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NAFTA Ready to be Renegotiated

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Jun 9, 2017 11:54:52 AM

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will be renegotiated in August. If you export to Canada or Mexico or source from these countries, NAFTA changes will likely affect you. 

international.flagssmall.jpgWhat’s behind NAFTA modernization?  This trilateral treaty—among the US, Canada and Mexico - dates back nearly 25 years.  Since NAFTA took effect, the Internet and smart phones have come to play a major role in business sales and distribution.  Industry sectors, cycles and supply chains have changed dramatically.  So there’s nearly universal agreement that NAFTA needs to be updated.

NAFTA negotiators are being encouraged to:

  • do no harm
  • be timely
  • avoid erecting new trade barriers, and
  • make NAFTA better for U.S. consumers, businesses and workers.

Here in Massachusetts, NAFTA has brought great benefits.  Trade between Massachusetts and its two closest neighbors has soared over the past two decades.  Canada is the Bay State’s top trade partner, with more than $3 billion in Massachusetts-made products shipped to Canada in 2016.

Last year, Mexico was the second-largest destination for Massachusetts products, with $2.5 Billion in Massachusetts goods shipped to our neighbor south of the border.  More than a quarter of a million jobs in Massachusetts, many in manufacturing, depend on trade with Canada and Mexico.

AIM strongly supports NAFTA.  The association will submit comments on NAFTA to the federal government and we urge AIM members to do so as well.  We have already heard from a number of member companies and we encourage businesses - especially manufacturers - to share their stories of how NAFTA has helped them grow.  These personal narratives can be shared with AIM, your industry association, your US Congressional Representatives and the US Trade Representative.

To send a NAFTA letter to the Federal Register Notice (FRN), which must be done by Monday, visit www.regulations.gov and search for docket number USTR-2017-0006.  Then click the “Comment Now!” button to make sure your comments are registered. 

Please contact Kristen Rupert at AIM, krupert@aimnet.org, with any questions about NAFTA renegotiation.

 

Topics: International Trade, NAFTA

Massachusetts Exports Rise; Trade Policy Remains Unclear

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Feb 16, 2017 9:16:13 AM

Recently-released year-end 2016 trade statistics tell a positive story for Massachusetts.

Product exports from the commonwealth increased 2 percent last year, outperforming many other US states.  Massachusetts exports totaled nearly $26 Billion in 2016.

international.flagssmall.jpgAt the same time, the relationship with our top three trade partners—Canada, Mexico and China—is likely to change as a result of new trade policies sought by the Trump administration.  What might this mean for Massachusetts companies?

The new president and his executive team have committed to renegotiating long-standing trade relationships and agreements.  First in line is NAFTA—the trilateral North America Free Trade Agreement among the US, Canada and Mexico that took effect 23 years ago.

 Many experts agree that changes to NAFTA are long overdue.  However, there is concern that the Trump administration may abandon NAFTA altogether and pursue separate bilateral agreements—one with Canada and a separate one with Mexico.  This would create significant disruption for many companies with global supply chains across North America. 

The new Trump trade team is not yet installed, which will likely delay negotiations about NAFTA.  Advocates within the manufacturing community, however, are already gathering stories about how individual US companies have grown jobs as a result of business with Canada and Mexico.   Getting this data to Congressional leaders and the new presidential administration will be critical in persuading Trump trade professionals to tweak, and not eliminate, NAFTA. 

Another proposal in play is the border tax.  Imports would be taxed at a rate up to 20 percent.  A complementary plan to reduce the overall US corporate tax rate is being touted as a potential offset.  The border tax would mean that large importers such as Walmart and Target would suffer and likely pass along cost increases to customers, while big exporters—Caterpillar, GE, Boeing - would benefit.  Small companies dependent on components produced in China or Mexico would also be hard hit by an import tax.  As with all tax rate changes, we’ll see winners and losers. 

No China trade announcements have been made since President Trump was inaugurated.  His telephone call last week with China president Xi Jinping was a first step toward repairing the damage caused by Mr. Trump’s earlier denunciation of the US’ long-standing “one China” policy.  Mr. Trump had suggested imposing tariffs of up to 45 percent on imports from China, but that proposal has not yet gained traction.

