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Afghan Rug Manufacturers Visit Four U.S. Cities

The Commerce Department, with support from the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, organized the first-ever delegation of Afghan rug manufacturers to the United States as part of an ongoing effort to help strengthen the economic development of Afghanistan and to solidify commercial ties between our two countries. From July 15 to July 22, 2006, 10 Afghan producers and traders of hand-made rugs went to Atlanta, Georgia; Washington, D.C.; Secaucus, New Jersey; and New York City to meet with importers and buyers. During their visit, they also received training on issues such as colors and trends in the home, logistics, and trade show exhibits.

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, Under Secretary for International Trade Franklin L. Lavin, Mexico's Secretary of Economy Sergio Garcia de Alba, Mexican Ambassador Carlos de Icaza, and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman at the signing of the U.S.–Mexico cement agreement at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C., on March 6, 2006.
Afghan Ambassador Said T. Jawad (left) and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance David Bohigian (right) show a rug brought by one of the delegates from Afghanistan at an event hosted by the Afghan embassy on July 19. (U.S. Department of Commerce Photo)

In Atlanta, the delegation participated in the Atlanta International Area Rug Market, where they met with rug importers and received training. In Washington, D.C., the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce hosted a dinner for the delegation. Al Frink, assistant secretary for manufacturing and services, gave a keynote address in which he shared his expertise based on decades in the rug and carpet industry. The Afghan embassy hosted a reception and one-on-one meetings for the Afghans. Speakers included Afghan Ambassador Said T. Jawad, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance David Bohigian, and Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez. Additional meetings in Washington, D.C, were held at the Washington Design Center and the Textile Museum. The delegation ended its trip in the New York City area, where participants met with importers at the Oriental Rug Importers Center of America in Secaucus, New Jersey, and several large retailers in New York City.

For more information about the delegation, visit the Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force Web site.


Cuba Transition Policy Outlined in Two Documents

Recommendations for the U.S. role in supporting democratic change in Cuba are detailed in two documents that were recently released by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. One of the documents, the Second Report of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, is a 93-page report that sets forth specific steps that the U.S. government should be prepared to take to support Cuba’s transition to democracy. Those steps include the establishment of the Cuba Fund for a Democratic Future and the commitment of $80 million over a two-year period to support uncensored access to information, to encourage international support for democratic change in Cuba, and to organize assistance plans for an eventual transition government in Cuba.

The second document, “A Compact with the People of Cuba,” is a 400-word pledge in Spanish and English that commits the United States to provide emergency aid during a transition and to assist in rebuilding Cuba’s economy. It also pledges to encourage assistance from other countries and to discourage third parties from intervening in Cuba’s transition.

A statement issued by the commission’s cochairs, Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, noted, “The people of Cuba have a choice: economic and political freedom and opportunity—or more political repression and economic suffering under the current regime. The United States stands ready to work with the Cuban people to attain political and economic liberty.”

The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba was established in 2003 to explore ways the United States can help hasten and ease a democratic transition in Cuba. More information on the commission and links to the two recently released documents can be found on its Web site.

Secretary Gutierrez to Lead Trade Mission to China

Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez will lead a business development mission to China November 13–17, with stops in Beijing and Shanghai. “China is one of America’s fastest-growing export markets, representing billions of dollars for U.S. companies,” said Gutierrez. “This mission will help American businesses seize new opportunities there, expand, and create more American jobs.”

Total U.S. exports to China in 2005 were $41 billion, an increase of 19 percent over 2004. Through May 2006, U.S. exports have grown 37 percent over the same period last year.

The United States and China have made progress in the bilateral trade relationship. China has expanded market access for U.S. goods and services, increased transparency, and improved enforcement of intellectual property rights. As this progress continues, China represents an excellent opportunity for innovative American businesses to offer their products to more than a billion consumers.

This trade mission will help U.S companies develop business and Chinese government contacts, solidify business strategies, and obtain market access information. The delegation will comprise U.S. firms representing a broad cross-section of U.S. industries with commercial interests in China.

Businesses interested in participating in the China Business Development Mission can apply on-line or contact the Department of Commerce’s Office of Business Liaison at (202) 482-1360. The application deadline is September 15, 2006.

President’s Export Council Approves Three Recommendations to President Bush

Three letters of recommendation to President George W. Bush covering immigration reform, avian flu, and the proposed free trade agreement with South Korea were considered and approved by the President’s Export Council at a meeting held in Washington, D.C., on July 19, 2006.

The council’s letter on immigration reform calls for a comprehensive immigration reform bill that secures U.S. borders; develops new rules for businesses, including greater accountability and the creation of an employment verification system; addresses the acquisition of H-1B visas; creates a temporary worker program; and develops a path to legalization.

The letter on avian flu preparedness expresses approval of the administration’s preparedness efforts. It also highlights four potentially major issues during a pandemic that the council feels the federal government could explore further: (1) movement of imports and exports because production of critical supplies may reside outside U.S. borders, (2) identification of critical business infrastructure for responding to a pandemic, (3) identification of the role of this critical infrastructure, and (4) arrangements for U.S. citizens caught overseas.

The council’s letter on South Korea supports the administration’s decision to begin free trade agreement negotiations with that country. The letter notes that despite already deep trade ties, South Korea’s market access barriers remain substantial, and U.S. businesses can gain tremendously from a free trade agreement.

Aside from approving the letters of recommendation, the council members heard from Frances Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland security, and Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, special assistant to the president for biological defense policy, who briefed the council on the U.S. avian flu strategy. They also heard from Dr. Edward Lazear, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, who spoke on the current state of the economy.

The President’s Export Council is the nation’s principal advisory committee on international trade. It comprises representatives from business, government, agriculture, and labor. (For more information on the workings of the council, see the June 2006 issue of International Trade Update.) The three letters of recommendation are available on the council’s Web site.

Trade Provisions Included in New Pension Law

On August 17, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-280). This new law includes several provisions that affect U.S. trade law.

  • Changes to current practice in new shipper reviews of antidumping and countervailing duty orders. New importers (so-called new shippers) can request a new shipper review, a process that can take a year or longer to complete. In the past, new shippers were allowed to post a bond in lieu of a cash deposit for any estimated duties during this process. Section 1632 of the act temporarily suspends this bond option for new shippers from April 1, 2006, to June 30, 2009. The law also requires the secretary of commerce to report on the effects of this change and on problems related to the collection of duties assessed on merchandise from new shippers.
  • Technical amendments to legislation covering the Central American–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The law grants the president authority to implement certain changes to CAFTA-DR rules of origin with respect to countries that have entered into letters of understanding with the United States concerning pocketing material in apparel. The law also requires the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to report on the status of negotiations related to CAFTA-DR textile changes concerning socks and other technical corrections. Additional trade-related provisions of the act include extension of the Wool Trust Fund, tariff suspensions for certain goods, and clarification of the 50 percent ad valorem duty on vessel repairs.