District Export Councils (DECs) are groups of international business professionals, appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, who support the mission of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (US&FCS) of the Department of Commerce by encouraging and supporting exports in their local communities.
Closely affiliated with the Commerce Department’s U.S. Export Assistance Centers, the 60 DECs are made up of approximately 1,200 exporters and export service providers who support the U.S. Government’s export promotion efforts throughout the country.
DEC members volunteer their time to participate in numerous trade promotion activities. They also provide specialized expertise to small and medium-sized businesses that are interested in exporting.
The District Export Councils contribute leadership and international trade expertise to complement the U.S. Commercial Service’s export promotion efforts through counseling businesses on the exporting process and conducting trade education and community outreach.
DECs support this mission through funds that are generated locally, without government appropriations, and follow the general guidelines in the DEC Handbook. DECs may not raise funds for profit, or represent the U.S. Government.
In 1960, the President asked the Secretary of Commerce to enlist the efforts of the U.S. business community in enlarging export opportunities for American firms. Responding to this challenge, the National Export Expansion Council was formed.
In response to National Export Expansion Council recommendations and to stimulate greater business participation in the national export expansion effort, the President signed an Executive Order in 1973 creating the President’s Export Council.
The following year, under the authority of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 41 DECs were established by the Secretary of Commerce. Approximately 1,000 business and trade experts were appointed to serve on the newly formed DECs. Since then, the number of DECs and DEC membership has been expanded to better meet the needs of the growing number of U.S. exporters.
Under the Secretary’s guidelines, the District Export Councils were specifically created to promote exports in their local communities. DECs are not advisory committees and are not subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). As volunteer groups, DECs do not receive government appropriations or compensation. DEC members do not have security clearances, nor, therefore, access to classified information.
Each DEC has a maximum of 30 members, at least half of whom are exporters. Members also include export trading or management company representatives; bankers; international lawyers and accountants; freight forwarders; and others whose profession supports the U.S. government’s export promotion mission.
Recommendations for appointment are based on the individual’s international trade leadership in the local business community, ability to influence the local environment for exporting, knowledge of day-to-day international operations, interest in export development, and willingness and ability to devote time to the council -- at his or her own expense.
Notices requesting applications for nomination are placed in the Federal Register and elsewhere to attract new nominees. The local USEAC Director, in consultation with the local DEC Chairperson, recommends individuals for membership. The Secretary makes the final decision on all membership and leadership appointments. Members are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to staggered four-year terms. There are no term limits.