WASHINGTON – “The Deepwater Horizon accident has had a profound impact on the economic viability of many of Louisiana’s businesses,” said Senator Landrieu and Representative Melancon in the letter. “From shrimpers and oystermen to restaurants, processing plants, and shipping companies, a significant portion of Louisiana’s businesses rely on the Gulf of Mexico for their livelihoods. With thousands of barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf every day, it is critical that we make use of every tool at our disposal to aid in the recovery efforts and ensure that even more businesses, especially small businesses, are not adversely affected by the spill.”

In their letter, they requested the Department of Commerce consider the following initiatives:

• Waive or Reduce Fees for Department of Commerce Export Assistance Programs: Temporarily waiving or reducing fees associated with the Department of Commerce export assistance programs could have an immediate impact on businesses. The International Trade Administration enacted a similar proposal following the 2005 hurricanes, and as a direct result of reduced fees, a significant number of Gulf Coast businesses were able to identify new export markets or attend foreign trade shows. Since 2005, Louisiana exports have increased by almost 69 percent, the fourth highest rate of growth in the nation.

• Aid Gulf Coast Tourism-Related Business: Coordinate with local tourism partners on international press and travel trade familiarization tours. These type of tours help connect online and print reporters with local tourism boards and businesses to market U.S. destinations. Similar initiatives exposed Gulf Coast businesses and destinations to more than 1.3 million readers following the 2005 hurricanes.

• Host Department of Commerce Events in the Gulf Coast: Hosting meetings and activities in Louisiana would illustrate to prospective visitors that the Gulf Coast remains open for business. For example, the Department of Commerce is currently implementing provisions of the Travel Promotion Act of 2009, which will promote more international travel to the United States by creating a Corporation for Travel Promotion. The board of directors for this new corporation could host their first meeting in Louisiana.

• Conduct a Study on the Gulf Coast Tourism Industry: Studying the pace of recovery of Gulf Coast tourism will be key to identify successes and possible obstacles. A study from the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries at the Department of Commerce could identify the impact of Deepwater Horizon disaster on Gulf Coast tourism, how tourism is recovering, and any international marketing opportunities for Gulf Coast destinations.

The Department of Commerce today announced the U.S. trade deficit rose increased 4.8 percent to $42.3 billion, the highest it has been since November 2008. While American’s exporting increased by 2.4 percent, imported goods and services rose by 2.9 percent. Supporting the need for increased exporting opportunities, especially by small firms, the Department of Commerce noted that the overall U.S. trade deficit rose to $474.8 billion through May of this year, up from $374.9 billion in 2009.

To view a copy of the letter, please click here.