Short Takes: News from the International Trade Administration
Business Summit, Spin-Off Missions Confirmed for India Trade Mission
U.S. companies interested in the Indian market will have a great opportunity to meet with potential partners and clients when the U.S. Department of Commerce conducts its India Business Development Mission in late November and early December. (See related story in the June 2006 issue of International Trade Update.)
Planning continues on the details of the mission, with the following dates and events now confirmed:
- India Business Summit, November 29 and 30. This two-day meeting will be held in Mumbai. It will feature a mix of high-level business, industry, and government representatives. Breakout sessions will focus on aspects of India’s trade and investment climate.
- Spin-Off Missions, December 4 and 5. Market briefings and networking receptions will be the highlights of these spin-off missions to Bangalore, Channai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and New Delhi.
Participants can choose to register for the summit and a spin-off mission, just the summit, or just a spin-off mission. The cost is $500 for the business summit and $1,600 for a spin-off mission. (These prices do not include travel, lodging, meals, or third-party registration fees.)
During the months leading to the mission, the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service will be conducting a series of Webinars focused on the various cities on the itinerary. Upcoming Webinars include Channai (July 31), Hyderabad (August 17), and Mumbai (August 31).
For details about the Webinars, updated information on the business development mission, and online registration, visit the mission’s Web site.
CAFTA-DR Implemented with Guatemala
On July 1, 2006, the Central America–Dominican Republic–United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) entered into force with respect to Guatemala. A proclamation from President George W. Bush was issued June 30, 2006, and came after Guatemala met its commitments under the agreement. On March 10, 2005, the Guatemalan government ratified CAFTA-DR. The agreement was approved by the U.S. Senate in June 2005 and by the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2005. President Bush signed the agreement into law in August 2005.
CAFTA-DR came into force on March 1, 2006, for El Salvador and on April 1, 2006, for Honduras and Nicaragua. Implementation awaits for Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
In a statement issued on the implementation announcement, Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez noted that “with initiatives like CAFTA-DR, the United States has offered a positive vision to the region that advances economic freedom and social reform while strengthening democracies and the rule of law.”
The United States is Guatemala’s largest trading partner. In 2005, the United States accounted for 38 percent of Guatemala’s imports and received 50 percent of Guatemala’s exports.
For more than 20 years, most exports from Guatemala have entered the United States duty-free under the terms of the Caribbean Basin Initiative. CAFTA-DR expands beyond the system of one-way preferences and allows U.S. exports to benefit from duty-free access to the Guatemalan market.
Under the agreement, CAFTA-DR eliminates customs tariffs on most goods, opens service sectors, and creates clear and readily enforceable rules in areas such as investment, government procurement, intellectual property protection, customs procedures, electronic commerce, use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures to protect public health, and resolution of business disputes.
Congress Passes U.S.–Oman Free Trade Agreement
By a 221-205 vote on July 20, 2006, the House of Representatives joined the Senate in approving the U.S.–Oman Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The FTA now goes to President Bush for signature. The Senate had approved the agreement on June 29, 2006, by a vote of 60 to 34. The Oman FTA is a key part of the administration’s regional and global efforts to open markets around the world in order to expand U.S. opportunities overseas.
Commenting on the House vote, Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez noted “The Oman FTA levels the playing field for U.S. farmers, ranchers, businesses and service providers, while strengthening the bonds of friendship in a strategically important part of the world.”
In a statement, U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab applauded the vote: “Congress has sent the world a powerful message—America is committed to opening markets and contributing to economic growth and development.”
Negotiations for the Oman FTA began in March 2005, and it was concluded in October 2005. The agreement will eliminate tariffs immediately on nearly all industrial and consumer products, except certain textiles and apparel, and on 87 percent of U.S. agricultural exports.
Two-way trade in goods between the United States and Oman was $1.1 billion in 2005. That same year, U.S. exports of goods to Oman totaled $595 million. Top markets were machinery, automobiles, optical and medical instruments, and electrical machinery. Also, U.S. exports of agricultural products to Oman totaled $12.3 million, including hardwood lumber, wheat, and sugars and other sweeteners.
Oman is the fifth country in the Middle East and North Africa to negotiate an FTA with the United States. It is an integral component of President Bush’s Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) initiative, which will promote economic growth and opportunity to the Middle East through regional integration. MEFTA will also transform the individual countries of that area into a cohesive market for the United States.
The United States has active FTAs with Israel, Jordan, and Morocco. An FTA with Bahrain is expected to enter into force this year. For information on trade opportunities in this region, go to the Middle East and North Africa Business Information Center.
Baghdad Visit by Secretary Gutierrez Promotes Economic Vitality and Growth in Iraq
During a visit to Baghdad on July 17, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez announced several initiatives to foster economic development in Iraq. “Promoting private-sector development in Iraq is a key part of the new [Iraqi] government’s strategy to expand the economy and foster peace, stability, and prosperity for the Iraqi people. President Bush and the entire administration are committed to helping the Iraqi people along the way,” said Secretary Gutierrez in a public statement.
(Story continues below.)
| Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez (R) and Iraqi Minister of Trade Abd al-Falah al-Sudani (L) speak with the press after signing the Joint Statement on Commercial Cooperation on July 17 in Baghdad. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
During his visit, Gutierrez signed a Joint Statement on Commercial Cooperation with Iraqi Minister of Trade al-Sudani that has as its goal the enhancement of commercial cooperation between the U.S. Department of Commerce and Iraqi Ministry of Trade.
Among the specific initiatives announced by Gutierrez during his visit were:
- establishment of a Commercial Law Development Program for Iraq
- intent to create a U.S.-Iraq Business Dialogue
- assignment of two trade advisors to advise the Iraqi government on standards and trade development and promotion issues
Since 2003, the Commerce Department has worked with the government of Iraq to help build a strong Iraqi economy, develop Iraq’s private sector, and enhance U.S.-Iraq commercial ties. Much of this work is coordinated by the department’s Iraq Investment and Reconstruction Task Force and the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service post in the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. For more information on the task force, go to www.export.gov/iraq. The Commercial Service’s Iraq site is www.buyusa.gov/iraq.