In a promising development, Mr. Trump last week signaled his support for the US Export-Import Bank, which has been operating for more than a year without a board quorum and unable to approve loans of more than $10 million.  Mr. Trump’s statement represents a departure from his previous skepticism about Ex-Im Bank. The president may make a statement about Ex-Im during his visit to Boeing in South Carolina tomorrow. 

If you are one of the more than 10,000 exporting companies in Massachusetts and you have concerns, praise or questions about proposed federal trade policy, please let AIM know.  We are in regular communication with industry and government leaders and your insights are invaluable as we convey what’s important about trade and growing the Massachusetts economy. 

Topics: International Trade, Massachusetts economy, Donald Trump

Trump Policies on International Trade Take Shape

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Jan 5, 2017 11:27:58 AM

President-Elect Donald Trump’s international trade leadership team is now complete. 

international.flagssmall.jpgRobert Lighthizer was announced this week as US Trade Representative.  Lighthizer joins incoming Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, new National Trade Council head Peter Navarro, and Jason Greenblatt, special representative for international negotiations, as Trump’s picks to set and execute US trade policy.

 What might we expect from this team?  What are the issues to watch in 2017?

NAFTA.  The North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada is widely expected to be renegotiated.  An update of NAFTA is welcomed by many trade experts.  NAFTA came into force in 1994, before the rise of the Internet.  Because of the breadth, depth, complexity, and influence of technology on trade today, new rules are needed.  Mexico and Canada have signaled a willingness to modernize the treaty—under certain conditions.  Scrapping NAFTA altogether, which Trump previously championed, would threaten millions of US jobs.

China.  Trump speaks frequently about China’s currency manipulation, steel-dumping and aggressive trade practices.  His trade appointees are likely to stand tough on China—and this toughness may serve the US well.  However, a proposal to hit some China imports with significant tariffs is meeting resistance. AIM has heard from Massachusetts manufacturers concerned that components they source from China may become prohibitively expensive.

Russia.  The US levied trade sanctions on Russia in March 2014, after the Crimea incursion.  Many European countries did the same.  Given Trump’s frequent praise of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his desire to strengthen ties with Russia, might US sanctions be lifted?  Complicating the US-Russia relationship is Russia’s ongoing cyberwarfare against the US, which appears to have affected the recent US presidential election.   Trump’s Secretary of State designee Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, is known to have business ties with Russia.  More will be learned during confirmation hearings.

Brexit.  The 2016 vote by citizens of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union surprised the world.  New UK Prime Minister Theresa May is overseeing “Brexit” and has proposed March 2017 as the start date for the two-year process.  However, the recent requirement for a Parliamentary vote to approve Brexit and the appointment of a new UK ambassador to the EU have muddied the Brexit waters.  The UK is searching worldwide for hundreds of trade negotiators needed to lead trade talks with the EU.  Although US President-elect Trump has signaled interest in negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with the UK, that country cannot negotiate any new trade agreements while it is still part of the EU.  So any US-UK agreement would have to wait until 2019 or 2020.  In the meantime, US and UK diplomats are working to continue and grow the US-UK trade relationship.

Key Europe Elections.  The Brexit vote was the first step in the resurgence of populism in Europe.  Concerns about immigration and terrorism have driven European voters to rebuff convention and vote for change.  Italy’s recent vote was a win for populism and resulted in the resignation of the Italian Prime Minister.  France is holding its presidential election in May.  Current president Francois Hollande will not seek re-election.  Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon beat ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy in the primary to become the conservative nominee for president.  Marine Le Pen, leader of the Far Right National Front, is her party’s nominee.  A Socialist Party nominee will be selected this month.  In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel will run for a fourth term in the Fall 2017 elections.  She has been Chancellor for 11 years and she leads the Christian Democrats Union party.  The EU-US trade relationship is the largest trade relationship in the world, so any changes in leadership in the key EU countries will affect US commerce.   

Other issues to watch:

The US Export-Import Bank lacks a quorum and cannot approve loans of more than $10 million.  Will the new administration break the logjam?  Cuba is now welcoming US commercial cruise lines and airlines.  JetBlue—Massport’s largest carrier—hopes to be approved for future non-stop flights between Logan Airport and Havana—but only if the further opening of the Cuba market continues under a new US presidential administration.

