to a chorus of voices representing a range of viewpoints. 

Click here for CDAC members bios.

We are thrilled to have reached this important marker in our “data revolution” and look forward to the CDAC’s guidance on such key issues as data management; open data standards; public-private partnership; and ensuring a user-driven process.

Secretary Pritzker Hosts Roundtable Discussion with Oregon and Washington Business Leaders on Importance of International Trade

Secretary Pritzker talks with employees of the Leatherman Tool Group, Inc during a tour

On Tuesday, Secretary Penny Pritzker visited Portland, Oregon and Takoma, Washington where she held roundtable discussions on the importance of trade to our economy with key area business leaders.

Secretary Pritzker started the day with a tour and visit to General Plastics, in Takoma, Washington, a leading manufacturer of plastic-based goods. During the tour she heard from local business leaders about their experiences exporting to foreign markets and some of the challenges they currently are facing. During the roundtable discussion with local businesses, Secretary Pritzker noted how trade and exports benefit American manufacturers, such as General Plastics.

Later in the day, Secretary Pritzker visited the headquarters of Leatherman Tool Group, Inc. a leading manufacturer of multi-use tools in Portland, Oregon. Leatherman currently employs 500 Oregonians and exports their products to over 100 countries around the world. During the roundtable discussion, Secretary Pritzker highlighted how the current trade deals being negotiated will strengthen U.S. exports, manufacturing, and improve American competitiveness in the global economy.  Local business leaders from Intel, Columbia Sportswear and Columbia Green also participated in the discussion.

Secretary Pritzker Participates in White House Cyber Security Summit to Discuss Importance of Public-Private Collaboration To Combat Growing Threats

Secretary Penny Pritzker joined President Barack Obama last week at the White House Cyber Security Summit at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Designed to help shape public and private sector efforts to protect American consumers and companies from growing threats, the Summit offered Secretary Pritzker an opportunity to hear directly from businesses about their concerns, and to highlight the Commerce Department’s work to combat these threats and strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity.

During the Summit, business leaders across many sectors spoke about the growing issues of online security and how to best protect businesses, consumers and critical infrastructure. Secretary Pritzker moderated a panel titled “Improving Cybersecurity Practices at Consumer Oriented Businesses and Organizations,” that brought together CEOs and business executives from the financial services sector, the technology industry, and civil society. Panelists included Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, AIG CEO Peter Hancock, Intel Corporation’s President Renee James, and Center for Democracy and Technology CEO Nuala O’ Connor.

During the panel Secretary Pritzker asked each panelist how they can align policies and operations to better protect themselves and their customers, and asked them what ways they thought would be the most efficient for government and industry to partner in developing stronger security standards. Each of the panelists praised the effectiveness of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework in creating a benchmarking process that companies should adhere to. With technology evolving quickly, participants also stressed that there should be more collaboration between businesses and the government to address cybersecurity concerns. 

To further this dialogue, Secretary Pritzker attended a luncheon roundtable hosted by President Obama with the CEOs of Apple, Square, QVC, Visa, First Data, Intel, AIG, Mastercard, Bank of America, Citi, American Express, PG&E, and Palo Alto Networks where they discussed how to move these concerns to the forefront and work together to find solutions to these growing threats.

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and the United States government has legitimate interests in safeguarding the privacy and security of its citizens, as well as ensuring an equitable and level playing field in the digital economy. Secretary Pritzker understands this notion and recognizes that the NIST Framework, which was developed using a multi-stakeholder process involving many of the companies that attended the summit, is a great example of how the private and public sectors can work together to find timely, effective solutions.

U.S. Exports Hit Record High for the Fifth Straight Year

Total Exports in 2014 were 2.35 trillion.

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Trade Agreements Will Help Accelerate Economic Growth

Today, the Commerce Department announced new data that show U.S. businesses exported $2.35 trillion of our goods and services in 2014, hitting a record high for the fifth straight year. U.S. goods exports increased 2.7 percent to a record $1.64 trillion in 2014. Records were set in exports of capital goods; consumer goods; petroleum products; foods, feeds, and beverages; and automotive vehicles and parts. Annual services exports hit an all-time high of $710.3 billion, led by record export levels in the travel, transport, charges for the use of intellectual property, and financial services sectors.

What does this mean for American businesses and American workers? Exports have been a key driver in our economic comeback. Exports support 11.3 million American jobs, and contributed one-third of our annual growth between 2009 and 2013. In some cities– like Kansas City, Albuquerque, Youngstown, Columbus, and Detroit – exports drove nearly all growth out of the recession.

As I have traveled across the United States, speaking with more than 1,500 CEOs and business leaders, I have seen firsthand the way exports are benefiting American companies and workers. Take Davenport Aviation, a certified distributor of spare parts and aviation equipment based in Columbus, Ohio.  Davenport Aviation is a small business – they now have eleven employees – but taking advantage of the global marketplace has helped them grow every year since they opened in 2009. Exports account for 99 percent of their business, and this year, because of increased demand, Davenport Aviation plans to add at least 3-4 new jobs.

All over the country, exporters like Davenport Aviation are growing and creating jobs. While America’s economy is on the right track, we have more work to do to ensure our growth is sustainable. Exports are a critical part of that effort, which is why President Obama has made increased trade a top priority. In today’s global economy, American prosperity is directly tied to our ability to reach new markets and new customers overseas. We know that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our borders, so gaining greater access to markets abroad will allow our companies to expand, hire more workers, and pay better wages here at home.

Enacting trade promotion legislation will give the President the ability to move forward on trade agreements that will open doors for American businesses, including small businesses like Davenport Aviation. Passing trade promotion legislation this year is critical. 

