Broad Street Capital and GreenMax join forces in Africa.


(New York, April 26th, 2018) Broad Street Capital Group and GreenMax Capital Group join forces to develop and finance large-scale energy projects in Africa.

“We are excited to announce a new partnership with Broad Street Capital Group (BSCG), a New York based emerging markets focused merchant bank. BSCG has recently led a landmark transaction in Ukraine that is a game-changer for enabling financing of parastatal and direct state sponsored infrastructure projects. The facility is a US OPIC wrapped bond issue that for the first time offers 100% long-term debt financing at very low financing rates.” wrote Cliff Aron, Managing Principal at GreenMax.


Owing to GreenMax’s strong Africa footprint and the company’s longstanding relationship with the Broad  Street Capital Group, the Greenmax organization was selected to lead the introduction of this innovative financing product to the African energy sector. The minimum project size is $150M  and the project must be implemented by a State agency, or parastatal.  In the later case, the host Government must provide a sovereign guarantee.

Broad Street and GreenMax plan to formally launch the product for Africa energy infrastructure at the Africa Energy Forum in Mauritius in June. The joint venture is seeking Power Africa sponsorship for this initiative and expects to be able to secure USTDA grant funding to support the preparation phase for any worthy projects. Although many countries in Africa will qualify for the financing being offered, projects in Nigeria, Uganda, Mozambique and South Africa will be of particular interest.

For more information contact Cliff Aron –

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Maintaining Export Advantage in the Face of a Rising Dollar – Part 1

It has been a great run for U.S. exporters. The Department of Commerce just announced that our nation’s exports of goods and services were $2.35 trillion in 2014—a record for the fifth year running. Yet clouds are gathering on the horizon, as the economic growth in many foreign markets, specifically those in the emerging and frontier category, has been slowing. Some markets like Russia and Ukraine are set to experience outright GDP contractions brought on by political upheaval.

The single biggest threat facing U.S. exporters is ironically the rising U.S. dollar, which continues to strengthen significantly as the result of the improvement of U.S. economy in the face of the international weakness.

How can U.S. exporters maintain their competitive position and continue to play a leading role in the international export space?strategies for US exporters

While there is no magic bullet and the process is a comprehensive long-term endeavor, below, most U.S. exporters can use the following five-step approach to maintain and expand their exports, while swimming upstream against the rising dollar:

  • Recommit to exports
  • Expand the markets served
  • Offer open account terms and buyer financing
  • Reduce focus on price
  • Use available resources more effectively

Recommit to exports.

Despite its undisputed success in the export arena, the U.S. as a nation has been a very anemic exporter. Unlike in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands or Chile, where exports have for years been part of the business’ DNA due to the small size of the home markets, a great number of companies in the U.S. have been treating exports as an afterthought to their domestic sales strategies. Other than the Fortune 500 companies, the majority of U.S. companies export to fewer than three markets. The primary export drivers are either organic demand from overseas, natural affinity of the owners to a particular country, commonality of language or geographic proximity.
In good times, as we know, the tide raises all boats, yet in the face of the upcoming slowdown, it is vital that U.S. companies recommit to exports in a strategic fashion.

To succeed in this endeavor, U.S. firms must make exports an integral part of their sales mix. Whether through building internal export departments or outsourcing to export management firms, the focus on international sales must be relentless and deep. Companies developing or expanding their in-house export departments should invest in training, product adaptation, international network and market analytics. Managers responsible for exports in organizations, along with top management, must make ongoing efforts to follow events in target markets and understand the culture and business customs and attempt to learn as much of the foreign language as possible.  Departments not directly involved in exports should undergo inclusionary training to ensure that exports do not become orphans within the organization when it comes to issues such as service, exchanges, spare parts supply, collections, payments and financing.  READ MORE

Unreasonable at Sea to set sail on 100-day accelerator cruise with 11 startups and Desmond Tutu


 The Queen Victoria & Queen Elizabeth II Rendezvous In Sydney Harbour
5 January 2013

A first of its kind type of accelerator is preparing to hoist anchor and set off on a unbelievable journey. Unreasonable at Sea, the startup accelerator taking place entirely on a boat, has announced it would be setting sail around the world starting on January 9. On board are 11 entrepreneurial teams, selected through the Unreasonable Institute and the non-profit Institute for Shipboard Education, that have a desire to advance their companies internationally.

Entrepreneurs and mentors stuck together on a ship

During the startup group’s 100-day journey around the world, they will be joined by 20 mentors who have exceptional experience in the ways of the world and can offer insights into helping a team’s product succeed. Among the notables are Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Google’s VP of New Business Development Megan Smith, Stanford’s’s co-founder George Kembel, co-founder and Executive Producer of the hit TV show ER and co-founder of Law & Order: SVU Neal Baer, and IBM’s VP of Global Business Development Cathy Rodgers.