Israel is not a significant trade partner for Massachusetts, but there’s a strong Massachusetts-Israel talent pipeline and Israeli-founded companies represent thousands of jobs in the Bay State.  Will the recent UN vote on Israeli settlements affect that relationship?  Will the Trump administration’s pick for US Ambassador to Israel move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is considered to be on life support, as President-elect Trump has promised to withdraw from this 12-country pact.  Key concerns on abandoning TPP are the US relationship with its long-time trading partner Japan, the rising influence of China in the Pacific region, and the likelihood that many Asian countries will now sign on to the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Trade Agreement, or R-CEP, which will lower trade barriers in the region but will not benefit the US.

Other US Free Trade Agreements.  The US now has 14 FTA’s covering 20 countries.   Will the Trump trade team renegotiate these?

It’s going to be an interesting year for trade.

Topics: International Trade, Manufacturing, Donald Trump

Trade Mission Cements Economic Ties with Israel

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Dec 22, 2016 11:03:34 AM

Editor's note - Kristen Rupert, Executive Director of the AIM International Business Council, traveled to Israel earlier this month as part of Governor Charlie Baker's trade mission.

Governor Charlie Baker’s recent trade mission to Israel took place at a propitious time for US-Israel relations.

Gov.Baker.Israel.jpgThe first two (of an order of 50) F-35 fighter jets were delivered by the US to Israel while the Massachusetts trade delegation was participating in meetings in Tel Aviv.  These state-of-the-art, manufactured-in-the-US, stealth aircraft were flown from the US to an Israeli airbase in the Negev where they were greeted by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, and a large crowd of US and Israeli military personnel.

Against this backdrop of goodwill between the US and Israel, Massachusetts executives spent four days in panel discussions, informational briefings and networking sessions with Israeli counterparts in the digital health and cybersecurity sectors.  A few examples:

Two panels on cybersecurity, featuring chief security, tech and information officers from Harvard, the Federal Reserve, Raytheon, IBM, Akamai and Beth Israel Deaconess, addressed the challenges of staying ahead of the “bad guys.”  Lessons learned: think of cybersecurity as an investment and not a cost for your company, continue to add security features for log-ins and data access, and communicate regularly to employees—nearly all of whom carry a mobile device—about the critical importance of protecting company and personal data.

On research and innovation, Governor Baker and Israel’s Chief Scientist spoke at a half-day session, convened by GE, about complementary strengths in Massachusetts and Israel.  Both leaders spoke about the value of collaboration among government, private industry, and universities.  Massachusetts is historically strong in technology and our defense legacy is helping us grow a cybersecurity ecosystem.  Israel spends more per capita on research and development than any country in the world and the government funds start-ups in all industries at all stages.  Both Israel and Massachusetts have strong talent pools from which to hire—yet both are struggling with the need for additional skilled workers.

Governor Baker stressed the “powerful possibilities” of collaboration between the Bay State and Israel.  Strong ties already exist.  Many Israeli doctors and health-care researchers trained or practiced in Massachusetts.  More than 200 Israeli-founded companies are thriving in the Boston area.  Thrice-weekly non-stop flights between Boston and Tel Aviv already carry university professors, students on internships, private industry leaders, medical professionals and government officials.

Several Memoranda of Understanding focused on cybersecurity and technology were signed by Massachusetts government officials and their Israeli counterparts during the trip.  Now back home, trade mission delegates are already talking about how to launch and nurture additional collaborations and encourage Israeli start-ups to come to Boston.

Governor Baker said it best when he invited company founders to consider Massachusetts “your home away from home.”  Certainly the recent trade mission reinforced the strong desire by Israelis and Bay Staters to work even more closely together over the next few years.    

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council, Charlie Baker

Governor Pitches Massachusetts to Israeli Entrepreneurs

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Dec 12, 2016 9:06:18 AM

Governor Charlie Baker and Massachusetts business leaders are using their current trade mission to Israel to broaden the already close economic ties between that nation and the commonwealth in key areas such as cybersecurity and digital health.

Baker in Israel.jpgBaker, reflecting on the common values and strengths shared by the Bay State and Israel—technology, innovation, intellectual intensity—is encouraging Israelis to think of Massachusetts as their “home away from home.” 

