U.S. Department of Commerce

For Further Information, Please Contact Office of Public Affairs: Mary-Brown Brewer at (202) 482-3809

Elements of New Commerce Department Trade Mission Policy

U.S. Department of Commerce News Release from the Office of the Secretary, Washington, D. C., Monday, March 3, 1997

I.   Scope of Policy
This policy applies to departmental trade missions. Trade missions are defined as missions involving travel to foreign countries by private sector participants and Commerce Department employees in which the Commerce Department recruits and selects participants from the business community.

II.   Trade Mission Authorization Process
Every proposed mission will be scrutinized to ensure that it is consistent with our overall export promotion strategy and that it is likely to further those goals. Under this new policy, preparation of a public mission statement will be standard practice for all missions. There will be a rationale articulated at the outset regarding the objectives of the mission, why certain countries or regions were chosen and why certain kinds of businesses and/or sectors will be included. This rationale will be precise, rigorous and consistent in both timing and content. All mission statements must be approved by senior management, and will be made accessible to the public.

III.   Recruitment and Selection of Private-Sector Participants
The process for recruiting and selecting private-sector participants in trade missions will be clear, objective and transparent. Companies and individuals will be recruited and selected for participation in Commerce-led trade missions on the basis of objective, written criteria and in accordance with the mission statement.

Participation criteria will be developed and announced in advance of each mission. The criteria will be keyed to the overarching need for a demonstrably legitimate business purpose in the company's or individual's participation, as evidenced by the clear relationship between the company's products, markets and business plan, and the objectives of the mission as set forth in the mission statement. The policy includes an express prohibition on the consideration of referrals from political parties or references to political contributions or political activities.

Additional express guidelines have been included regarding the solicitation and processing of applicants. For all missions, there will be in place a transparent screening procedure that includes more extensive self-certification requirements as well as more transparent processing and record-keeping.

IV.   Mission Costs
This policy will adhere to government-wide regulations that generally require any costs incurred directly by the Department on behalf of trade mission participants must be recovered in full from the participants. There is a strong presumption in favor of using commercial aircraft for all trade missions. This presumption will be overcome only if (1) security concerns necessitate the use of charter or government aircraft; or (2) the use of commercial aircraft would result in substantial inconvenience to participants that would jeopardize the success of the mission. Fiscal plans and mission budgets will be available to the public.

V.   Trade Mission Reports
A post-mission report will be required for all trade missions. This policy mandates that a post-mission statement be submitted within one month of the conclusion of the mission. The report will be made public and easily accessible.

VI.   Public Availability of Trade Mission Documents
There are currently no institutional guidelines or requirements for the availability of documents outside of the FOIA process. This policy will require that all elements of the trade mission process be transparent and that documents related to the mission be publicly available.

VII.   New Elements In Trade Mission Process

1)   Full Transparency of the process
2)   Comprehensive written policy
3)   Requirement of written statement of mission goals approved by responsible official and released to the public
4)   Requirement of specific written criteria for selection of private sector participants
5)   Express prohibition against consideration of political activities
6)   Mandatory broad outreach to potential participants
7)   Selection of private sector participants by individual career employees or a panel with a majority of career employees
8)   Strong presumption for use of commercial aircraft
9)   Record keeping requirements and automatic public availability of documents (without FOIA request)