SAS UAS Website Banners Route v3 Unreasonable at Sea to set sail on 100 day accelerator cruise with 11 startups and Desmond Tutu

As we reported last year, Unreasonable at Sea is the brainchild of Luke Jones, the Chief of Staff of Semester at Sea, and Daniel Epstein, the founder of the Boulder, Colorado-based accelerator Unreasonable Institute. The participants will set sail on a journey that will have them sailing 25,000 nautical miles and porting in 10 countries such as Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Burma, India, Ghana, Morocco, Spain, and others.

Meet the companies that want to change the world

So just who are the lucky participants taking part in this grand adventure? More than 400 applications were received from over 80 countries, but 11 teams were selected with 25 total members going on board. The ages range between 22 to 48. A few of the companies have already been established and profitable, but are seeking ways to scale globally:

  • Aquaphytex: Goal is to provide clean water to 300,000 people without chemicals or energy, but through plants
  • Damascus Fortune: Focus is to develop nanotechnology that transforms carbon emissions into material for spaceships
  • Innoz: A highly-popular mobile application in India that is designed to leapfrog the Internet — it currently has over 120 million users
  • Prakti Design: It aims to help feed 250,000 people daily with “ultra-affordable and fuel efficient stoves”
  • Solar Ear: It claims to be the world’s first digitally programmable and rechargeable hearing aid
The Unreasonable Institute says that the remaining companies have a globally-relevant technology and are eager to launch on the international stage:
  • Artificial Vision for the Blind: This company focuses on leveraging artificial intelligence to be a non-invasive cure for blindness
  • Evolving Technologies: It plans to help make medical devices for maternal care “radically affordable” in emerging markets
  • Protei: Wind-powered, shape-shifting, open source sailing drones that clean oceans is this company’s product
  • Sasa: An SMS-based e-commerce service that connects offline artisans to consumers directly
  • The IOU Project: A company looking to shift the dynamics of supply chains in apparel
  • Vita Beans Neural Solutions: Looks to educate and empower teachers through what it calls a “gamified platform”

An unusual accelerator

When most people think about technology accelerators, they often cite Y CombinatorTechStars500 Startups, or similar programs. In this case, the Unreasonable at Sea program is one where teams are still getting mentorship and advice on how to build out their business, but at the same time, are on a rather lengthy field trip going about trying to really change the world. You’ll notice that none of these participating companies are involved in social media — you don’t really see anyone trying to build the next Facebook, competing against Zynga, or even creating a mobile photo-sharing app.

Companies on board will have a whole new situation in front of them. The group won’t be on the ship by themselves. It is operating in conjunction with the Semester at Sea college program, where students from around the world apply to continue their education. Les McCabe, President of the global shipboard study abroad program, says that it believes entrepreneurship will solve the world’s grand challenges and “we pride ourselves on offering students eye-opening learning experiences that will help them function as global citizens and become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.”

Students onboard will have the ability to interact with the entrepreneurs while also learning more about starting their own business. Hopefully they’ll be able to witness the challenges faced by early-stage startups and how that plays out globally.

Each company will have a unique experience at port cities

Semester at Sea’s Chief of Staff Luke Jones tells us that at each port call, the entrepreneurs will have between three to six days to meet the community and learn about the culture. The hope is that the experience will be translated into helping shape the startup so that it can succeed internationally. Each port is for different companies and the Unreasonable Institute has done its research into bringing together experts, influencers, and leaders to help answer questions that an entrepreneur might have.

In one way, you might think about this accelerator almost like the “Geeks on a Plane” program run by 500 Startups’ Dave McClure, except you’re on a ship and the journey is much longer.

Next week will be the accelerator’s first cruise — nothing like this has ever been done before. Although, it’s not that difficult to believe this is happening. We asked Jones whether any of the alumni in the Semester at Sea’s 50-year history has gone on to help change the world and he said yes: Jessica Flannery, the co-founder of the non-profit micro-lending service

Photo credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images


Inches from Greatness!


how Ukraine’s business can unlock at least UAH15 Billion of American financing in 15 months

By: Alexander Gordin, Managing Director, Broad Street Capital Group and Co-Creator of the Fluent In Foreign
September 24, 2012 New York, NY

Last week I attended a business dinner with a high-level delegation from the Ukrainian Government. The dinner was organized by the US-Ukraine Business Council and sponsored by couple of large corporate players and a private equity fund.  During the event, Ukrainian attendees, which included Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, Ministers of Finance, Agriculture, Ecology, as well as Customs and Tax Chiefs, tried to signal to the U.S. companies in attendance how Ukraine has evolved into an attractive investment destination.

As I was listening to the presentations and discussions by several large corporate players focused on investments into the Ukrainian Oil & Gas and Agri sectors, I could not help but think that, as the Government of Ukraine is making a massive effort to attract U.S. direct investment from Fortune 500 companies and restart the IMF financing, it is leaving on the table billions of dollars readily available debt and equity financing, as well as investment by smaller strategic players.  There is an entire medium size business and project development sector in Ukraine that is begging to be funded and there are funds readily available in the U.S. to fund tens, even hundreds of companies and projects in sectors ranging from hospitality, food security and ICT to agriculture and alternative energy.