In addition, we must finish and implement two major trade agreements that would open up new markets to U.S. goods and services: the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Once completed, these two agreements will give the United States free trade arrangements with 65 percent of global GDP and give our businesses a large base of new potential customers. For example, while the Asia-Pacific is currently home to 570 million middle class consumers, that number is expected to reach 2.7 billion by 2030, and this Administration wants our American businesses and workers to have access to that opportunity. 

Secretary Pritzker Attends World Economic Forum to Highlight Priorities Integral to Lasting Economic Recovery

This week, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Davos, Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum and participate in a panel discussion titled “The Outlook for the United States,” which focused on what Washington can accomplish in the next two years.

Moderated by Politico editor Susan Glasser, the panel also included Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado; Andrew Liveris, President and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company; Patrick McHenry, Republican Congressman from North Carolina; and Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

During the candid conversation, Secretary Pritzker highlighted the momentum in the U.S. economy heading in to 2015, America’s strong position as a global investment destination, and the work that still needs to be done to continue a sustainable, lasting recovery. All participants agreed that trade is the most actionable agenda item that President Obama laid out in his State of the Union address. Secretary Pritzker stressed that while the American economy is already in a good position, it is imperative Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) be passed by Congress to pave the way for trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and to establish a more level playing field for American businesses globally. Completing and implementing new trade agreements will give the United States the opportunity to shape the rules that govern trade in the 21st century, while ensuring our businesses can compete around the world.

Secretary Pritzker also discussed the importance of preparing America’s workforce with the skills needed for the jobs of the future. The need for improved workforce development is an issue that has been raised by nearly all of the 1,500+  CEOs and business leaders she has met with as Commerce Secretary, and the Administration is strongly committed to working directly with the private sector to develop effective training programs that will prepare workers with the skills employers seek. Successful public-private partnerships include the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) competitive grant program – it has invested nearly $2 billion in hundreds of community colleges all across the country that have partnered with companies and national industry associations to expand job-driven training programs.

Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews and Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan also attended the World Economic Forum. Deputy Secretary Andrews utilized the opportunity to discuss the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda” with business leaders and CEOs from around the world, while Dr. Sullivan presented on how data is a public good that can save lives.

25th U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade Concludes with Key Outcomes

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman today hosted a Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Wang Yang for the 25th session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Chicago, IL

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman hosted a Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Wang Yang for the 25th session of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), which took place in Chicago. At the conclusion of the discussions, the United States announced key outcomes in the areas of agricultural market access, intellectual property rights protection, innovation policies, and competition law enforcement.

Through sustained engagement over the course of this past year, the United States and China have reached agreement in several areas of key importance to U.S. farmers, innovators, manufacturers and workers, including in the following areas:

  • Agriculture market access:  China has made commitments that should promote significant increases in U.S. exports of soybeans, corn and dairy products to China.  Specifically, China announced that it would approve the importation of new biotechnology varieties of U.S. soybeans and corn ­– current annual U.S. exports of soybeans and corn to China total $14 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively – and also that it would pursue a regular dialogue with the United States focused on the benefits of the increased use of innovative technologies in agriculture, for both the United States and China. China also agreed to strong IP protections for products that use trademarks or common names like "parmesan" or "feta" cheese, which in recent years have begun to demonstrate a potential for rapid export growth vis-à-vis China.
  • IPR protection:  China's IPR-related commitments cover a range of needed improvements, which should benefit U.S. businesses in a wide variety of industries that rely on the ability to protect their trade secrets, as well as U.S. holders of patents, trademarks and copyrights. For example, in the area of trade secrets, building on prior bilateral commitments made by China, the United States has gained China’s agreement to take specific additional steps to protect companies’ trade secrets and to work on a new trade secrets law to further enhance their protections.  The United States also has secured China’s agreement to, among other things, bring new focus to the two countries’ work together to determine how best to foster a better environment for facilitating increased sales of legitimate intellectual property-intensive goods and services in China.
  • Innovation policies:  The United States continued to pursue changes to Chinese policies and practices that have pressured foreign companies to transfer valuable intellectual property rights to enterprises in China.  For example, China committed to ensure that they treat foreign IP rights the same as domestic IP rights.  China also has agreed to streamline China’s regulatory processes and cut red tape for imports of new, innovative pharmaceuticals and medical devices, which should lead to increases in U.S. exports and U.S. jobs in these two important sectors.  Indeed, according to industry data, the U.S. pharmaceuticals industry directly employs more than 810,000 workers and supports a total of 3.4 million jobs in the United States, while annual exports of U.S. pharmaceutical products to China have exceeded $1.2 billion.  The U.S. medical device industry, meanwhile, includes over 7,000 companies, most with less than 100 employees, supports 1.9 million U.S. jobs overall, and was responsible for $2.7 billion in exports to China in 2013. 
  • Competition policy enforcement:  The United States was able to address a significant concern for many foreign companies, which have expressed serious concern about insufficient predictability, fairness and transparency in the investigative processes of China’s Anti-Monopoly Law enforcement.  The Chinese side agreed that, under normal circumstances, a foreign company in an Anti-Monopoly Law investigation would be permitted to have counsel present and to consult with them during proceedings.  China also made several additional commitments, including to treat domestic and foreign companies equally and to provide increased transparency for investigated companies.

Secretary Pritzker Answers Questions about Entrepreneurship During Twitter Chat

While attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Marrakech, Morocco Secretary Penny Pritzker took questions about entrepreneurship and innovation from Twitter users. As the Administration’s point person on entrepreneurship, Secretary Pritzker led a U.S. delegation to the Summit, demonstrating the U.S. government’s continued commitment to fostering a culture of innovation around the world.

Below is a transcript of the Twitter chat.