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Agencies assist fabricators, manufacturers

October 12, 2004
By: Eric Lundin

If you take a thorough look at federal bureaus and agencies, you'll see quite an array of departments intended to promote a variety of industries and business-related activities. Many of them have been around for decades, and some are more than a century old. The United States Department of Agriculture was created in 1862, the Department of Commerce and Labor dates back to 1903, and the Bureau of Mines was initiated in 1910. The U.S. even had a Bureau of Lighthouses, which also was established in 1910.

What was missing? A department dedicated to manufacturing. Until 2003, that is.

On March 5, 2003, U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans released the Bush administration's manufacturing agenda, a plan to develop pro-growth policies to strengthen the U.S. manufacturing base. On Sept. 1, 2003, President Bush announced the creation of a new position, assistant secretary for manufacturing and services, within the Dept. of Commerce.

The Department of Manufacturing and Services is tasked with two overarching goals: enhancing economic growth and creating better-paying jobs in manufacturing. The department is headed by a former businessman, Al Frink, who is assisted by a manufacturing council that consists of manufacturing executives.

One component of the manufacturing agenda was a series of more than 20 roundtable meetings among Commerce Department officials and U.S. manufacturers. The result of the meetings is a report, Manufacturing in America, that identified the key challenges facing U.S. manufacturers and 57 recommendations to make U.S. manufacturing more competitive. The report can be viewed or downloaded at www.manufacturing.gov.

Grant Aldonas, undersecretary for international trade, will make the keynote presentation at FABTECH® International on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 8:00 a.m. in the I-X Center Ballroom. To gain some insight to the current administration's position and to preview the keynote presentation, The FABRICATOR®asked a few questions about the progress of the government's Manufacturing Initiative and the progress in carrying out the recommendations made in Manufacturing in America.

The Manufacturing Initiative

On April 27 the Department of Commerce commemorated 100 days of progress since the release of Manufacturing in America. Secretary Evans cohosted the 100-day-mark gathering with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, and other House Republicans. They unveiled the House Republican leadership's plan to strengthen the economy and create more jobs. The manufacturing jobs agenda seeks to implement key legislation recommended by the manufacturing report.

Several of the report's recommendations already have been acted on:

  • The appointment of Rhonda Keenum as assistant secretary for trade promotion.
  • The establishment of a Manufacturing Council.
  • The establishment of an Unfair Trade Practices Task Force.
  • The creation of a China Enforcement Office to focus on China's trade law compliance.
  • The creation of the Office of Investigations and Compliance to enforce agreements.
  • The establishment of an interagency working group on manufacturing research and development (R&D). An executive order makes manufacturing-related R&D a high priority for the more than $2 billion distributed through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
  • The expansion of global intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement (especially China).
  • The reduction of the cost of regulatory burdens; the Office of Management and Budget now has a three-step process.
  • The creation of the Rapid Response Interagency Federal Task Force to coordinate economic and work force development efforts.
  • The recent swearing-in of Al Frink as the first-ever assistant secretary for manufacturing and services (MAS). As a small-business executive who successfully led and grew an internationally recognized manufacturing company, Frink is a knowledgeable advocate for the manufacturing sector. He will be supported by a staff of experienced analysts who are familiar with the manufacturing and services industries.

What Tools Does the DOC Currently Have for Enforcing Trade Agreements?

The Department of Commerce has focused on three key objectives to promote President Bush's commitment to free and fair trade:

  • To promote free and fair markets for U.S. companies around the world by actively enforcing our trade agreements.
  • To promote the protection of IPR.
  • To ensure other countries play by the rules when they export their products to the United States.

The Bush administration has aggressively pursued these objectives. Since 2001 we have taken on more than 680 market access and compliance cases on behalf of U.S. businesses.

We also have created the first-ever consolidated case docket to track progress and ensure results on compliance issues. Within the Commerce Department, the Trade Compliance Center [TCC] focuses our efforts and resources on systematically monitoring, investigating, and enforcing foreign compliance with our international trade agreements. This coordinated, systematic process gets better results for U.S. businesses.