Injecting significant funding into this slice of Ukraine’s economy will generate thousands of new jobs; increase corporate efficiency and productivity by introducing latest western technologies and production tools. It will also create a multiplier economic effect, which will reverberate throughout the country’s business and consumer sectors.  Yet, for the last couple of years, only a tiny sliver of the entire American originated debt and equity financings that could have been done in Ukraine has been completed.  In 2011, U.S. was the in 10th place of all the countries that had Foreign Direct Investment into Ukraine, with only $1bln invested.

The big question is WHY? For those of us both in the US Government Trade and Development Agencies and in the private sector, who are focused on financing projects, enterprises and trade, the answer is pretty simple – Disconnect, Distrust and Deficiency, or as I call them 3Ds.

There is disconnect in understanding of western financing process and of the requirements set forth by the U.S. Government agencies and private financial institutions.  Many Ukrainian businessmen spend a lot of time and effort in putting together sleek-looking presentations overloaded with information, setting up technical models and writing business plans using prepackaged software. Yet, most of them fail to truly understand the needs and requirements of the American financiers and their focus on project’s ownership, provenance, due diligence etc. They also do not understand that unless they commit financially to the capital raising process, they will not be perceived as serious players.  There is also a huge image problem that Ukraine has in the West. Although some of it is well deserved, a big part of it is gloom and doom that does not accurately portray the situation in the country.

Then there is distrust. Over the last two decades, Ukrainian business has been pillaged by every type of western con artist known to man. Many swooped in, promised Ukrainian businessmen untold riches, massive credits and investments, collected fees and then vanished.  No wonder today Ukrainian companies are wary, scared and mistrustful.

Finally, there is deficiency.  Deficiency of cross cultural knowledge among the process participants on both sides of the Atlantic; lack of early stage pre-project funding and absence of an integrated well-defined and officially endorsed process, which would nurture and properly prepare companies and projects to be able to take advantage of all the available opportunities.

Estimates are that in today’s environment only one of 20 potentially eligible projects and companies seeking financing in Ukraine get funded.  We at Broad Street Capital Group have been working on solving the above-mentioned problems in order to increase the quality of bankable projects for the last several years. We assembled a group of leading international experts in the fields of risk management, cross-cultural expertise, accounting and audit, corporate law, debt financing, equity funding and media public relations, Together, we have worked to develop a streamlined preparation process to help companies achieve their goals of cross-border market entry, international financing, technology partnerships and foreign direct investment.  The result has been a comprehensive multimedia platform called Fluent In Foreign Business™, which provides assessment, project screening, education, information resources, quality networking opportunities and expert mentoring support to government agencies, companies, investors, franchisors and project developers in over 100 countries.  What this process needs to unlock a floodgate of financing to Ukraine is a modest amount of UA Government support.  The Government should use one of its several investment promotion agencies to work with us in the private sector and to offer official endorsement, information dissemination, and participation leadership to encourage or even mandate Ukrainian businesses to take part in the process without fear of being duped.

Simply given the current portfolio of Ukrainian alternative energy, agriculture and ICT projects, which we are reviewing, we can confidently say that with just a modest amount of UA government support, combined with corporate focus, training and financial commitment, Ukrainian companies can attract at least UAH 15 Billion in low-cost debt, equity and trade financing in the next 15 months.  This is over two times the amount that Ukraine to receive from all International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in 2013 combined. Thousands of jobs and the multiplier effect generated by this initiative will help the government strengthen its business electorate base, improve country’s investment image and its overall economic condition. Thus if Ukrainian government officials are serious about improving the country’s economic situation, they should closely look at the what is needed to unlock a very significant slice of financial investment into a critical sector of its economy.  American businesses and professionals who are Fluent In Foreign Business stand ready to help Ukraine meet the challenge of successfully injecting UAH 15 Billion in 15 months.  November 28th-30th Broad Street Capital Group, along with Fluent In Foreign Advisory Board will hold a briefing and project review sessions for all interested companies, Ukrainian Central and Regional Government Authorities to select projects eligible for the 2013 financing and inclusion into UAH 15 Billion in 15 months Initiative.

About the Author: Alexander Gordin is a Managing Director of the Broad Street Capital Group (a USUBC Member since 2009) and co-creator of the Fluent In Foreign enterprise, which publishes Fluent Foreign online, Fi180 Global Business Atlas and weekly newsletter.  Since June, 2012 the edition has a dedicated section for Ukraine. Gov. Arbuzov’s interview with Mr. Gordin appeared in the inaugural edition of the publication. (

Mr. Gordin has been active in Ukraine as Direct Investor since 1995 and as Financier since 1996. Mr. Gordin and the Broad Street Capital Group have represented numerous Ukrainian Government and private entities and have been mandated for financing and political risk Insurance transactions totaling over US$1 Billion.

America Is Approaching The Export Tipping Point – A Commentary


Above article is an opinion piece by Gregor McDonald, a researcher and an international energy investor. We would like to hear your point of view and will publish select commentary in our upcoming issues.



By Patrick Dooley, Global Trade Magazine

Steve McMenamin says his success was “a complete accident.” He neededlaminated wood for comfortable, eco-friendly sunglasses, but when he arrived in the foyer of a nearby distributor asking about wood for eyewear, the receptionist nearly laughed him out of business.