Nearly a dozen AIM member companies, including Raytheon, Eversource, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard, IBM, GE, UMass, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Goodwin, Sanofi and Cyberark, are participating in the economic development mission to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Today, several dozen Israeli entrepreneurs planning to expand into the US in the next 24 months indicated strong interest in selecting Massachusetts as the destination for their young firms.  Their demonstration of enthusiasm occurred at the US-Israel Growth Summit at Tel Aviv University, which was sponsored by Raytheon and attracted nearly 300 Israeli business leaders.   To encourage the Israelis to choose the Bay State over Silicon Valley or New York City, a panel of four Massachusetts-based Israeli-founded company executives, including AIM member CyberArk CEO Udi Mokady, shared why they moved their businesses to Boston. 

Why is Boston so attractive to Israeli entrepreneurs?  Talent, customer access, a strong tech ecosystem, research capabilities, reasonable time difference between Boston and Israel, and cultural fit.  In fact, more than 200 Israeli-founded businesses can be found in Massachusetts today, with more than 9,000 direct employees and more than $9 billion in direct economic impact.  The number of Israelis living in and around Boston exceeds 200,000.

Massachusetts executives also have a lot to learn from Israeli counterparts, especially in the areas of cybersecurity and digital health.  Yesterday’s agenda included a visit to Israel cybersecurity firm Team8, comprised of former officials of Israel’s elite military unit known as 8200.  The company’s CEO/co-founder emphasized that the best way to approach cybersecurity challenges is to understand the psychology of the people behind the malware and attacks. 

Meetings between and among Massachusetts and Israeli government and industry leaders this week have been productive. Discussions are underway about possible collaborations, partnerships, student exchange programs, internships and investments that will benefit Israeli and Massachusetts companies.

One such collaboration was announced today when Massachusetts and an Israeli company formally agreed to work together on cybersecurity research, training and academic exchanges. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and the Israeli non-profit private organization CyberSpark signed a memorandum of understanding, pledging that the organizations would collaborate on research focused on healthcare technology cybersecurity and practical training in cybersecurity for American and Israeli students.

Topics: International Trade, Charlie Baker

Trump on Trade: More Questions than Answers

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Dec 1, 2016 8:30:00 AM

What will happen to U.S. trade under the new Trump administration?  Which voices in the Cabinet and Congress will prevail?  Are free trade deals dead?  Will the U.S. impose high tariffs on China and Mexico? Will we become more protectionist?  Will companies be punished for creating jobs overseas or rewarded for keeping jobs state-side?

international.flagssmall.jpgAnswers to these questions remain unknown.  It’s still uncertain how the new presidential administration will proceed on trade.  Although candidate Trump campaigned on a strong anti-trade platform targeting China, Mexico, NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Trade Pact), President-Elect Trump is already softening some of his rhetoric.

AIM has been engaged in discussions with state and federal political leaders, company executives, trade organizations, Congressional staff members, and seasoned trade professionals to understand how to keep US international trade fair and unencumbered and help Massachusetts companies continue to prosper.  Here’s what we know:

  1. Although there’s general agreement that trade is critical for jobs and the economy, employers need to do a better job telling the story of how trade has helped companies grow and create jobs.
  2. Manufacturing, an industry important to President-elect Trump, is a vital part of the U.S. and Massachusetts economies, responsible for millions of jobs and a significant component of GDP. Most manufacturers export or send their finished products up the supply chain to larger exporters—meaning that international trade is key to business success.
  3. NAFTA has been a strong driver for economic growth in the U.S., although not all parts of the U.S. have benefitted evenly. NAFTA can be renegotiated and modernized, but scrapping it would be disruptive and damaging to supply chains, investment and more.
  4. Job losses in manufacturing over the past several decades have been due in significant part to automation, not solely to overseas production.
  5. Training and re-training of displaced workers needs to be a priority on the state and federal levels through vocational schools, community colleges and other initiatives.
  6. Canada, Mexico and China are the three top trade partners for Massachusetts. Any disruption of trade across our northern or southern borders threatens thousands of jobs in the Bay State.
  7. China is a valuable import source and export destination for Massachusetts. Millions of Chinese citizens entering the middle class represent strong trade potential.  High tariffs or a U.S. trade war with China would have a significant negative impact on our citizens and companies. 
  8. Under Trump, the US Trade Representative (USTR) job may be downgraded from a Cabinet-level position to a senior-level administrator within the US Department of Commerce. This would put the U.S. at a significant disadvantage at the negotiating table.
  9. Trump needs early wins on trade. Recent negotiations with Ford and Carrier, who are scaling back plans to move jobs out of the U.S., may help with this.  As one expert noted, Trump is perhaps less anti-trade and more “pro-good deals.”

