by | Mar 7, 2014 | Exports, Resources

by Bill Armbruster, blog anchor

While Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations grab headlines, the Obama administration is launching a program to create export opportunities for US companies in this hemisphere.

Look South Initiative CountriesThe new Look South initiative aims to help companies chart export opportunities in Mexico and the 10 other Latin American countries that have free trade agreements with the US – Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Peru.

This interagency effort, led by the Commerce Department, includes the Export-Import Bank, Small Business Administration, Overseas Private Investment Corp., Agriculture Department, and the Trade and Development Agency, whose efforts include a new Global Procurement Initiative. The State Department is offering direct line teleconferences with US ambassadors in Look South countries. The plan calls for expanding the Small Business Network of the Americas to link US small businesses to potential business partners and buyers in Look South markets.

Mexico is perhaps the most familiar market, due in part to the North American Free Trade Agreement, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Exports to the US’s second largest export market totaled $226 billion last year, up from $216 billion in 2102.

“Trade and investment in Mexico are growing like gangbusters. Nowhere else are our global supply chains as tightly integrated. Our economies are joined at the hip,” said Daniel Crocker, executive director for Latin America at the Commerce Department’s Foreign Commercial Service.

Exports to other LatAm FTA partners are also on the rise. “We believe there’s an incredible opportunity in the rest of Latin America, particularly in countries with which we have FTAs,” Crocker told me in a telephone interview. The biggest success has been in Chile, where exports have grown 600% since the FTA took effect 10 years ago, he noted.

Panama, the newest FTA partner, has always been a good market, Crocker said. “The FTA has solidified our comparative advantage.” Exports to Colombia, another new FTA partner, are growing at a double-digit clip, he added.

The Look South initiative sent a trade mission led by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker of 17 companies, mostly large, to Mexico in early February. “The Mexican government is a great partner for us. The trade mission afforded companies substantial access to key ministries and decision makers,” Crocker said.

Small companies are best served through direct meetings with prospective customers that the Commercial Service can arrange, he added. That’s exactly what it will be doing at the Trade Winds – the Americas – Business Development Conference and Trade Mission in Colombia in May. It’s expected to draw hundreds of companies, with optional visits to Panama, Peru, Chile and Ecuador. Commercial Service representatives from up to 11 countries, including Canada, will be there.

Find more information about the initiative at

Will this new initiative produce results? I spoke with several trade watchers: read what they said here.



Bill Armbruster, Datamyne blog anchor

Bill Armbruster, the anchor for the Datamyne Blog has covered shipping and trade for 30 years as a reporter and editor with The Journal of Commerce and Shipping Digest. “I’ll be blogging on headline news and current issues in oceangoing commerce, trying to shed some light on the backstories and, wherever I can, supply some sound advice for shippers.” Write Bill care of [email protected]

The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views or Descartes Datamyne. In addition, this article is for general information purposes only and it’s not intended to provide legal advice or opinions of any kind and my not be used for professional or commercial purposes. No one should act, or refrain from acting, based solely on this article without first seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.

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