Sixteen years later, Iwood is thriving—thanks in part to that awkward introduction. The wood laminator he was checking out had a lucrative niche: distributing to designers of interiors for private jets used by Hollywood’s rich and famous. The cackling receptionist accidentally caught the ear of a company executive who saw Steve’s odd request as a fantastic opportunity. It turns out the unused bits of wood were too small to be useful for the jets. Steve had stumbled upon a steady supply of the world’s finest woods—like Makassar ebony, zebrawood, bubinga. Steve used the cast-offs in the production of glasses he retailed through Barney’s in New York and Beverly Hills.

But Steve always had his eye on Europe. Fashion, he says, is “like the minors in baseball: You have to work your way up.” And Europe is the majors. After years on the domestic trade show circuit, Paris’ Premier Class would be like the World Series.

Just one problem: The odds of being accepted to the Premier Class show in your first decade are roughly equal to getting drafted to the majors out of junior high—unless, like Steve, you serendipitously bump into the show’s main organizers at a New York expo and they fall in love with your rare-wood sunglasses.

With their endorsements in his back pocket, Steve reached out to the federal government’s Commercial Services office in Indiana, home to Iwood’s manufacturing site. It was a smart move. CS staffers wrote the letter of recommendation that secured Iwood’s admission to Premier Class, and then gave Iwood a grant to cover booth space costs.

Iwood stormed Premier Class 10 years ahead of schedule. European Fashion magazines took note, and the glowing reviews that followed helped establish Iwood as a top-shelf brand in boutiques across many of Europe’s most fashion-friendly markets.

You’d think breaking into Milan’s Petti, the next great show, would be a lock. But officials from the U.S. Embassy in Milan, attending Premier Class, told Steve not to hold his breath: Petti, they told him, is for established brands only.

You can probably guess the ending: when he arrived back at Iwood headquarters five days later, an invitation to Petti was waiting on his desk.

So how did it get there? Call it an accident. 6/10/11

China Ends Wind Power Equipment Subsidies Challenged by the United States in WTO Dispute
June 7, 2011

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced today that China has ended certain wind power equipment subsidies. The United States had challenged the Special Fund for Wind Power Equipment Manufacturing (Special Fund) subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO) following an investigation initiated in response to a petition filed by the United Steelworkers (USW). The subsidies took the form of grants to Chinese wind turbine manufacturers that agreed to use key parts and components made in China rather than purchasing imports. The United States estimated that the grants provided to Chinese companies since 2008 could have totaled several hundred million dollars. The size of the individual grants ranged between $6.7 million and $22.5 million.

“The United States is pleased that China has shut down this subsidy program. Subsidies requiring the use of local content are particularly harmful and are expressly prohibited under WTO rules. This outcome helps ensure fairness for American clean technology innovators and workers. We challenged these subsidies so that American manufacturers can produce wind turbine components here in the United States and sell them in China. That supports well-paying jobs here at home,” said Ambassador Kirk.

This is the third successful WTO challenge that the United States has brought against Chinese government subsidies. In each of these cases, following formal consultations at the WTO, China agreed to eliminate the subsidies that the United States had challenged.

Because of China’s inadequate transparency, it has taken significant investigatory efforts by the United States Government, working with industry and workers, to uncover the subsidies that the USTR has successfully challenged at the WTO. Under WTO rules, China is obligated to submit information about all of its subsidy programs on a regular basis. This information is required of all WTO Members so that countries may assess the nature and extent of subsidy programs. Despite this obligation, China never notified the WTO of the wind power equipment subsidies challenged in this WTO dispute. Similarly, China failed to submit notifications about dozens of subsidies challenged in the two prior disputes. In fact, China has submitted only one subsidies notification since becoming a WTO Member in December 2001. That notification took place more than five years ago and was noticeably incomplete. The obligations of WTO Members to submit notifications about their subsidies are set forth in Article 25 of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM Agreement.)

“This lack of transparency hinders the efforts of WTO Members to collectively ensure that each government is playing by the rules. The United States would prefer not to resort to WTO challenges but we will do so to hold China accountable and to enforce the rules on illegal subsidies. Even as we announce our success in this dispute, it is past time for China to be transparent about its subsidy programs, and that includes meeting its notification obligations like other WTO Members. China is the second largest trader at the WTO, and it is simply not acceptable that China continues to evade its transparency commitments,” Ambassador Kirk said.


The United States’ WTO dispute challenging the Special Fund subsidies was initiated as a result of an investigation launched by USTR in response to a petition the United Steelworkers (USW) filed under section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The investigation was initiated on October 15, 2010. It probed allegations relating to a variety of Chinese policies and practices affecting trade and investment in the clean energy technology sector, including subsides.

The United States held WTO consultations with China on February 16, 2011. In those consultations, the United States made clear its view that the subsidies provided to Chinese wind turbine manufacturers under the Special Fund program were prohibited because they were conditioned on the use of domestic over imported goods. (See Article 3 of the WTO SCM Agreement). Following those consultations, China took action formally revoking the legal measure that had created the Special Fund program.