The TCC also maintains the Department's Trade Complaint Hotline. When the TCC receives a trade complaint, a team is formed to investigate and analyze the problem, and the team develops a compliance strategy to resolve the complaint.

In FY2003 we saved U.S. companies an estimated $5.6 billion in possible lost sales and investments due to the aggressive removal of trade barriers. This is a substantial increase. In FY2000 this figure stood at an estimated $154 million.

We have increased our enforcement and compliance staff by 25 percent since 2001 and created a new Investigations and Compliance Unit. We also created an Office of Enforcement at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office [USPTO] to specifically address IPR enforcement issues. In addition, we have special monitoring programs for China, Korea, and Japan and have compliance officers on staff at our embassies in China, Japan, and at our mission to the European Union in Brussels.

The Subsidies Enforcement Office and the Trade Compliance Initiative also contribute to the Commerce Department's efforts to ensure agreement compliance.

While the primary role of the department's Import Administration [IA] is to fully enforce the antidumping and countervailing duty laws, the unit created the Subsidies Enforcement Office to monitor foreign subsidies and identify subsidies that disadvantage U.S. interests and can be remedied under the Subsidies Agreement of the World Trade Organization. Remedies could involve requiring a foreign government to eliminate the subsidy program or its adverse effect or, as a last resort, to authorize offsetting compensation. By strictly enforcing the Subsidies Agreement, we can help ensure that U.S. companies are competing in a fair international trading system.

Through an Overseas Compliance Program, we established offices in China and Korea to perform or facilitate on-site verification in antidumping [AD] and countervailing [CVD] duty cases; educate foreign companies and government officials on U.S. trade laws while promoting transparency and fairness in the foreign government's own AD/CVD regime; conduct product and industry research and on-site feasibility assessments of negotiation proposals to support management during suspension agreement negotiations; and conduct market studies to investigate industry-specific import surge situations.

In addition, a senior staff member is stationed permanently in Geneva, Switzerland, to work with the United States Trade Representative on issues concerning antidumping and subsidy matters, including the work of the AD and Subsidies Committees, Dispute Settlement Proceedings, and the Working Group on Trade and Competition Policy.

What Can Fabricators and Manufacturers Do to Get Involved If They Suspect that Foreign Governments or Manufacturers Are Not Complying With Trade Agreements?

If a business suspects that an unfair foreign trade barrier is limiting its ability to sell or invest overseas, the Trade Compliance Center in the Department of Commerce can help. A firm can register a complaint online via the trade compliance hotline at www.export.gov. This is a free service that provides the business community with proven tools to maximize export opportunities.

The department uses as many government and private sources as possible as nets to catch problems. The Trade Compliance Center makes readily available to small and medium-sized enterprises all the resources of the entire U.S. government and actively searches for instances in which foreign countries are not living up to their trade obligations. The TCC is the one-stop shop for small U.S. businesses to get them the information and help they need to compete globally.

In addition to our online complaint form, any concerned manufacturer or fabricator may report an unfair trade barrier by contacting the TCC (phone 202-482-1191, fax 202-482-6097, e-mail tcc@ita.doc.gov).

Who Can Fabricators and Manufacturers Go to for Help in Exporting Their Products?

We have several excellent resources for U.S. companies interested in exporting.

The U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service [USFCS] helps U.S. companies, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, make sales in international markets. The agency's network includes 107 U.S. Export Assistance Centers throughout the U.S., and more than 150 offices overseas. Last year we facilitated more than $23 billion in U.S. exports and conducted nearly 150,000 counseling sessions with U.S. companies. The USFCS has a network of 1,700 trade specialists in 107 domestic Export Assistance Centers and nearly 150 posts in 76 countries. Our local and international offices can be found at www.export.gov.

The Trade Information Center [TIC] also works to educate the public on taking advantage of the benefits of free trade agreements and encouraging state export initiatives. The TIC also can be a resource in obtaining help and answers to a broad range of export questions. It can be reached at 800-USA-TRADE.

Eric Lundin

Eric Lundin

FMA Communications Inc.
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Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8262