Key Issues > Duplication & Cost Savings > GAO's Action Tracker > Federal and States' Export Promotion (2015-11)
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International Affairs: Federal and States' Export Promotion (2015-11)

Because federal and state export promotion efforts overlap, the Department of Commerce should take steps to enhance collaboration among them to promote economic development while ensuring the most efficient use of limited federal resources.

Action:

To improve federal-state collaboration in providing export promotion services in accordance with the National Export Initiative and the Export Enhancement Act of 1992, the Secretary of Commerce, as Chair of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), should improve implementation of the Export Outreach Teams to better achieve their intended outcomes. This could include taking steps, including better monitoring, to ensure that key local participants are invited, that meetings are held as expected, and that the Export Outreach Teams (EOT) seek to both increase awareness of available export resources and enhance interagency and intergovernmental collaboration.

Progress:

The Department of Commerce (Commerce) took some steps to improve implementation of the Export Outreach Teams (EOT), as GAO recommended in May 2014, but it decided to take a different approach to improve state-federal collaboration at the local level. In March 2016, Commerce officials told GAO that they and Small Business Administration (SBA) officials concluded that EOTs had resulted in a successful exchange of information on program development, technical expertise, and new initiatives that was valuable in beginning a conversation among various stakeholders and enhancing existing communication, but because differences exist among communities across the nation, different collaborative mechanisms may be appropriate in different areas. As a result, Commerce and SBA determined that participation in EOTs was no longer a requirement for their local officials, and therefore they would not monitor the composition and meetings of the teams. Commerce noted that local Commerce staff annual performance appraisals include an element on coordination and interagency collaboration.

Commerce instead implemented a state-federal annual coordination planning process to improve local communication and collaboration among state and federal trade agencies in response to our recommendations and a subsequent law. In February 2016, Congress passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, Public Law 114-125, that among other things required Commerce to annually submit to the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee a federal-state export strategy for each state that submits its export strategy to Commerce for that year beginning February 2017. A Commerce official said the agency developed a template for local officials to use with their state counterparts to jointly draft a state-federal annual coordination plan for each state. The plans cover, among other things, staffing, sector and market priorities, planned events and training, and efforts to reduce duplication of services between state agencies and federal agencies operating in that state. Commerce officials said they had plans for all 50 states and Puerto Rico. We believe that these actions increase awareness of available export resources and enhance both interagency and intergovernmental collaboration.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Commerce

Action:

To improve federal-state collaboration in providing export promotion services in accordance with the National Export Initiative and the Export Enhancement Act of 1992, the Secretary of Commerce, as Chair of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), should take steps consistent with key practices for collaboration to enhance TPCC agencies’ partnering on export promotion with nonfederal entities, such as the State International Development Organizations (SIDO) and Global Cities. This could include reassessing and strengthening the TPCC’s intergovernmental partnerships by clarifying expected outcomes, defining roles and responsibilities, monitoring results, and planning resource needs.

Progress:

The Department of Commerce (Commerce) and the TPCC, which is responsible for providing a unified national framework for export promotion, have taken steps to enhance federal-state collaboration in export promotion, as GAO recommended in May 2014 and as called for in a subsequent law.  In February 2016, Congress passed The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, Public Law 114-125, which according to the State International Development Organizations (SIDO), contained provisions intended to enhance federal-state collaboration in export promotion.  First, the act directs the President to establish a state and federal export promotion coordination working group as a subcommittee of the TPCC and appoint at least one representative from a state trade promotion agency to the TPCC. Second, beginning in February 2017, the act requires Commerce to annually submit to the TPCC a federal-state export strategy for each state that submits its export strategy to Commerce for that year that, among other things, addresses efforts to reduce duplication. Third, the act requires Commerce and state trade promotion agencies to develop a coordinated set of performance metrics, and report to Congress on these metrics within a year of the law’s enactment.  Fourth, the act mandates an annual survey and analysis, in coordination with state trade promotion agencies, of the overall effectiveness of federal-state coordination in export promotion.

In April 2016 Commerce and SIDO signed a memorandum of intent to develop joint strategies and implement activities to enhance federal and state agency coordination and cooperation.   In September 2016 Commerce issued a Federal Register Notice announcing the establishment of a state and federal export promotion coordination working group under the TPCC. 

The Secretary of Commerce appointed 14 members to this new working group in January 2017, and in April 2017, the TPCC issued a coordination strategy that outlines federal and state roles and responsibilities, including ways federal and state trade agencies can coordinate to reduce duplication. In January 2018, Commerce and SIDO officials told us they had drafted a new joint project agreement in order to further enhance coordination, and Commerce provided us with a copy of this agreement. As a result of these actions, Commerce is better positioned to coordinate with state trade offices, enhance collaboration, and enable more effective resource planning.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Commerce

Action:

To improve federal-state collaboration in providing export promotion services in accordance with the National Export Initiative and the Export Enhancement Act of 1992, the Secretary of Commerce, as Chair of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), should take steps consistent with key practices to enhance, where possible, federal information sharing with state trade offices on Commerce’s export promotion activities. This could include more formal guidance to Commerce staff on the circumstances, in light of legal restrictions, in which information can be shared with state trade offices and other nonfederal entities, and exploring ways for clients to give permission to release information useful to such nonfederal entities.

Progress:

The Department of Commerce (Commerce) has taken steps to share information with state trade offices on Commerce's export promotion activities, as GAO recommended in May 2014. In response to GAO’s recommendation, Commerce said it preferred to maintain a case-by-case approach for information sharing.

In February 2016, Congress passed The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, Public Law 114-125, which requires that within a year of the act’s passing, Commerce must develop a federal-state export promotion coordination plan that addresses, among other things, information sharing between federal and state trade offices. The act also requires Commerce and state trade promotion agencies to develop a framework to share information on export successes, and report to Congress on this framework within a year of the law’s enactment.

Later in 2016, Commerce officials began holding monthly calls with SIDO and state trade offices to share information on topics such as client intake, performance measures, and new federal export promotion activities. In March 2017, Commerce officials informed GAO that after further review of information-sharing limitations under the Trade Secrets Act, Commerce determined that Written Impact Narratives (WINs) that have been approved for public use by the clients can be shared with State trade agencies.

In April 2017, the TPCC issued a state-federal coordination plan that included a framework for information sharing. This national plan was accompanied by a template for federal and state officials to use for joint planning. The template includes events planned, performance metrics, and export success stories. As a result of these actions, Commerce is better positioned to ensure that federal and state export promotion services are collaboratively managed and that resources are appropriately leveraged.  

Implementing Entity:

Department of Commerce
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    • Kimberly Gianopoulos
    • Director, International Affairs and Trade
    • gianopoulosk@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-8612