Sec. Locke Leads Clean Energy Trade Mission

From May 15-25, 2010, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke kicked off the first cabinet-level trade mission of the Obama administration. He led the clean energy business development mission to Hong Kong; Shanghai and Beijing, China; and Jakarta, Indonesia.

The delegation was comprised of approximately 20-25 U.S. firms representing a cross-section of industries that have developed products, services or technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The mission focused on promoting the export of U.S. technologies and services related to clean energy, energy efficiency, and electric energy storage, transmission, and distribution. The Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration used the mission as a way to help U.S. companies that need assistance negotiating the Chinese market to take full advantage of the existing opportunities as well as opening doors for companies that want to enter the Chinese marketplace.

Planned just months after the President announced his National Export Initiative, Locke attempted to advance the president’s goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years to support jobs.

“Increasing the export of American products and services to global markets can help revive the fortunes of U.S. companies, spur future economic growth and create jobs here at home,” Secretary Locke said. “Clean energy may be the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century, and the development, production and deployment of American clean energy and energy efficiency technologies can be one of the most beneficial areas of cooperation in the history of U.S.-China relations.”

However, Locke expressed concern about the difficulties facing U.S. companies trying to do business in China. He went on to emphasize that China needs to continue making strides to be more transparent, predictable and committed to the rule of law. Locke said the U.S. remains concerned about China’s commitment to protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights, especially related to green energy and energy efficiency.

In Indonesia, the delegation participated in several group meetings on a cleaner energy future with Indonesian officials and business representatives, and held bilateral meetings with other key, senior government officials. The group discussed ways to expand U.S. presence in fast-growing countries such as Indonesia, and ways to solve unprecedented energy and environmental challenges, while creating good-paying jobs for the people in America and Indonesia.

The delegation also met with the heads of important energy-related, state-owned enterprises, focusing on their role in Indonesia’s energy sector. The meeting helped identify opportunities for U.S. businesses to work with viable Indonesian partners.

Hong Kong proved to be an especially effective entry point for SMEs seeking to establish a presence in or expand their reach into mainland China and the Asia Pacific region. According to the Commerce Department, Hong Kong has an efficient, transparent legal system based on common law principles that offer rigorous intellectual property rights protection and an open government procurement process. These attributes will further provide U.S. companies, in particular SMEs, relatively easy access to mainland China through Hong Kong.

For the secretarial mission, Hong Kong offered the delegation access to reputable business partners engaged in the “Cleaner Production Partnership Program.” Under this program, the governments of Hong Kong and neighboring Guangdong Province are jointly subsidizing energy and environmental upgrades to hundreds of industrial plants in the Pearl River Delta region of the mainland, most of which are operated from or owned by persons from Hong Kong.

Overall, the Clean Energy Mission helped forge new business partnerships for U.S. companies with Hong Kong and in China for projects related to building wind turbines and designing more energy-efficient buildings.