The United States has succeeded in ending similarly problematic subsidies in two other WTO disputes against China. In 2007, the United States and Mexico challenged several tax-related subsidies that benefited a wide cross-section of China’s manufactured goods, claiming that those subsidies illegally supported Chinese-made goods and discouraged the purchase of imports from the United States. In 2008, the United States, Mexico and Guatemala challenged as illegal a Chinese government industrial policy that generated a vast number of subsidy programs that promoted worldwide sales of famous Chinese brands.


U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk Meets with Students, Farmers, Business Leaders during Visit to Arusha and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
June 7, 2011

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – Today, United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk met with business and international trade students from the University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Mzumbe in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. During the session, he discussed the importance of trade in promoting economic growth in Africa and the United States. He highlighted the importance of the U.S.-African trade relationship. He also discussed the urgent need to prepare the next generation of government and business leaders for the demands of an increasingly competitive global economy.

“For all of the world’s needs, Africa has many answers,” said Ambassador Kirk. “Tanzania has been particularly blessed with extraordinary natural resources and, as the next generation of Tanzania’s leaders, you need to lead the way in taking advantage of those resources so Tanzania can realize its full potential.”

Ambassador Kirk’s two-day trip highlighted the strong partnership between the U.S. and Tanzania. Prior to meeting with students, Ambassador Kirk spoke at a reception in Dar es Salaam as part of the 2nd Annual African AmCham (American Chamber of Commerce) Summit, which was attended by representatives from more than a dozen African AmChams, local Tanzanian business leaders and Tanzanian government officials. In his remarks, Ambassador Kirk focused the progress made under AGOA, but also discussed the need to do more to increase U.S. exports to Africa in order to support America’s economic recovery at home.

“Tanzania and the United States have a true partnership that is helping local workers, farmers and businesses flourish. The Obama Administration has invested considerable energy and resources in efforts to ramp up two-way trade between the United States and African countries. The Unites States is betting on Tanzania,” said Ambassador Kirk.

While in Dar es Salaam, Ambassador Kirk met with President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania to discuss the bilateral trade and investment relationships between the two countries. Ambassador Kirk commended Tanzania for being one of only four countries worldwide to be selected for President Obama’s new Partnership for Growth (PFG) initiative, which seeks to promote broad-based economic growth in developing countries that show a demonstrated commitment to development and democratic governance. Ambassador Kirk also met with Tanzania’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Marketing, Cyril Chami to encourage continued cooperation and progress under the United States-East African Community (EAC) Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).

On June 6, prior to his visit to Dar es Salaam, Ambassador Kirk traveled to Arusha, Tanzania. There he met with U.S. tourism companies and visited several small farms that have benefited from exporting products to the U.S. Ambassador Kirk toured a flower seed farm that contracts with MultiFlower to export to American and European farms. He also visited Pendo Farm, that exports most of its coffee beans to U.S. companies, including Starbucks. Arusha is one of the country’s primary centers for agriculture business and is benefitting from U.S. trade capacity building assistance.

“Agriculture is an important industry for jobs and economic growth in Tanzania – particularly here in Arusha,” said Ambassador Kirk. “I was able to see first-hand how U.S.-Tanzania trade is contributing to the growth and success of this industry and providing a real benefit to local families. We will continue to work with the government and businesses here to build on this progress because Tanzania remains a key partner to the United States in this region of the world.”

Tanzania was the United States’ 126th largest export market in 2010. Total two-way trade between Tanzania and the U.S. was valued at $207 million in 2010. U.S. exports to Tanzania grew by 3.6 percent between 2009 and 2010, rising to $164 million. U.S. imports from Tanzania were valued at $43 million in 2010. Coffee accounts for 36 percent of all U.S. imports from Tanzania. Of total U.S. imports from Tanzania during 2010, $2.1 million entered duty-free under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and including the General System of Preferences (GSP), up from $1.8 million in 2009. Headlines

Ambassador Kirk Heads the U.S. Delegation to AGOA, Announces New Trade Capacity Building Initiative
06/09/2011 – 5:01pm

Today marks the first full day of the ministerial portion of the AGOA 2011 Forum on U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa trade and economic cooperation. The AGOA Forum brings together hundreds of U.S. and sub-Saharan African government representatives, as well as civil society and business stakeholders. The 2011 Forum’s theme is “Enhanced Trade Through Increased Competitiveness, Value Addition and Deeper Regional Integration.”

Ambassador Marantis Participates in AGOA Events, Promotes Regional Economic Integration
06/09/2011 – 2:52pm

After arriving in Zambia on Wednesday, Ambassador Marantis today completed his second day of meetings and discussions at the annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Lusaka. The AGOA Forum brings together hundreds of U.S. and sub-Saharan government representatives, as well as civil society and business stakeholders. U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk is leading the U.S. government delegation of the Forum.

Weekly Trade Spotlight: Two-way Trade with Tanzania06/09/2011 – 12:42pm

The United States is highlighting our bilateral trade and investment partnership with Tanzania with a visit from United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk this week. Ambassador Kirk’s visit to Tanzania specifically focused on how various U.S. initiatives like the Millennium Challenge Account, the Partnership for Growth, Feed the Future, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) are strengthening Tanzania’s growing economy.

