Foreign Trade Zone program makes foreign trade easier for the U.S.

These programs make it easier for U.S. companies to get involved in foreign trade and leverage the advantages of U.S. manufacturing in global competition. Maintenance professionals can benefit by participating in development missions, visiting other countries to learn how their overseas competition does things.

By Ken Schnepf

Improvements to the U.S. foreign-trade zone (FTZ) program to assist U.S. manufacturers doing business globally were recently announced by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Additionally, the department has scheduled business development missions in November to India and China.

These programs make it easier for U.S. companies to get involved in foreign trade and leverage the advantages of U.S. manufacturing in global competition. Maintenance professionals can benefit by participating in development missions, visiting other countries to learn how their overseas competition does things.

The FTZ improvements increase flexibility for short-term manufacturing approvals and reduce processing times for manufacturing applications. “These FTZ changes will improve the playing field for American companies and workers doing business overseas,” says David Spooner, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Application processing is to be reduced from 12 months to eight to six months. More flexibility is to be afforded to manufacturers seeking temporary or interim manufacturing authority and those applications are to be processed within 90 days.

For many U.S. manufacturers, FTZ authorization is essential for competing with factories overseas. The duty-equalized treatment available through the program helps reduce the cost of U.S. goods compared to foreign competition. Applications are evaluated by the U.S. FTZ Board to ensure a positive effect on the U.S. economy.

Foreign goods can be warehoused in a FTZ and U.S. import duties won’t be paid until the goods leave the FTZ for the U.S. market. If the goods are re-exported, U.S. import duties don’t have to be paid. With local FTZ sponsorship and specific approval from the U.S. FTZ Board, American factories also can benefit from the FTZ program.

For the business-development missions, each company submits an application and, if selected, pays a fee to participate. Each participating company then selects an employee representative to go on the trip.

India, the world's fastest growing free-market democracy, presents lucrative opportunities for every type of business. In 2005, U.S. merchandise exports to India were almost $8 billion, doubled since 2002, according to the Commerce Department.

“India’s economy is booming. The time is right for U.S. companies to visit and start to figure out how they can fit into the picture,” says Franklin Lavin, undersecretary for international trade. “It should be no surprise that this is an unprecedented trade mission because India, at the moment, is undergoing unprecedented growth.”

The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and its U.S. Commercial Service posts in India will host a U.S. delegation to the India Business Summit November 29 to 30, to be led by Lavin. The summit will provide access to India’s high-level business, industry, and government representatives and opportunities to gain timely insights into the country’s trade and investment climate in strategic breakout sessions. Following the summit, the U.S. Commercial Service posts in India will concurrently host spin-off missions for U.S. exporters in Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad and New Delhi, December 4 and 5, and in Mumbai, December 1 and 4.

The ITA has accepted applications from 54 companies wishing to participate in the mission. The small- to medium-sized companies that have submitted applications represent a wide cross-section of U.S. businesses geographically and  as span  business sectors, including: plastic mold manufacturers, medical equipment manufacturers and food and beverage providers.

China is the fastest-growing major market in the world.  It’s the third-largest trading nation and America’s third-largest trading partner, according to the Commerce Department. Total bilateral trade with the U.S. in 2005 was $243 billion. Total U.S. exports to China in 2005 were $41 billion, a 19% increase over 2004. Through May 2006, U.S. exports have grown 37% over the same period last year. As America’s fourth–largest export market, China provides opportunities for U.S. companies in a number of industries.

Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez will lead a senior-level U.S. business delegation to Beijing and Shanghai, China, November 13 to 17, to promote U.S. exports to China’s leading industry sectors. The mission will focus on assisting U.S. companies that are experienced exporters to enter the Chinese market for the first time as well as U.S. companies operating in China to increase their current exports.

More information and applications for these programs is available online at www.trade.gov and www.export.gov.

E-mail Managing Editor Ken Schnepf at kschnepf@putman.net

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