So, what can you do?

Tell your personal stories about trade - how you identified a new market for your product, how you work with international customers to meet their needs, how you’ve grown jobs at your company because of global trade.  Share these stories with your state and federal elected officials—and with AIM.  Many jobs depend on trade—that message needs to be delivered to lawmakers.

Stay informed.  Participate in events at which trade will be discussed.  Strengthen your existing trade relationships.  Communicate regularly with your international customers.  Reach out to potential clients in new markets.  Identify sticky trade problems that need to be solved.

Finally, remember that countries have been trading goods and services across borders since the beginning of time.  Presidents and prime ministers may come and go, but trade relationships persist.  Even in tough times, good companies find a way to meet customer needs and make deals happen. 

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, International Trade, Donald Trump

Baker: Israel Mission to Emphasize Cybersecurity, Digital Health

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Oct 6, 2016 3:50:22 PM

The upcoming Massachusetts trade mission to Israel will emphasize cybersecurity and digital health, two industries in which Governor Charlie Baker says the commonwealth has an opportunity to become a powerful worldwide player.


International2016.jpgBaker told more than 150 business leaders and diplomats at the 2016 AIM Global Trade Symposium this morning that cybersecurity and digital health are related because digitally driven insulin pumps and other medical devices must be invulnerable to software hackers.

“Cybersecurity will become the prerequisite for digital health,” Baker said during a keynote speech at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

“When we get onto the idea of medical devices designed to monitor health status…the whole idea of breach in something like that is not a shrug-the-shoulders kind of moment.”

The governor said Massachusetts remains well positioned to increase exports because of significant upgrades to the infrastructure for moving products from the Bay State to overseas destinations by sea and by air. He noted the expansion of direct overseas flights at Logan International Airport, the dredging of Boston Harbor, and the expansion of the Connelly Terminal in Boston as important steps to ensure that Massachusetts employers will continue to have access to foreign markets.

The AIM Symposium honored three Massachusetts companies with Global Trade Awards for excellence in international business - REXA of West Bridgewater, L-3 Security & Detection Systems of Woburn, and Riverdale Mills Corporation of Northbridge.

“International trade plays a pivotal role in the health of the Massachusetts economy” said Richard Lord, President and CEO of AIM.

“That is why we are delighted to honor the achievements of these local winners, who set the standard for global business. These firms are making a significant contribution to Massachusetts’s reputation as a world trade leader. ”

Employers and academics at the Symposium agreed that uncertainty hangs over international commerce in the form of a strong dollar, weakness in key export markets, the impending exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union and a rising tide of protectionism both in the U.S. and abroad. Several companies reported that the rising dollar and falling shipping costs are bringing new, low-cost competitors into many overseas markets.

“The uncertainty level has certainly gone up in the past several years,” said, Ravi Ramamurti, Distinguished Professor, Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, who led a panel discussion on “Tough Times for Trade.”

He added that the slowing growth in Europe and Asia appears to be structural rather than cyclical in nature.

The effects of currency shifts and other factors vary widely depending on industry, geography and the ability of a particular business to adapt.

“Volatility creates opportunity,” said Charlie Cunnion, Director of Global Transportation for International Forest Products LLC, the largest exporter in New England.

“When things are difficult, that’s when we shine the best,”

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council, Charlie Baker

Three Companies Honored with Global Trade Awards

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Sep 19, 2016 7:30:00 AM

A global maker of security detection systems, a company that keeps pipelines flowing and a major producer of wire mesh are the winners of the 21st Annual Global Trade Awards from the Associated Industries of Massachusetts International Business Council (AIM-IBC).

IBC.jpgThe 2016 Global Trade honorees announced this morning include REXA of West Bridgewater, L-3 Security & Detection Systems of Woburn, and Riverdale Mills Corporation of Northbridge. The awards recognize Massachusetts companies and organizations of all sizes that have demonstrated excellence in international trade.

“International trade plays a pivotal role in the health of the Massachusetts economy” said Richard Lord, President and CEO of AIM.

