It’s that time of year again.
May is World Trade Month , a time to reaffirm the important role that international trade plays in U.S. economic growth.
In today’s global economy, it is more important than ever for American businesses to tap into the abundance of opportunities overseas. 95 percent of the world’s consumers are located outside our borders; helping companies reach them is key to our nation’s economic success and future.
At the Department of Commerce, we are providing this kind of help in a variety of forms — from raising awareness, to offering unique insight into markets and sectors, to providing counsel that helps companies navigate through all the regulatory red tape when doing business abroad.
As a result of these kinds of efforts, American businesses are finding new opportunities in the global marketplace. In 2011, American businesses sold $2.1 trillion dollars worth of goods and services to overseas customers — an all-time record. These sales made an impact far beyond financial statements: they also benefited people and families.
Last year, U.S. exports supported roughly 10 million jobs, helping Americans — from all corners of the country — stimulate their local economies, while paying their rents, buying their groceries, taking care of their children’s tuition bills and much more.
So the formula is clear: whenever U.S. exports increase, the American people benefit. This is why the Department of Commerce is firmly committed to helping more U.S. businesses succeed in the global markets.
We are doing this work in a number of ways.
Last month, for example, I was proud to participate in the Western Hemisphere Business Opportunities Forum , where U.S. businesses engaged with our Commercial Officers to talk about the wide-range of opportunities across the region.
We now export more to the Western Hemisphere than to any other region in the world, and there are great possibilities to do more, especially after the U.S. – Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement  takes effect on May 15th. Through this business forum and other efforts, we are working diligently to ensure that American companies are well positioned to fulfill this enormous promise.
Another exciting event that took place in April was the U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow Event , which strives to boost U.S. tourism. Last year, 62 million international visitors traveled to the United States, and for good reason. There is no place like America, with its unique sites, culture and history.
These visitors spent a record $153 billion dollars on things like restaurants, hotels, and shopping, strengthening bottom lines in a variety of sectors. At Pow Wow, we pledged to continue to work with partners to support this vital industry. And, during this World Trade Month and beyond, we renew our commitment to increasing U.S. exports in all industries.
Throughout May, there will be a series of state and local events taking place nationwide to provide support to U.S. businesses looking to export their goods and services around the world.
Later this month, we’ll be releasing a special edition of International Trade Update  to report on many of these events so stay tuned.
In the meantime, we at the Department of Commerce look forward to working with you to link American businesses to the opportunities overseas, and help them build for the future.
Together, we can make this World Trade Month the most memorable yet.
So let’s get to work.
Francisco Sánchez  is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade