Wednesday, 11 March 2015

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


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.


As the 6th largest country by population in the world with a market of nearly 200 million people and a growing consumer class, Pakistan is the most quickly urbanizing country in South Asia. The United States is Pakistan’s largest export market and largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI). In fact, American companies have invested more than $1.3 billion in Pakistan over the last seven years.


President Obama and Secretary Pritzker believe that increased commercial engagement between nations can lead to more effective solutions to global problems and a more peaceful, prosperous and secure planet. At the U.S. Commerce Department, this kind of work is called “commercial diplomacy,” and it is one of the Department’s central priorities.


Additional activities of the U.S.-Pakistan Economic Partnership Week included a working-level Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) meeting between the Pakistani and U.S. governments; and several other bilateral engagements.


During her trip, Secretary Pritzker also held bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Minister of Commerce Khurram Dastgir, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, to highlight the progress Pakistan is making on its economic reform agenda under the Prime Minister’s leadership, and to urge the Government of Pakistan to improve the business climate by implementing measures to increase transparency, enforce contracts, and streamline bureaucracy.


She stressed that both countries will only realize the full potential of the commercial relationship if they overcome certain challenges that have created the perception that Pakistan is too difficult a place to do business – factors including security, bureaucracy, and energy stability.


To better understand the business climate in Pakistan, Secretary Pritzker participated in a roundtable with U.S. business leaders to hear about their experiences and challenges doing business in country.


Secretary Pritzker also met with a number of Pakistani women entrepreneurs to discuss the issues they face launching a business in Pakistan. While Pakistan is outpacing many other developing countries in fostering news business ideas and in building home-grown infrastructure for entrepreneurship, the Secretary said that Pakistan must empower women to thrive in order to harness the talent of 100 percent of its population to create a culture that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation.




Regards,

Otmane El Rhazi

Department of Commerce

Economic Development

Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

Friday, 27 February 2015

Secretary Pritzker Speaks at the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board Meeting about the Administration’s Travel and Tourism Agenda

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today participated in a discussion about the Administration’s travel and tourism agenda at the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board (Board) meeting. The Board, established in 2003, serves as the advisory body to the Secretary of Commerce on matters relating to the travel and tourism industry in the United States. Its members, who serve two-year terms, represent a broad cross-section of the industry, including transportation services, financial services, and hotels and restaurants, as well as a mix of other small and large firms from across the country.


During the discussion, Secretary Pritzker spoke about the administration’s progress towards achieving its national goal for travel and tourism, which is to increase American jobs by welcoming 100 million international visitors annually by the end of 2021. Last year alone, a record-breaking 74 million international visitors came to the United States.


Secretary Pritzker also spoke about the administration’s ongoing efforts to promote the travel and tourism sector, which are guided by the Board’s recommendations. She highlighted the agreement to expand visa validity with China as one particularly notable success. Since the new visa pact, Chinese demand for U.S. visas has grown by more than 50 percent compared to the same period in 2014. Following the announcement of an agreement to extend visa validity with China, the Department of Commerce organized a special session on travel and tourism during the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in Chicago, to ensure we are maximizing the potential of that policy change to grow our economy and create jobs.


Another priority of industry is to ensure a positive experience for international travelers at U.S. airports. A recent report released by Secretary Pritzker and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson calls for a new national goal to provide the best arrival experience in the world to an ever-increasing number of international visitors while maintaining the highest standards of national security. To meet this new goal and create an effective best arrival experience, the Department of Commerce and Department of Homeland Security have established a joint Task Force, led by the Deputy Secretary of Commerce and the Deputy Secretary of the department of Homeland Security, to lead the process and ensure accountability. The Board will make recommendations to Secretary Pritzker regarding the Task Force priorities and initiatives.


Another recommendation focuses on infrastructure. To achieve the national goal of attracting 100 million international visitors annually by 2021, there must be world-class infrastructure to attract tourism, serve current and future travelers, and remain a top destination. The Department of Commerce will provide input to the Department of Transportation as it develops its 30-year framework for Transportation needs to ensure that its equities are fully represented.


Secretary Pritzker also referenced the priorities for the President’s fiscal year 2016 budget, which will include $2 million to increase the sample size of the Survey of International Air Travelers. In addition, the Commerce Department is working with the State Department to develop tourism specific country plans for the top 10 overseas travel and tourism markets.


As a result of the meeting, the Board will be assessing its priority recommendations, for actions that will have the greatest impact during the next two years of the administration.




Regards,

Otmane El Rhazi

Department of Commerce

Economic Development

Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

Sunday, 15 February 2015

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Friday, 23 January 2015

San Antonio MBDA Business Center’s Export Strategies Support Foreign Direct Investment


The San Antonio MBDA Business Center’s specialty is helping minority businesses (MBEs) find exporting opportunities in Latin America. Aligning with White House initiatives such as Look South, the center has assisted numerous MBEs develop international market entry strategies that vary by sector, size, capabilities, targeted countries and regions


The MBDA Business Center’s San Antonio Global Pathways Initiative has proven to be a conduit of global opportunities for domestic MBE clients. As a result of this success, some clients have engaged in partnerships with foreign enterprises.


“One of the tasks associated with the services we offer MBE’s preparing to export is to assist them with business to business relationships,” said Orestes Hubbard, Director of the San Antonio MBDA Business Center. “This service creates a two way opportunity for our client that sometimes serves as a platform to bring foreign direct investment into the U.S.”


BBM Staffing, LLC, a Mexican staffing services company, is an example of the benefit of the business to business relationship concept. The center has helped BBM Staffing, LLC expand their presence in Texas by helping them gain access to markets and capital for their operations.


Hubbard said there are a significant number of medium to large companies in Latin America that are qualified to partner with U.S. MBE’s, and who are pursuing opportunities to invest in the U.S.


“Our goal is to diligently use all the resources available to help our MBEs grow in size and scale,” said Hubbard. “We realize that creating relationships with companies abroad and helping them pursue opportunities here in the U.S. leads to foreign direct investment. That’s a win-win in our book.”


To learn more about how the San Antonio MBDA Business Center helps minority-owned businesses find exporting opportunities and create partnerships that lead to foreign direct investment visit www.mbda.gov.




Regards,

Otmane El Rhazi

Department of Commerce

Economic Development

Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

The Outlook for the United States at the World at the World Economic Forum



Regards,

Otmane El Rhazi

Department of Commerce

Economic Development

Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

Thursday, 22 January 2015

2015 Will Be the Biggest Year Yet for International Opportunities for Regional Economic Development


Guest blog post by JoAnn Crary, CEcD, President of Saginaw Future, Inc. and 2015 Chair of the Board of Directors of the International Economic Development Council


2015 is off to a great start for International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and I am excited and honored to spend the next 12 months as the Chair of our Board of Directors. In this capacity, I will be traveling the globe and conferring with my fellow economic developers on many of the pressing issues and opportunities our profession is facing. One event I am particularly looking forward to attending is the 2nd SelectUSA Investment Summit. Having attended the first Investment Summit in 2013, I can personally attest to the value of coming to Washington to meet with colleagues from across the U.S., hundreds of international investors – I’m told this year’s summit will feature twice as many investors – and hear from a robust speaking program featuring top administration leaders in foreign direct investment attraction.


Foreign direct investment has proven to be a vital tool in the economic developer’s toolbox in the years following the Great Recession. In my own community, Saginaw, Michigan, it has contributed to the creation or retention of thousands of jobs over the past five years. One company, Nexteer, has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in expanding their operations in Saginaw, which has resulted in thousands of jobs being created or retained. As an economic developer, I cannot overstate the importance of the resources that SelectUSA has provided my organization and countless others within my profession. Simply put: SelectUSA brings clarity, focus and action to the role of the federal government in supporting FDI attraction at the local, regional and state level. They are an essential partner in the work of economic developers to create jobs and improve the quality of life in our communities. They are also a valued partner of IEDC in Washington and have played a key role in raising the profile of our profession over the past few years.


Over the course of this year, IEDC will embark on the important work of creating training resources related to FDI attraction and export promotion. This work has been made possible through the generosity of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and will include training manuals and training courses on best practices and emerging trends in FDI attraction and export promotion. We will also be launching an effort to support reshoring activities, a project made possible by the Economic Development Administration with support from SelectUSA and other Department of Commerce resources, such as the Assessing Costs Everywhere (ACE) program. ACE is a useful tool for helping companies asses the real costs of doing business here at home versus overseas. No doubt we will have many opportunities to bring attention to the NEI/NEXT initiative, which is the second phase of the administration’s high-priority export promotion program that is already helping U.S. businesses expand the market reach of products and services made in the USA.