“That is why we are delighted to honor the achievements of these local winners, who set the standard for global business. We applaud their ability to be strategic and differentiate themselves to serve industries overseas.  These firms are making a significant contribution to Massachusetts’s reputation as a world trade leader. ”

The three Global Trade Awards winners will be honored during the AIM Global Trade Symposium & Awards Breakfast at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, October 6, from 8-11 a.m. Those in attendance will hear from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and a panel of business leaders about ways Massachusetts can succeed in a rapidly-changing global business world.

Ambassador’s Award - REXA
West Bridgewater

REXA designs and manufactures superior actuators, a device used by operators of pipelines, power plants and hydro dams to regulate the flow of water, steam or petroleum through industrial pipeline valves. Using innovative motion control technology, REXA actuators enable operators to open, close or adjust large valves from remote locations for normal usage or, in case of  emergency situations, to avoid spills or contamination. REXA technology is used in power generation, oil & gas, mining, metals, water and waste industries. A Japanese-owned company founded in 1981, REXA’s products are in high demand globally, with 40 percent of their products distributed internationally. www.rexa.com

Diplomat’s Award - L-3 Security & Detection Systems
Woburn, MA

L-3 Security & Detection Systems (L-3 SDS) is a leading supplier of security screening solutions, with more than 50,000 systems deployed and supported around the globe. Founded in 1986, L-3 SDS designs and manufactures cutting-edge products for secure facilities using advanced technologies such as 3-D computed tomography; automated, conventional and high-energy X-ray; radiation detection; active millimeter wave imaging; metal detection and more.   L-3 SDS engineers have improved airport x-ray scanners’ threat detection capabilities across the globe. www.sds.L-3.com

Chairman’s Award - Riverdale Mills Corporation
Northbridge, MA

Founded in 1980, Riverdale Mills Corporation is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-quality engineered, galvanized and PVC coated wire mesh fabrics. Riverdale Mills produces more than 3,500 sizes of welded wire mesh for the marine, aquaculture, security, farming and construction industries at its sole manufacturing facility in Massachusetts.

Riverdale’s marquee product, Aquamesh®, is a durable, rust proof and corrosion resistant wire mesh that is specifically designed to withstand the harshest subsea conditions. Aquamesh® is now used to build approximately 80 percent of all lobster traps fished in North America and Europe. Riverdale Mills WireWall® high security wire mesh fencing is used to protect the MIT Nuclear Reactor Lab, U.S. Embassy in Panama City, Port of San Francisco, Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Mexico, and the Vancouver Transit System.

The company is also one of the world’s leading producers of specialty PVC powder coating compounds.www.riverdale.com

The AIM International Business Council helps Massachusetts employers engage in international trade and expand their global business activities. Through seminars, referrals, and e-newsletters, the AIM International Business Council provides companies with the resources they need.  For more, visit www.aimnet.org/international.

Attend the Global Trade Symposium

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council

AIM to Honor International Business Leaders at Symposium

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Jul 20, 2016 2:33:47 PM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) announced today that it will present its 21st annual Global Trade Awards at a new Global Trade Symposium Oct. 6 at Gillette Stadium.

Globe.jpgThe 2016 AIM Global Trade Breakfast Symposium will honor up to four Massachusetts companies, organizations or individuals for distinguished achievement in international business. The event will also bring together experts from throughout the commonwealth to discuss current issues affecting international trade.

AIM’s International Business Council has honored more than 80 companies since initiating the Global Trade Awards in 1996.

“AIM is creating a signature event that will underscore the vital role that international trade plays in the health of the Massachusetts economy,” said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.

“Massachusetts is a global economic, educational and research center and AIM is delighted to honor the achievements of the people and companies that have made it that way.”

AIM is currently accepting nominations for the 2016 Global Trade Awards. Nominated companies must demonstrate that they have:

  • increased or retained jobs in Massachusetts by entering new global markets;
  • demonstrated new or creative solutions for import/export challenges;
  • produced or adapted a product line or service for foreign markets;
  • established alliances or partnerships to increase international trade; or
  • invested in infrastructure or manufacturing in Mass. to enhance trade.

Applications are reviewed and winners selected by a subcommittee of AIM’s International Business Council board.  The deadline for nominations is August 20.

Apply for a Global Trade Award

The 2015 Global Trade Awards went to water-treatment innovator Desalitech, advanced materials leader Hollingsworth & Vose Company, and Massport. Other winners throughout the years have ranged from V.H. Blackinton to Ocean Spray to Pittsfield-based Interprint.