Ambassador Kirk Focuses on Expanding Two-Way Trade During Second Day in Tanzania
06/07/2011 – 4:31pm

Continuing his trip in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania today, Ambassador Kirk met with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. He commended the President on his leadership, noting that Tanzania is a major partner of the United States in sub-Saharan Africa. The U.S. is betting on Africa through investments in initiatives such as the Millennium Challenge Account, Feed the Future and the Partnership for Growth (PFG). PFG, a new Obama Administration initiative, is designed to promote economic growth in a small number of developing countries that show a demonstrated commitment to development and democratic governance. Tanzania is one of only four countries worldwide to be selected. Ambassador Kirk shared with the President his vision for Tanzania’s economic development, including his hope that Tanzania can take greater advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Ambassador Marantis Continues Visit to South Africa
06/07/2011 – 1:32pm

This morning, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis continued his official visit to Johannesburg, South Africa, speaking to a group of students, faculty, journalists, and other academics at the University of the Witwatersrand. The South African Institute for International Affairs, based at the historic university, hosted the event.

United States and South Africa Hold High-Level Meeting on Trade and Investment Issues
06/06/2011 – 5:42pm

Today Deputy United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis co-chaired a meeting with South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies of the U.S.-South Africa Trade and Investment Council (TIFA Council). U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips also participated.

Ambassador Kirk Travels to Tanzania
06/06/2011 – 5:00pm

This morning, Ambassador Kirk met with leaders of several U.S. tourism companies, which are critical to Tanzania’s foreign exchange generation, job creation and infrastructure development in Tanzania. Travel and tourism services earned nearly $1.2 billion in 2009 for Tanzania, and these U.S. companies are some of the largest contributors to building Tanzania’s economy. The U.S. is committed to working closely with Tanzania to ensure the continued growth and sustainability of this vital sector.

U.S. Plans for Green Exports and thoughts on how to create renewable corps of U.S. Exporters

My friend, colleague and renewable expert extraordinaire Clifford Aron of GreenMax Capital Advisors brought this article to my attention. It finally appears that U.S. Government is serious about focusing on developing systematic national infrastructure for exports in targeted industry segments. Renewable Energy is a very hot sector, which is developing globally and U.S. companies have a terrific shot of winning or at least placing in the race for leadership. I applaud the early efforts and strategic initiatives of President Obama’s Administration, as they are vital in creating the background setting for sustained success of U.S. companies, both large and small. Yet, it is important to recognize that policies and funding availability alone do not insure success. Education and enablement of the exporters are needed if policies are to succeed.

Although we have many companies who export out of the U.S., exporting is not as ingrained in our business culture, as it is for instance in some European or Asian countries. Also, in a developing, and more traditionally European sector such as renewable energy, U.S, companies do not enjoy as great of a competitive advantage as they do in more mature industries such as healthcare, aviation, or agriculture. Thus again, better educational outreach, supportive government policies and simplified financing would allow U.S. Exporters to be more competitive.

U.S. Government, banks and a number of NGOs, conduct seminars and events on how to develop bankable projects, inform on available programs and help process insurance and financing applications. These are all vital steps addressing specific needs of exporters. Yet the educational outreach seems to be missing in-depth training, which would allow U.S. exporters to develop an international mentality, enable them to truly assess their competitive position and prepare them to better compete globally. Another important element for developing a cadre of successful exporters would be funding the development of a screening/selection system, which would only allow the most well developed exporters(regardless of their size) to compete for export funding. This type of a system is no different than those instituted in professional sports leagues where athletes rise through the farm systems and selection process is ongoing, or incubator frameworks deployed by venture capitalists to screen and develop companies before letting them go to markets. Yet nothing like this exists in exporting. Anyone, after reading an article such as the one below, can go and seek to apply for funding to export. This is often done without realization of requirements and complexities associated with such process. Such inefficient approach also needlessly taxes government resources forcing countless hours wasted in explaining programs to potential applicants who have no business being there in the first place. Thus a system of exporter certification and continuing education administered by specially qualified for-profit and non-profit entities would be an effective tool in developing a strong and effective long-term cadre of exporters in every sector including the renewable energy. (You will be able to read more on my thoughts for such centers in the upcoming issues of Fluent In Foreign. Now please enjoy the article below)

US Plans for Green Exports
reprinted from the
By Elisa Wood, Contributor | February 24, 2011
For the first time the US is attempting to build an export market for renewable energy. Will it succeed?
Washington, D.C., United States – When it comes to exporting green energy, talk tends to centre on whether or not the US can compete with China. But that has little bearing on the international business activity of California-based Greenhouse Holdings, which builds eco-friendly infrastructure.

As a first order of business, the export initiative intends to make sense of the vast amounts of information available about renewable energy development worldwide and to identify countries that offer a high potential return for U.S. technologies. The research will move beyond pinpointing hot markets, and instead try to define exactly where U.S. products can succeed.