2015 will be a busy year for IEDC and the most productive year yet for programs and initiatives supporting attracting foreign investment, luring back previously U.S.-based business operations, and expanding opportunities for U.S. exporters. As we celebrate the end of 2015 next December, I am certain IEDC, our members, and our many partners within the Department of Commerce will be able to reflect on a long-list of accomplishments we can be proud of. I hope to see you at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in March, as well as at one of our exciting upcoming conferences.




Regards,

Otmane El Rhazi

Department of Commerce

Economic Development

Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Broadband: The Electricity of the 21st Century


Cross blog post by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, The White House Blog


Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, American business owners, scientists, and entrepreneurs have driven our economy forward and kept the United States leading the way in innovation and global competition. A thread woven through the fabric of our national identity has been having the most productive and highly skilled workforce in the world.


A 21st-century America should be no different.


In order to help revitalize a struggling American economy in the post-Depression 1930s, the Rural Electrification Act called for a push to electrify rural areas. Connecting otherwise hard-to-reach communities through electricity and telephone services gave them the ability to more easily compete on both the national and global economic stage. It was an idea as deeply important to the viability of 20th-century rural America as telecommunications and broadband Internet access is today.


For most Americans, the click of a mouse is all it takes to open the door to a world of up-to-the-minute information and global commerce. In remote communities in particular, broadband brings with it new access to health care, education, and economic opportunities that have not been available in the past. But there are still many for whom this is not yet a reality.


In our travels across the country, time and time again we hear stories of the positive impacts of our work building a strong, secure infrastructure. Investments in broadband access have helped our workforce keep up with the increasingly fast speed of business and ensured that our rural communities remain competitive and attractive to new investors.


Since 2009, USDA has invested in new and improved broadband service to 1.49 million rural residents. That means expanded access to state-of-the-art health care, educational and cultural resources, and the opportunity for local businesses to compete in the global economy. In addition to core investments in broadband infrastructure, USDA has financed technologies that rely on broadband to ensure that rural Americans have access to 21st-century technology for education, health, and day-to-day life. For example, since 2009, our investments have helped more than 2,500 rural health care facilities use telemedicine to improve medical services for people living in remote rural areas, and more than 4,600 rural schools implement distance learning technology to expand their reach and improve access to information for thousands of students.


The Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) invested more than $4 billion in grants through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to build network infrastructure, establish public computer centers, and develop digital literacy training to expand broadband adoption. Through those projects, we’ve made significant progress. Commerce grantees have built or upgraded more than 113,000 miles of fiber and connected nearly 25,000 community anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries. Our grantees also have established or upgraded 3,000 public computer centers, trained more than 4 million people, and helped roughly 735,000 households sign up for broadband.


For example, in 2010, NTIA awarded a $16.2 million grant to Iowa Communications Network (ICN) to bring enhanced broadband capabilities to community anchor institutions throughout all of Iowa’s 99 counties. Previously, Iowa’s rural geography made it difficult to attract high-speed Internet providers to the area. ICN’s leadership knew that upgrading its existing 3,000-mile network would be a crucial step in promoting economic and educational opportunities in the state. Upon project completion in June 2013, the ICN project had upgraded its 3,000-mile network, deployed 123 miles of new and leased fiber, and connected more than 2,800 community anchor institutions to the network.


That is the impact of investing in broadband.


And we are still opening more doors.


Yesterday, President Obama announced that he is challenging the federal government to remove all unnecessary regulatory barriers to broadband build-out and competition, and is establishing a new Broadband Opportunity Council. The council will bring together more than a dozen government agencies with the singular goal of speeding broadband deployment and improving access in areas that need it most.


As part of this effort, USDA is accepting applications to its Community Connect broadband grant program and will reopen a revamped broadband loan program, which offers financing to eligible rural carriers that invest in bringing high-speed broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas.


Commerce’s NTIA unveiled our BroadbandUSA initiative aimed at finding new ways to assist communities seeking to ensure their citizens have the broadband capacity they need to advance economic development, education, health care, and public safety. As part of BroadbandUSA, we will share the lessons learned and best practices developed by companies, state and local governments, and other organizations that received our grants. We will use everything from toolkits and training programs, to webinars and workshops, to provide technical assistance, funding leads and basic guidance to communities as they grow their broadband capacity and use.


We know that an investment in broadband infrastructure is an investment in a strong, healthy, educated workforce. With yesterday’s announcement, the Obama administration continues to underscore our commitment to keeping America connected and competitive, and to making sure we do our part to give all Americans the opportunity to succeed.




Regards,

Otmane El Rhazi

Department of Commerce

Economic Development

Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320