Advocacy Assistance for Exporters: What You Need to Know
U.S. Government advocacy support is a key component of President Obama’s National Export Initiative. As a part of this Initiative, the Advocacy Center plays a unique role among the array of U.S. Government trade promotion services. Since its creation in 1993, the Advocacy Center has helped hundreds of U.S. companies — small, medium and large enterprises — in various industry sectors win government contracts across the globe. Advocacy assistance is wide and varied but often involves companies that must communicate a message to foreign governments or government-owned corporations.
On December 6, 2012, President Obama signed Executive Order 13630 establishing an Interagency Task Force on Commercial Advocacy. This Executive Order was published in the Federal Register on December 11, 2012 (77 Fed. Reg. 73893). Under the Order, the Secretary of Commerce, through the Advocacy Center, is charged with leading and coordinating a Task Force marshaling the resources of a wide range of U.S. government agencies in support of U.S. firms’ export endeavors. The Executive Order defines “commercial advocacy” as Federal support for U.S. firms competing for foreign project or procurement opportunities, and defines “foreign project or procurement opportunities” as export opportunities, including defense export opportunities, for U.S. businesses that involve foreign government decision makers, including foreign government-owned corporations. Among other functions, the Task Force reviews and prioritizes advocacy cases for which the Advocacy Center has approved the provision of commercial advocacy and coordinates the activities of relevant agencies to enhance Federal support for such cases. You can download the full text of the Executive Order by clicking here.
The following is a brief synopsis of the commercial and defense advocacy process and what you need to know to put U.S. Government resources and authority behind your company in foreign project or procurement competitions.
The Advocacy Application Process
The Advocacy Center grants U.S. Government (USG) advocacy assistance on a case-by-case basis in response to requests made by firms pursuing foreign government procurements and/or projects.
WE STRONGLY URGE COMPANIES INTERESTED IN APPLYING FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT ADVOCACY SUPPORT TO SPEAK WITH AN ADVOCACY CENTER STAFF MEMBER PRIOR TO FILING AN ADVOCACY QUESTIONNAIRE. PLEASE CLICK ON “STAFF DIRECTORY” TO SEE A LIST OF ADVOCACY CENTER MANAGEMENT AND STAFF.
1. Companies seeking USG support in specific commercial and defense competitions must submit completed advocacy questionnaires to the Advocacy Center for review.
- The questionnaire must be signed by an officer of the filing company.
- Lastly, the submitted advocacy questionnaire must be accompanied by a completed and signed agreement concerning bribery.
- In cases involving joint-ventures, consortia and teaming arrangements, both the advocacy questionnaire and the anti-bribery agreement must be cosigned by an officer of the “bidder of record” and/or overseas partner(s).
2. Together with the U.S. Embassy and relevant USG agencies, the Advocacy Center will conduct due diligence on the requesting company, bid/project and the competition.
3. On a case-by-case basis for commercial transactions, following the due diligence process, the Advocacy Center and, if necessary, the USG Advocacy Center, in consultation with the U.S. Mission (Embassy) in the country concerned and with other members of the interagency task force, will make a national interest determination to identify whether the project qualifies for USG support. Typically, companies must demonstrate how supporting their bid will positively benefit the U.S. economy, primarily in the form of exports of goods and services. (Yet other factors may also be taken into consideration. Please see the Advocacy Policy for a list of these factors.)
4. The Advocacy Center is the point-of-contact for companies requesting USG advocacy for sales of defense-related goods and services covered by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). After initial review and due diligence, the Advocacy Center refers defense advocacy cases to agencies concerned with ITAR decisions. These include the Bureau of Industry and Security within the Department of Commerce as well as offices of the Departments of Defense and State. Each of these agencies provides the Advocacy Center either with a recommendation, after which the Advocacy Center issues a national interest determination based on these recommendations. Once an affirmative determination has been issued, the Advocacy Center takes the lead in coordinating advocacy on behalf of the company.
Advocacy Center Services
Once a company’s request has been qualified for USG advocacy assistance, the Advocacy Center will work with relevant agencies to devise an appropriate advocacy strategy.
1. USG advocacy ranges from U.S. Embassy and Consulate assistance to Sub-Cabinet and Cabinet messages delivered through a variety of media (e.g., letters, phone calls, or face-to-face meetings).
2. Typically, the Advocacy Center, working in unison with the company, plays a prominent role in coordinating both the message and the medium.
3. The Advocacy Center also works with Ex-Im Bank, the Trade and Development Agency and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to marshal USG financial support, where appropriate, to relevant and qualified U.S. companies.
Why We Advocate
These are the principal reasons why the USG provides advocacy services to U.S. firms in foreign government project or procurement competitions.
1. USG advocacy assistance promotes U.S. exports, supports U.S. employment and increases global market share for U.S. businesses.
2. In many cases, USG advocacy counters foreign government advocacy and political pressure, thus “leveling the playing field” for U.S. companies.
3. USG advocacy encourages transparency, promotes fair treatment of U.S. companies and addresses bribery and corruption in tender processes.
Value-added to U.S. Firms
There are a number of services the Advocacy Center provides which offer a competitive advantage to U.S. companies competing in foreign competitions.
1. Within the large U.S. Government bureaucracy, the Advocacy Center centralizes commercial advocacy services in one office.
2. The Center offers an ability to mobilize resources in support of U.S. company proposals and business opportunities.
3. The Center also offers institutionalized process to support of the U.S. national interest, creating and retaining US jobs and expanding the U.S. export base.
Outside the Center’s Scope of Work
There are certain company requests that fall outside the Advocacy Center’s scope of work.
1. The Advocacy Center is focused almost exclusively on foreign business opportunities which involve foreign government decision-makers and does not typically become involved in private sector commercial transactions.
2. The Advocacy Center’s focus is on specific commercial or defense transactions, not policy advocacy. There are other offices in the International Trade Administration that handle policy-related or market access and trade compliance advocacy assistance.
Companies participating in Commerce-sponsored trade missions and events can request the attendance of Department officials at contract signings associated with these activities. To make this request, the company must complete the Trade Events Form and submit it to the Advocacy Center. This document is provided below. The completed and signed Trade Events form should be e-mailed to the appropriate Advocacy Center Regional Manager. (Please refer to our Staff Directory to find the Regional Manager for the country of interest).
Note: When your company or any U.S. firm submits a Trade Events Form to the Advocacy Center, the information in the document is considered business confidential and will not be shared with any person or organization outside the U.S. Government unless the Advocacy Center is given permission to do so by your company.
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