October 3, 2012

Staff — HispanicBusiness.com

Influentials Q&A: Francisco Sanchez
Under Secretary of State for International Trade, The White House

Francisco Sanchez leads efforts to improve the global business environment by helping U.S. organizations compete abroad.

He leads the International Trade Administration, an organization of 2,400 employees with offices throughout the United States and in 73 countries, directing programs and policies that promote and protect the competitiveness of American businesses.

"I'm proud to be able to help link firms here at home with opportunities in the international marketplace," Mr. Sanchez told HispanicBusiness. "This strengthens businesses, supports jobs and fuels economic growth, which, in turn, positively impacts families and communities."

It is the aim of Mr. Sanchez and his team to see that more products with the "Made in America" tag reach more customers around the world.

HispanicBusiness asked Mr. Sanchez how he maintains healthy relations with other countries, and what the country's leading services exports are. He also gives timely advice to young professionals seeking employment in the government sector.

HispanicBusiness: Briefly share your upbringing, and tell about your place of origin.

Francisco Sanchez: I was born and raised in Tampa, Fla. Specifically, I was born in the Ybor City neighborhood, which has historically been home to a vibrant immigrant community. I loved growing up there; the people, the culture and the sense of community all helped shape who I am today. I consider myself very lucky to have come from a family that deeply believed in entrepreneurship and public service.

My father was originally from Spain, where he ran a small candy factory. In Tampa, my great uncle owned a little grocery store that specialized in making chorizo. Another uncle created a pioneering blood-pressure device. For as long as I can remember, I always valued entrepreneurship, innovation and hard work.

I also valued public service. My mother, Delia Sanchez, founded one of the first Head Start programs in the nation, with the goal of giving every child a good education and the best possible start in life. She dedicated her time and talent to helping others, and I've always remembered the impact she made.

HB: What do you enjoy most about your current job?

FS: The most rewarding part of my job is helping American businesses succeed in markets across the globe. In my view, this work is more important than ever. We live in an increasingly connected world, and it's critically important that American businesses are able to reach the 95 percent of global consumers who live outside our borders. And as our nation continues to emerge out of the Great Recession, these businesses deserve every chance to sell their products, services and ideas.

HB: In your position, you maintain and strengthen ties with other countries to ensure smooth trade. What kinds of measures do you take to ensure these ties are healthy?

FS: Healthy economic ties are based on the timeless values of fairness and equal opportunity. In order to achieve mutually beneficial goals, there has to be an understanding of each partner's issues and challenges. An essential part of ensuring healthy ties is open dialogue. I constantly talk with global public and private sector leaders about ways we can work together to maximize opportunities and solve problems.

HB: Education and training is one of the United States’ leading services exports, adding $21 billion to the U.S. economy annually, I would say a lot of people don’t know this. What are other leading service exports?

FS: One critically important service export is travel and tourism. In fact, 25 percent of all U.S. service exports come from travel and tourism receipts. Whenever international visitors travel to our shores, they stay at hotels, they buy souvenirs, they eat at local restaurants—all of which supports the American economy. In fact, 1.2 million jobs in the U.S. are supported by international travelers.

It's an important sector, and to bolster it, President Obama has created a National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which is being implemented by the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior. It's a blueprint designed to achieve the goal of attracting over 100 million visitors annually by 2021, a nearly 50 percent increase over the number projected for this year. These international visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, creating jobs and fueling economic growth across the country.

Aerospace products are also important to the economy. Last year, the industry contributed nearly $86 billion in export sales to the U.S. economy, achieving the largest positive trade balance of any U.S. manufacturing industry at $47 billion. It also supports high-tech, high-wage jobs; aerospace workers earn 47 percent more than manufacturing workers, generally.

HB: What advice do you have for young Hispanics looking to work for the government?

FS: One, always value your background, culture and history. In our global economy, the diverse experiences and perspectives you bring to the table are an asset, and make sure you utilize it.

Two, keep acquiring marketable skills. We are living in an age of rapid change, and more than ever, one needs a wide variety of skills to compete and succeed in the global economy. Always remember that learning doesn't stop once you finish school. It's a continuing process. Always look for ways to make yourself more marketable, whether it means learning a new language or ensuring your skills are aligned with the latest technology.

Three, take calculated risks. Never be afraid to go against the conventional wisdom if you're passionate about a cause or goal, and are ready to dedicate all you have to achieving it.

Finally, I would say get out there, meet people and value your friendships. Even in this day and age of technology, life is defined by your relationships and friendships. Friends and family are the key to success and fulfillment. Never forget that.

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