With employees that are military and security experts, the company brings solar and other forms of sustainable energy to denied areas, places where little or no energy infrastructure now exists. ‘We’ve found a niche,’ said John Galt, the company’s executive chairman and founder. ‘For us it is not China, but more like Africa, where they need rapidly deployable energy alternatives.’

It is such niches, both large and small, that the Obama administration hopes to ferret out as part of a new strategy to increase U.S. exports of renewable energy. Released in December, the plan includes 23 commitments from eight government agencies to help U.S. companies find opportunities and overcome trade barriers. It is part of a broader Obama goal to double U.S. exports in five years.

‘I love it. I think it was just the thing that was needed,’ said Galt. ‘This policy is going to help companies like ours that have a different segment of the market.’

The Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), an interagency group chaired by the US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, pegs U.S. renewable energy product exports at US$2 billion in 2009, up from $1.3 billion two years earlier. These are conservative estimates based only on scant data now available on U.S. clean energy exports. Still, the numbers indicate US renewable energy exports account for only a tiny fraction of the $6 trillion global energy market, of which clean energy is the fastest growing segment.

Many U.S. clean energy companies do not export, according to the report by TPCC’s working group on renewable energy and energy efficiency (RE&EE). Those companies that do tend to focus on only one or two markets. The report blames the low export levels on several factors: a lack available market research, a shortage of manufacturing capacity, unfamiliarity with export logistics, risk aversion to foreign markets, lack of links to foreign partners or buyers, currency fluctuations, and financing snags abroad.

Still, export opportunities appear to be considerable. Together with efficiency, renewable energy received $162 billion in private sector investment globally in 2009, a figure that U..S officials expect to climb as economic conditions improve. Stimulus bills accounted for another $183 billion investment worldwide in the same year.

To help U.S. companies capture rich green energy markets, the government plans to offer new trade missions, financing products, market research and other services. (See sidebar, below) ‘We will identify markets that need to be developed, where demand needs to be created for the technologies that U.S. companies can provide,’ said Adam O’Malley, the director of the Office of Energy and Environment in the International Trade Administration (ITA).

The export initiative creates no new programmes or policies, but instead coordinates and ramps up existing agencies that offer assistance. Therefore, the programme does not require action by Congress, a definite plus given the legislative body’s typically slow pace on energy policy.

Solar development expertise is one key area on which the US could capitalise (Source: Greenhouse Holdings)

As a first order of business, the export initiative intends to make sense of the vast amounts of information available about renewable energy development worldwide and to identify countries that offer a high potential return for U.S. technologies. The research will move beyond pinpointing hot markets, and instead try to define exactly where U.S. products can succeed. In some cases, the countries have no market yet for renewable energy, but offer great potential, if they receive help in developing policy and regulation.

The ITA also points out that hot markets — nations that are expanding renewable energy rapidly — are not necessarily good export targets. There may be burdensome regulation or strict protectionist policies, such as high tariffs or ‘content requirements’ mandating a large percentage of goods be produced within their borders. Transporting the product from the US might prove too costly or too difficult. Or the nation may offer little protection of intellectual property rights, a problem for all companies but especially smaller enterprises that may have their entire business plan secured against a patent.

Where’s the Money?

Another major barrier is lack of easily accessed financing, a problem Greenhouse Holdings’ Galt says stymies him abroad. ‘You’ve got this great project, and you’ve got a company or country ready to sign on the dotted line, but financing is the question,’ he said. ‘There needs to be assistance in how to obtain financing.’

The ITA says that government recognises this problem. U.S. companies find themselves delayed by the inexperience of foreign banks and regulators in assessing renewable energy technologies, especially if they are new and unfamiliar. Further, U.S. companies must compete against firms that arrive with greater financial support from home.

As a result, the new export strategy will place a high priority on finding ways to increase financing and to streamline the application process. These new commitments will build on financing already available through the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

The USTDA already has increased its funding for renewables and energy efficiency from 23% of programme funds in 2009 to 50% in 2010, a commitment it intends to continue. Money is being channelled towards developing and middle-income countries.

In addition, both Ex-Im Bank and OPIC will unveil new financing products and streamlined procedures to obtain funds. OPIC is focusing on private equity funding to make risk capital available to green energy companies, and creating opportunities to lease US-made equipment to remove upfront costs to purchasers. Ex-Im already has created what ITA describes as a highly effective programme called Solar Express, which fast-tracks the approvals of solar transactions valued at $3 – 10 million. Ex-Im says that it can process a Solar Express application in 60 days. The programme offers both direct loans and guarantees with terms that can extend out to 18 years.

Indeed, while the U.S. exports many clean energy technologies, it is solar energy that has proven its mettle so far in the international marketplace. The Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research took a close look at solar exports in 2009 and found the US to be a significant net exporter with PV-related imports of $1.6 billion and exports of $2.3 billion, creating total net exports of $723 million.

Polysilicon, the primary raw material of crystalline silicon PV modules, was the largest solar product exported, accounting for $1.1 billion in sales. In fact, the US was the single largest source of polysilicon with 40% of market share internationally. The report, ‘US Solar Energy Trade 2010,’ says that US trade in the solar industry had proved to be more ‘balanced’ than in the overall economy, which had a trade deficit of $374 billion in 2009.

