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Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Begins Trade Mission to Brazil, Colombia, Panama

Monday, May 13, 2013

Blank will lead a delegation of 20 U.S. firms poised to partner with these three countries on significant infrastructure development projects

U.S. Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today began the first leg of an infrastructure business development trade mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil; Bogotá, Colombia; and Panama City, Panama – three countries that are committing significant resources to infrastructure improvements in the coming years.  Blank is leading a delegation of 20 U.S. companies in a broad range of infrastructure industry sectors on this trade mission, which will help them make the connections they need to expand their business opportunities in Brazil, Colombia and Panama.

The mission directly supports President Obama’s National Export Initiative, a government-wide strategy to promote American exports and support an additional 2 million export-related jobs by the end of 2014. The trip is part of a broader Administration effort to deepen our economic and commercial ties with Latin America, and comes on the heels of President Obama’s recent trip to Mexico and Costa Rica. Vice President Joe Biden will also visit Brazil, Colombia and Trinidad and Tobago in the coming weeks, which is another important opportunity to showcase our collective efforts to promote economic growth in both the U.S. and Latin America.

“Today we’re kicking off a weeklong series of events designed to help U.S. firms serve as partners in the infrastructure development that’s happening all around us here in Brazil, as well as in Colombia and Panama,” Acting Secretary Blank said. “Each of these firms has unique expertise in areas including project management, transportation, energy, water resources management and safety and security, and through the work we’re already doing on this trade mission – connecting these companies with key government and private sector officials – we’ll help them increase their exports.

“At the Department of Commerce, our mission is to help American businesses grow and compete in the global economy. To be successful in that effort, American businesses must be able to export their goods and services to the 95 percent of consumers who live outside our borders. Increasing our exports greatly benefits the American economy and helps create employment in the U.S., which is why the President launched the National Export Initiative. Between 2009 and 2012, exports have supported an additional 1.3 million jobs.”

Export success

U.S. exports to Brazil, Colombia and Panama have increased in recent years and contributed to a record-setting year in 2012, when U.S. exports reached an all-time high of $2.2 trillion. Exports to Brazil reached nearly $44 billion in 2012, up 68 percent from their 2009 level. This trade mission will highlight the successes in the U.S. trade relationships with Colombia and Panama, specifically since free trade agreements with each country have taken effect. Since the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement has been in place, exports to Colombia are up 19 percent, compared to the same period the previous year. And, since the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement was implemented, exports to Panama are up 20 percent when compared to the same period the previous year.

The Acting Secretary and the business delegation will be in Colombia on the one-year anniversary of the implementation of that Free Trade Agreement, May 15.

Trade Mission Agenda

Throughout the course of the trade mission, Acting Secretary Blank will deliver two speeches – one in Colombia to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement on May 15, and one in Panama to celebrate the successes in our trade relationship with that country.

Acting Secretary Blank will visit Embraer while in Sao Paulo, to highlight a Brazilian company that has invested in America and created U.S. jobs. Embraer has also worked with many suppliers in the U.S. and has strong partnerships with a variety of U.S. companies.

In Colombia, Dr. Blank will visit the Centro Laudes Infantis, where Microsoft supports a program (“Mi Llave”) to provide technical training and vocational skills to demobilized, displaced and other vulnerable populations. The program is an example of the broader commitment of U.S. companies to the communities in which they work.

In Panama, Dr. Blank will also meet with President Ricardo Martinelli.

Additionally, while in Brazil, the delegation will meet with Brazil’s logistics agency, EPL; the Federation of Industries of the state of Sao Paulo; the State of Sao Paulo Transportation Agency; Brazil’s Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade; the Secretary of Commerce and Service; BNDES, the Brazilian Development Bank; Sao Paulo State Airports Department; and the Ministry of Cities, among others.

In Colombia, the delegation will have meetings with the Ministry for Foreign Trade; the Ministry of Transportation; the National Infrastructure Agency (ANI); the Ministry of Civilian Aviation and the Ministry of Mines and Energy, among others.

And in Panama, the delegation will meet with the Panama Canal Administrator; the Minister for Canal Affairs and Secretary of the Panama Metro; the Ministry of Public Works; Panama City’s Construction Department; as well as representatives from the Port of Balboa and Tocumen International Airport.

See a complete list of companies participating in the trade mission.