Energy Department Trade Missions:

Authority, Results, and Management Issues

T-NSIAD-96-151: Published: Apr 24, 1996. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 1996.

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GAO discussed four trade missions sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE), focusing on: (1) DOE authority and role in these missions; (2) the results of the missions; and (3) management weaknesses inherent in DOE-sponsored trade missions. GAO noted that: (1) the Secretary of Energy has explicit statutory authority to undertake export promotion activities; (2) in 1995, DOE funding for export promotion totalled $14 million; (3) DOE performed advocacy on behalf of U.S. energy companies seeking to capture some of the emerging energy markets in China, India, and Pakistan; (4) it is difficult to measure the impact of these federal advocacy activities because sales forecasts are unclear, of the numerous participants involved, and of problems in calculating the value of sales agreements and maintenance contracts; (5) the four trade missions resulted in $19.7 billion in potential and finalized fuel supply and power purchase agreements and oil and gas exploration agreements; (6) DOE subsequently reported that finalized agreements totalled $2.03 billion, but export data show that the value of these agreements seem to be overstated by over 50 percent; (7) most companies participating in DOE trade missions support DOE efforts, but a few said that they could complete their business agreements without DOE involvement; (8) the planning for these missions is complicated by time constraints, last minute changes in plans, and lack of familiarity with conducting large, overseas trade missions; and (9) DOE has introduced new procedures to correct DOE management weaknesses, but they have not been fully tested in practice.

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