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Short Takes: News from the International Trade Administration

Foreign-Trade Zones: 75 Years of Enhancing Domestic Competitiveness

The most recent annual report of the Foreign-Trade Zone Board shows that the value of merchandise moving into active zones has increased significantly in recent years. In 2007, the combined value of shipments into general-purpose zones and subzones totaled nearly $502 billion, compared with $491 billion in 2006 and $143.5 billion in 1995.

Foreign-trade zones (FTZs) are secure facilities where foreign merchandise can be warehoused or manufactured before the payment of customs duties. Duties are deferred on goods that ultimately enter the U.S. market, and goods that are later reexported are exempt. The Foreign Trade Zones Act of 1934 established FTZs. The act created the U.S. Foreign-Trade Zone program as a way to expedite and encourage international trade during the Great Depression. Seventy-five years later, the program continues to grow and evolve as a recognized way of encouraging and retaining U.S.–based trade and activity in a manner that is consistent with all U.S. trade obligations.

Companies of all sizes turn to the FTZ program to maximize the international competitiveness of their U.S. operations. Some U.S. manufacturers, for example, may be placed at a competitive disadvantage when higher duty rates are assessed on components than on the finished product. In such cases, the board will allow a company to pay the lower duty rate for a finished product for U.S. sales and to avoid such duties entirely for export sales.

The FTZ program, which is housed within the Department of Commerce Department’s Import Administration, includes provisions to guard against circumvention of unfair trade remedies or other U.S. trade policies. The FTZ program not only benefits U.S. operations, but provides an additional layer of import security through in-depth partnership and oversight by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The board’s latest report is available on the Web at


Record Number of International Visitors in 2008

A record 58 million international visitors traveled to the United States in 2008, according to data recently released by the International Trade Administration’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. This number represents an increase of 4 percent over 2007.

Thirteen of the top 25 arrival markets broke records set in previous years. But, reflective of the economic downturn in late 2008, more than 12 of the markets that had posted double-digit growth during the first nine months slowed to only single-digit growth in the fourth quarter. The top four markets—Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom—all posted declines in the fourth quarter.

North American arrivals represented 56 percent of international visits to the United States. Canadian visits (18.9 million) were up 7 percent from 2007. Those visits helped to offset a 4 percent decline in Mexican visits to the United States (13.8 million).

Overseas arrivals from all other regions totaled 25.3 million, up 6 percent for the year. Notable increases were seen in two emerging markets: China and India, which both set visitation records in 2008. China had 493,000 visitors (an increase of 24 percent), and India had 599,000 visitors (an increase of 6 percent).

The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries collects, analyzes, and disseminates U.S. international travel and tourism statistics. To view the complete 2008 international data or to learn more about the U.S. travel and tourism industry, visit the office’s Web site at


May Conference to Look at the Supply Chain Infrastructure

The critical role played by the many facets of the supply chain—from the domestic transportation infrastructure, to security systems, to information technology—and the role government should play will be the focus of a one-day conference to be held in Washington, D.C., on May 11, 2009.

There is a clear link between the nation’s economic competitiveness and its transportation infrastructure, and the U.S. economy has enjoyed the benefits of a world-class transportation network for decades. That transportation system is now under considerable duress. It will require extensive investment—across a broad range of interconnected transportation modes—for its capacity to keep pace with long-term economic growth and recovery.

The Department of Commerce will work with the Department of Transportation, the Council on Competitiveness, and the Ronald Reagan Center’s International Gateway to host the May conference, which is entitled “Game Changers in the Supply Chain Infrastructure: Are We Ready to Play?” Keynote speakers and panelists will include the secretaries of commerce and transportation, senior executives, and logistics and supply chain specialists from the public and private sectors. The event’s organizers hope to reach a broad audience of policy-makers and industry strategists.

Plenary sessions will present stakeholder perspectives and individual advice on the key issues in supply chain competitiveness and infrastructure development that the Obama administration can consider in its recovery program. Breakout sessions and panels will focus on, among other topics, individual strategies for meeting the capacity and constraints facing tomorrow’s supply chain, environmental issues, the role of information technology, security issues, and financing options to build a globally competitive U.S. supply chain infrastructure.

To obtain more information about the conference, or to register, visit the conference’s Web site or contact Richard Boll at the International Trade Administration, tel.: (202) 482-1135; e-mail