Beyond solar, it may be services, rather than products, that offer the greatest opportunity for US companies, given that the service sector now accounts for 70% of US GDP. ‘It would be a mistake to overlook opportunities to strengthen service exports such as architectural design of green buildings, energy audits and licensing of U.S. wind turbines,’ said the TPCC report. The government is uncertain about the current quantity of service exports.

What about China?

The trade report echoes what several renewable energy companies say: the nation needs to stabilise its domestic energy policies before it can build a strong export industry. Short-term tax credits leave manufacturers and developers wary of deep investment in the U.S. ‘Firms from countries that have provided long-term incentives and have removed barriers to commercialising and installing RE&EE technologies are challenging US companies,’ the TPCC report said.

China offers tax holidays for certain clean technology companies located in economic development zones and Malaysia gives solar manufactures a 100% tax holiday for up to 15 years.

In the U.S., when federal policy fails, state policy sometimes fills in the gap, providing stability and spurring renewable energy growth. The report says 29 states plus the District of Colombia now have renewable portfolio standards, and 18 states have public benefit funds, surcharges on utility bills specifically for clean energy.

But state policy is not always enough when U.S. companies are competing internationally. The U.S. was dealt a blow in early 2011 when solar wafer manufacturer Evergreen Solar announced it was closing its facility in Devens, Massachusetts, although it had received some $32.25 million in state grant and tax incentives. The closure cost the local area a reported 800 jobs.

‘Solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support and, together with their low manufacturing costs, have become price leaders within the industry. While the U.S. and other Western industrial economies are beneficiaries of rapidly declining installation costs of solar, we expect the U.S. will continue to be at a disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint,’ said Evergreen Solar president and CEO Michael El-Hillow.

Production costs at the facility had steadily decreased, beating company targets and even many western manufacturers, but they still remained much higher than Chinese production costs, says El-Hillow. China dominated the wafer manufacturing market in 2009, according to the SEIA/GTM Research report. Its market share was 48%, compared with the U.S.’ 3%. ‘During the month of December [2010], we experienced a 10% decrease in average selling prices from the beginning of the fourth quarter. As industry selling prices continue their rapid declines into 2011, panel manufacturing in Devens, either fully or partially, is no longer economically feasible,’ said El-Hillow.

Despite the U.S.’ problem competing with China’s low manufacturing costs, it remains a strong market for U.S. green energy products and services. ‘China certainly presents tremendous opportunity and a variety of challenges,’ said ITA’s O’Malley.

Through the US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, the two nations have made significant strides in removing trade barriers for clean energy, he said. For example, China agreed to remove local content requirements for wind turbines and their components as a result of commission efforts.

In addition, the China/US business relationship seemed to improve in January with a spate of energy deals announced as China’s President Hu Jintao visited the U.S. and met with Obama. They include Duke Energy and China-based ENN Group collaborating to help build greener cities in China and the U.S. The companies created the Future Energy Technology Demonstration Platform to exchange knowledge in a deal expected to help ENN construct China’s first smart energy city in Langfang, near Beijing.

American Electric Power also signed energy deals with two giant Chinese energy companies: China Huaneng and State Grid Corporation of China. The deal encompasses a variety of technologies, including distributed generation and smart grid energy storage. Meanwhile, Florida-based wind power developer UPC Management negotiated a deal with the China Guo Dian Corporation. The two will form ventures to develop new wind facilities up to a value of $1.5 billion.

Whether it is the vast market of China tapped by Duke and AEP, or the smaller markets found in under-developed countries that are pursued by Greenhouse Holdings, export appears to offer new opportunities for U.S. renewable energy companies. But competition is stiff, and success of the export initiative rests on the U.S. government’s ability to overcome significant trade and financing hurdles. ‘These are really the first steps being taken by the U.S. government to coordinate our efforts in this space, and there is a lot to be done,’ said ITA’s O’Malley.

Sidebar: A New Export Strategy for Renewables

Released in December 2010, the export strategy was developed through the US Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee Working Group on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which includes representatives from the departments of Commerce, Energy, State, and Agriculture, as well as the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US Trade and Development Agency, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

‘Spurring domestic clean energy innovation to meet America’s needs is only half of the picture. Empowering US business to create and deliver those new technologies to energy-hungry foreign markets is the other,’ said US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, writing in the White House blog in late December.

The strategy includes several new services to help US clean energy companies export products and services:

• The federal government launched a new online portal to provide clean energy companies with easy access to government export resources.

• The Department of Commerce committed to an increase in the number of clean energy trade and trade-policy missions.

• Government will create new foreign buyers’ guides for US RE&EE technologies.

• OPIC will invest an additional $300 million in clean energy financing in emerging markets and new financial products for subordinated debt financing and equipment leasing.

• OPIC and Ex-Im will streamline financing applications.

• The Office of the US Trade Representative will address market access barriers through a new subcommittee.

• The USDA’s Market Access Program will expand to include biomass wood pellets.

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