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Short Takes: News from the International Trade Administration

Afghan Trade Delegation Finds Success, Sales at Major Trade Show

A delegation of 10 Afghan rug producers, with the support of the Department of Commerce’s Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force, brought their products to Atlanta, Georgia, on January 18–21, 2007, to participate in the AmericasMart Atlanta International Area Rug Show. The trade show is the largest wholesale marketplace of its kind in the world, showcasing a wide variety of consumer goods and attracting more than 548,000 attendees from every U.S. state and 80 different countries.

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Afghan dancers perform at the opening of

Afghan dancers perform at the opening of “Afghan Impressions: Area Rug Artistry and Inspiration,” an exhibit this past January at AmericasMart Atlanta International Area Rug Show. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)

A feature of the Atlanta show was a special exhibit of Afghan rugs, titled “Afghan Impressions: Area Rug Artistry and Inspiration.” Keynote speakers for the exhibit opening included Dr. Mir Muhammad Amin Farhang, Afghan minister of commerce and industries, and David Sampson, U.S. deputy secretary of commerce. They delivered remarks to an audience of more than 200 prospective buyers, prominent sector investors, and community and government leaders.

The trade show was a success for the Afghan participants. Virtually all of the rugs on display were sold, and many orders were placed by major wholesalers and retailers from across the United States.

The task force has been working since 2002 to increase bilateral business ties and to stimulate trade between the United States and Afghanistan. Two-way trade between the countries reached $372 million in 2006, a 91 percent increase over 2005. Afghan rugs are allowed duty-free access to the United States.

For more information on business opportunities in Afghanistan, visit the task force’s Web site or call (202) 482-1812.


Two-Day U.S.–China Forum Examines Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship

A delegation of 60 Chinese officials from the government and private sector, as well as representatives from several regional development agencies, met with Commerce Department officials on January 23–24, 2007, in Washington, D.C., to participate in the U.S.–China Venture Capital and Entrepreneurial Forum. Franklin L. Lavin, under secretary of commerce for international trade, hosted the forum, cosponsored by the Department of Commerce and George Mason University. Madame Ou Xinqian, vice chair of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, led the Chinese delegation.

Forum attendees participated in two days of meetings that explored U.S. best practices in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and business development to strengthen overall bilateral relations and to discuss policy issues that are central to U.S. and Chinese interests. The Chinese private-sector participants, who represented companies throughout China, also had the opportunity to meet potential partners from the United States. After the first stop in Washington, D.C., the delegation visited New York City, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.

On the first day of the forum, Ana Guevara, deputy assistant secretary for services, led both the private-sector and government delegations through a series of presentations and discussions by experts on key relevant topics, including the value of intellectual property to entrepreneurs, the benefits of a reliable and transparent legal and regulatory environment, the need for access to capital throughout the continuum of business growth, and the need for education for entrepreneurs.

On the second day of the forum, George Mason University hosted an all-day business-to-business meeting, where some 150 companies discussed conditions for doing business in China and explored opportunities for joint business ventures.

Western Hemisphere Travel, Radio Frequency Identification Subject of Recommendations to President Bush

Implementing a public education program on the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and greater federal support for radio frequency identification technology were the subjects of two letters of recommendation to President George W. Bush that were approved January 18, 2007, by the President’s Export Council. The council is an advisory group of 48 members who meet at least twice a year in Washington, D.C., to advise the president on matters that affect U.S. trade.

The WHTI requires that all citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the United States have a passport to enter or reenter the United States from within the Western Hemisphere. For air travelers, implementation began on January 23, 2007. Present plans are to begin implementation for travelers by land and sea on January 1, 2008. In its letter to President Bush, the council called for implementing a focused public communications and outreach campaign on the WHTI. The council also expressed its concern about the potential effects of the WHTI on trade. “Many of the border infrastructures between Canada, Mexico, and the United States already are approaching maximum capacity and represent a potentially significant bottleneck to the movement of goods,” stated the council in the letter. “The WHTI runs the risk of making an already strained situation worse.”

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is an electronic identification technology that relies on small electronic tags or transponders to store and retrieve data. The technology can be used to record payments, track the movement of goods, and control inventory. The council’s letter to President Bush asked that the administration continue to support U.S. competitiveness by supporting greater research in RFID, increasing RFID pilot programs throughout the federal government, encouraging greater participation by foreign governments in the dialogue on standards and good regulatory practices, and encouraging greater cooperation between the public and private sectors on RFID and the global supply chain. “As technology evolves, it will continue to spur innovation and competitiveness,” said the council in its letter on RFID. “[M]ainstream use of these new and future technologies can stimulate unparalleled economic growth.”

For more information about the President’s Export Council, and to read the full text of the letters, go to the council’s Web site.

Report Details Trade Subsidies Enforcement

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released their joint 2007 subsidies enforcement report to Congress. This annual report is mandated by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act of 1994. The report describes the efforts by the two agencies to monitor and challenge unfair foreign government subsidy practices worldwide under the terms of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“The use of unfair trade-distorting practices, including subsidies, continues to pose a competitive challenge for American workers and industries,” noted the report. “The United States government is committed to eliminating or neutralizing such practices when they adversely affect U.S. interests.”

Actions taken during 2006 included participation in the Subsidies Committee and the Rules Negotiating Group of the WTO. During 2006, the United States made various submissions that focused on issues such as subsidy calculation methodologies, prohibited subsides, foreign state-owned enterprises, trade-distorting practices in the steel industry, and fisheries subsidies.

The 2007 report also details how the USTR and the Commerce Department identified significant omissions from China’s long-overdue subsidies notification, which was submitted to the WTO Subsidies Committee in April 2006. Among the omissions identified by the United States were subsidies provided by China’s state-owned banks or by provincial and local government authorities.

In 2006, the United States began seeking changes to China’s subsidies practices through a series of bilateral meetings in Beijing, where the United States made it clear that China needed to withdraw its prohibited subsidies. The import and export subsidies at issue benefit a wide range of industries in China, making it more difficult for U.S. manufacturers to compete against Chinese manufacturers in the United States or in third-country markets.

The full text of the Subsidies Enforcement Annual Report to the Congress is available on the Internet..