More than 200 Massachusetts business leaders are expected to attend the October 6 Symposium, which will feature a breakfast, keynote speaker, panel discussion, and awards ceremony in the Putnam Club at Gillette Stadium. Executives from across the commonwealth will share insights on how they’ve grown their businesses internationally, what’s made Massachusetts a unique player on the global stage, and what global trade might look like in the future.      

“AIM believes that Massachusetts deserves a world-class gathering to celebrate its status as an international trade leader.” said Kristen Rupert, Executive Director of the AIM International Business Council.

“We look forward to honoring Massachusetts companies that play key roles in the global economy, offering innovative products and services produced in Massachusetts to markets across the globe.”

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council

Panama Canal Expansion Will Benefit Port of Boston

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Jul 7, 2016 3:10:36 PM

Editor's note - Kristen Rupert is Executive Director of the AIM International Business Council.

I recently traveled to Panama for ceremonies marketing the expansion of the Panama Canal, a project with significant implications for the Port of Boston and the Massachusetts economy.

Rupert.jpgDriving the Canal expansion is the advent of newer “Post-Panamax” or “Neo-Panamax” container ships, which can carry up to 15,000 containers or “TEU’s,” (twenty-foot equivalent units.)  The historic Panama Canal can accommodate only 5000 TEU ships; expansion enables the Canal to accept much larger vessels.  These ships previously had to transit through the Suez Canal or around the Horn of Africa. 

Ports across the Eastern United States will be most affected by the Panama Canal expansion, because Neo-Panamax ships from Asia—China, mostly—will now have the option of transiting the Canal and heading to ports such as Norfolk, Baltimore, Miami, Savannah and Charleston, and eventually New York, rather than docking in California at Long Beach and moving cargo across the U.S. via train or truck.  Significant cost savings can be achieved by carriers using larger ships that can carry cargo closer to its ultimate U.S. destination.  U.S. shipments of LNG to Asia are also expected to use the new Canal.

The Port of Boston is already benefitting from the expanded Canal.  COSCO—China Ocean Shipping Company—is a longtime partner of the Port of Boston; the company recently committed to doubling the capacity of their ships calling on Boston from China.  This will enable Massport’s Conley Terminal—the only full-service container terminal in New England—to handle significantly more volume.  This translates into jobs and positive economic impact.

The U.S. Government has committed to funding a major dredging project for Boston Harbor, though the appropriation has not yet been finalized.  In the meantime, some inner harbor dredging is taking place along with dock improvements.  (Among the imports and exports moving through Conley Terminal are seafood, footwear, waste paper, scrap metal, furniture, beer and wine, and apparel.)

In late June, Panama inaugurated the expansion of the 100-year-old Canal with a day-long celebration featuring speeches, fireworks and a huge (1,000 feet long and 160 feet wide) Chinese container ship transiting through the new locks from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.  Panamanians are justifiably proud of their fifty-mile long Canal, which returns more than $2 Billion per year to the Panamanian government.  Thousands of Panamanians turned out along the Canal for the expansion inauguration, waving flags and celebrating an historic day.

The expansion was at least 10 years in the making and cost more than $5 billion.  Tens of thousands of workers have labored since 2007 to design, blast, dredge and build extensive new locks and approaches on both the Pacific and the Atlantic sides of the Panamanian isthmus.  Although the new locks are much bigger than the historic locks, they use less water; 60 percent of the water that fills the locks as ships pass through is being re-used through large water saving basins.

The new locks feature rolling gates, similar to sliding doors you might see on a barn.  The old locks, still in use in a different part of the Canal, use saloon-door type gates which swing open and closed.  The tallest of the new lock gates is about 100 feet high. 

The Panama Canal expansion project struggled through numerous challenges, including low water in Lake Gatun which feeds the locks, issues with the quality of the concrete used for the locks, the decision to use tugboats rather than “mules” or mini-train engines to guide ships through the locks, cost over-runs, and the smaller-than-desired space in each lock (many pilots said they wish the new locks—at 1,400 feet long and 180 feet wide--were longer and wider.)

In addition, the future for global shipping is a bit cloudy.  Fuel prices have dropped dramatically, China is going through an economic slowdown, and global trade is in a lull.  Despite this, the expanded Panama Canal has more than 150 crossings scheduled for the next several months.  Only time will tell how Panama benefits from its new, expanded Canal.

Topics: International Trade

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