This week, U.S. Chiefs of Mission to Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Panama, and Peru visited seven U.S. cities in two groups as part of a five-day tour to promote U.S. exports to Latin America. The Department of State and the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) organized this tour in support of President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI), our strategy to foster global competitiveness and double U.S. exports by 2015.
The Ambassadors are keen to enhance export capacity and level the playing field for U.S. producers in order to grow our economy. Promoting and advocating for American firms abroad is also a very important part of what our embassies do overseas. As Rose Likins, our Ambassador to Peru said: "Promoting U.S. business is the most important thing I do all day, every day." With ninety-five percent of the world's consumers outside of the United States, it isn't hard to understand why. As Phyllis Powers, the U.S. Ambassador to Panama explained, "When you export, you are making more money for your company, you are hiring more people, you are retaining them, and the U.S. economy is going to grow as a result." Our Ambassador to Chile, Alejandro Wolff, also encouraged additional exports, and told U.S. companies he met with that "if you have a good product, if you're competitive, Latin America is a market where you can succeed."
The Ambassadors had packed schedules, visiting Washington, D.C., Detroit, Houston, Chicago, Memphis, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. They chose to visit these cities because of strong export prospects, growth sectors, and local leadership support. At each stop, the Chiefs of Mission engaged eagerly with U.S. businesses and heard their concerns, and they provided insights on the countries where they live and work in order to promote additional exports to Latin America by U.S. companies. They also met with government officials and members of the press to further promote the National Export Initiative. Many Americans might not realize it, but we export more within our own hemisphere than we do to any other region in the world.
One of the highlights of the tour was a visit to the FedEx hub in Memphis. Charge d'Affaires Todd Chapman from the U.S. Embassy in Brazil reflected, "…to see all of these planes coming in at the same time from all around the world -- one from Sao Paolo, Brazil -- was really exciting...Every time a plane takes off for an international destination from Memphis, you're creating jobs here in America and that's something we want to encourage and support.” In each city, the Ambassadors worked hard to reach a wide audience and encourage the private sector to consider exporting as a way to expand their businesses, and in turn, our economy as a whole. As U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, Michael McKinley said to U.S. businesses, "We have to compete and we have to engage or we are not going to prosper in the 21st century."
President Obama has also underscored the importance of exports. The President launched the National Export Initiative (NEI), because export growth leads job growth and economic growth. The fastest growing markets are beyond our borders. More information on the NEI can be found here.
Editor's Note: The photograph above shows U.S. Charge d'Affaires to Brazil Todd Chapman participating in a FedEx simulated flight with BCIU's Senior Managing Director Viki Weil and U.S. Ambasador to Peru Rose Likins in Memphis, Tennessee. You can view more photos from the tour here.