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Latin America Presents Growing Opportunities for American Companies

Upcoming trade mission to promote U.S. exports and job creation

Guest blog post by Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside U.S. borders, helping U.S. companies find partnerships and customers in fast-growing markets is crucial to creating a strong and vibrant economy built on good middle class jobs.

As a part of our overall goal to increase American exports, next week, 20 U.S.-based companies will join me on an infrastructure-focused trade mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; and Panama City, Panama.  Each of the governments of these fast-growing countries have ambitious infrastructure expansion and improvement plans for the years ahead. 

This trade mission will allow U.S. companies to highlight their cutting-edge technologies and world-class engineering services. The trade mission will also allow them to make the personal connections they need to expand their businesses and it will build on President Obama’s National Export Initiative, a government-wide strategy to promote American exports and create 2 million export-supported jobs by the end of 2014. Last year, U.S. exports hit another all-time record, reaching $2.2 trillion.  Between 2009 and 2012, exports have supported 1.3 million additional jobs.

In addition, we’ll be highlighting the success of our newly-implemented trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. The Colombia agreement is celebrating its one-year anniversary on May 15, and U.S. exports to Colombia increased 19 percent in the first nine months it was in place. The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement was implemented last October, and this agreement is already reducing red tape and other barriers to trade – something that is particularly important for small businesses in the United States. In just the first several months since it was put in place, we can already see that it’s a win-win. U.S. goods exported to Panama have jumped 20 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. 

It’s not just the private sector in the U.S. that wants to see Latin America continue to grow and thrive. The U.S. government understands that effective public services can help modernize the economies and feed economic growth throughout the Americas. In addition to promoting new commercial partnerships, the Commerce Department is also helping organize courses on best practices for good governance for both public and private sector leaders in Colombia. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a U.S. agency that is participating in the trip, is helping with everything from insurance coverage for modernizing power plants to microfinancing for small, women-owned businesses. And the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, another agency that will be represented on the trip, provided a technical assistance grant to help with long-term planning for airports in Bogota and recently funded a grant to help guide expansion of passenger and cargo infrastructure at Tocumen International Airport.

Our neighbors throughout Latin America provide myriad opportunities for U.S. businesses to grow and thrive by providing goods and services that people want and need. When we engage directly with our counterparts in industry and government, we all benefit through economic growth, new jobs, and greater prosperity for our citizens and theirs. I look forward to seeing American businesses seize those opportunities.

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Chile...Worth the Trip!

I am happy to see your news on your upcoming trade mission to Latin America. And for those companies not attending this trade mission for whatever reason, know that many states via the SBA now have offices dedicated to supporting small businesses that are in the early exploration of overseas opportunities. In Washington, DC where I am based we have Export DC. Also, as an American who lived in Chile (at the end of the world South America) for the greater part of the last 2.5 years I would highly recommend it. I founded my small business there with a Chilean business partner, which we are still operating, and I would highly recommend it for those especially the ones offering professional services and training services. Chile has low corruption; is politically & economically stable; has a rising middle class; 98% of their population has minimum high school diploma; and they have a very pro entrepreneurship, pro innovation government administration. And as of May 1, 2013 they are now offering the ability to incorporate your business online in just one day!!! Through normal channels, even as a foreigner, it only took me a couple of weeks with the assistance of a lawyer to get my business incorporated. Hope that you will consider a future trade mission to this small but dynamic country exploding with potential. Buen viaje! Shonika Proctor, AndesBeat