Many professionals who work in business understand what the Secretary of Commerce does, but few outside of the sector fully grasp the enormous amount of responsibility that comes with the position. Reuters, for example, published a piece highlighting how the Secretary is responsible for proposing import curbs and tariffs on exports from various countries. But while this is just one example out of hundreds, the Commerce Secretary is responsible for much more. Here are the top four aspects of the American economy that this cabinet member is appointed to serve.

U.S. Economy

The first and foremost duty of the Secretary of Commerce in the United States is to promote and foster the growth of the United States Economy. The Secretary accomplishes this by consistently meeting with business leaders in every industry in America; these meetings focus on economic growth pathways and any issues that the business sector may be concerned with, such as taxes and problems relating to finding skilled workers. The Secretary is then tasked with relaying these concerns to the President of the United States during routine cabinet meetings; he also acts as the President’s spokesperson on any economic issues.

Foreign Trade

The Secretary is also responsible for foreign trade negotiations and alliances. All issues relating to foreign trade, such as trade treaties, import and export taxes, and even tariffs are decided upon by the Commerce Department and approved by the Secretary. In this role, the Secretary often travels the world, seeking solutions to problems back in the United States and fostering economic relationships with allied countries. The Secretary also works as a negotiator with other countries, seeking to find the best possible tariffs and taxes that benefit the country. Again, he works as the President’s spokesperson and senior advisor in matters relating to foreign trade.


The Secretary is responsible for not only analyzing and distributing information, such as economic studies and statistics, that can help the American economy but also for the regulations that are often the subject of said research. These regulations range from sensitive technologies that are imported into the country from Asia to regulations on what foods and other biological materials can enter into America for public consumption. He is also instrumental in the regulations that find their way into international trade agreements; however, he must work hand-in-hand with the other countries in the agreement. Many of these regulations are first developed within the department’s 12 bureaus and then are delivered to the President for review by the Secretary during cabinet meetings.

Patents and Trademarks

One of the least-known duties of the Secretary is that of patents and trademarks. The Patent and Trademark Office, as well as the Bureau of Patents, Trademarks, and Licenses, are under the Secretary’s control. This is important for businesses who are interested in trademarking or patenting their processes. The Secretary does not oversee every application; however, he is a vital part of reforming the applications should the need arise. In some cases, if a high-profile case arises from either bureau, the Secretary will review the case and deliver an opinion; it should be noted that the court system does have the last say, but a court case could cause the Secretary to seek reform within the patent or trademark process.

The Department of Commerce is one of the most important yet confusing departments within the United States Government. While the Secretary is a cabinet member and is appointed by the President, he or she is still accountable to the American people, especially in areas where the economy is concerned. This brief overview of what the Secretary of Commerce does has not covered all duties but serves to highlight the most important aspects of business in America.