United States history is steeped in trade and trade debate, from the pivotal role of the Boston Tea Party in shaping the United States as a nation to the recent debate over the merits of U.S. ratification of the present version of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations. It is no surprise, then, that the U.S. Department of Commerce is actively involved in promoting exports. In 1993, President Clinton announced a national export strategy for the United States, described as “a comprehensive plan [that] upgrades and coordinates the government's export promotion and export finance programs to help American firms compete in the global marketplace” (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1994). In particular, the strategy identifies past problems with U.S. trade promotion efforts and recommends improvements upon current ones. This includes enhancing existing trade finance programs such as the Exim Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and creating the Tied Aid Fund to help U.S. firms compete on a level playing field. As an outcrop of this initiative, the Commerce Department identified 10 foreign nations as the big emerging markets (BEMs) of the upcoming century, markets where the potential for trade growth is the greatest.
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