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National Export Initiative Looks to Increase Exports and Create Jobs

In his State of the Union address on January 27, President Obama called for the United States to double its exports in the next five years. The federal government’s lead export promotion agency, the International Trade Administration, is ready to meet this challenge.

Signaling a change in emphasis in U.S. economic strategy, President Barack Obama, in his first State of the Union address to Congress on January 27, 2010, highlighted exports as a pillar of economic growth on which the country will depend in the future. The president announced that the goal of a new National Export Initiative (NEI) would be to double the country’s total exports in five years.

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President Barack Obama speaking before both houses of Congress on January 27, 2010, where he delivered his first State of the Union address and unveiled the administration’s National Export Initiative. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama speaking before both houses of Congress on January 27, 2010, where he delivered his first State of the Union address and unveiled the administration’s National Export Initiative. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

 

Speaking to a packed joint session of Congress, with millions watching on national television, the president tied the promise of exports and trade to jobs. “The more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America,” Obama said, to immediate applause from both sides of the aisle. Economists believe that doubling the country’s exports would support the creation of 2 million new jobs.

 

ITA Ready to Meet Challenge

In his address, President Obama suggested that the United States will need a new growth model going forward, one based more on exports and investment than on domestic consumption.

In the next month, ITA is getting ready to meet the president’s challenge by launching a 12-month program to help create U.S. jobs, by identifying new markets for existing U.S. exporters, increasing the number of foreign buyers to U.S. trade shows, working with private-sector partners to increase exporting through such programs as the Market Development Cooperator Program, and by getting more clean energy companies involved in promising new markets.

ITA also will be putting more emphasis on programs that have a track record of success, such as the Commercial Service’s Gold Key matching service, which sends out staff to find foreign buyers and distributors for American-made products.

Taking advantage of improving global economic conditions, exports under the president’s NEI are expected to rise quickly to correct the severe drop in U.S. exports from 2008 to 2009, when the bottom fell out of the global economy. And as the economies of countries around the globe recover, especially in the emerging world, the stage should be set for significant export growth, with concomitant job creation here at home. According to Commerce Department estimates, in 2008 exports supported 10 million jobs in the United States, and accounted for almost 7 percent of total U.S. employment.

“Whole of Government” Approach

The new NEI will accentuate the work already undertaken by the International Trade Administration and other government agencies to leverage existing export promotion tools, remove trade barriers abroad, and to help U.S. firms—especially small and medium-sized businesses—overcome the hurdles they face when attempting to enter new export markets. The initiative will also facilitate trade financing and will pursue a “whole-of-government” approach to export advocacy abroad.

In his speech, the president was very explicit as to what he expects a coordinated federal effort to focus on: helping farmers and small businesses increase exports of their products; identifying new markets for U.S. producers; working on free trade agreements that are fair and enforceable; continuing to pursue finalizing the Doha round of trade talks; and improving commercial relationships with key trading partners in Asia and elsewhere.

“We Will Double Our Exports Over the Next Five Years”

Over the course of his State of the Union address on January 27, President Obama devoted a section of his speech to exports and job creation. Here are the portions of his speech where he spoke about the new National Export Initiative.

“[W]e need to export more of our goods. Because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs we support right here in America. So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America. To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security.

We have to seek new markets aggressively, just as our competitors are. If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores. But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that's why we'll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets, and why we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia.”

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where he spoke about the National Export Initiative. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where he spoke about the National Export Initiative. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)

 

“All of the Time” Focus on Export Promotion

A week after President Obama’s State of the Union address, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, in a speech he gave at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., offered details about implementation of the new National Export Initiative (NEI). He noted that “before the NEI, export promotion may have been a ‘some of the time’ focus for many U.S. cabinet agencies and departments. The NEI makes it an ‘all the time’ focus.’” Here is an excerpt from his speech:

Many American companies don't export, or export less than they should, because they simply don't have the resources to identify promising new markets or the necessary contacts in foreign countries. This is an area where the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (or ITA) will be escalating its already substantial efforts.

ITA has a global network of trade specialists posted in 109 U.S. cities and at 128 U.S. embassies and consulates in 77 countries. As part of the NEI, the president’s 2011 budget is requesting a 20 percent increase for ITA, totaling $78 million. With that, ITA plans to bring on as many as 328 trade experts—mostly in foreign countries—to advocate and find customers for U.S. companies, allowing its Commercial Service to assist more than 23,000 clients to begin or grow their export sales in 2011.

The budget also will allow ITA to put a special focus on increasing the number of small and medium-sized businesses exporting to more than one market by 50 percent over the next five years; increase their presence in emerging high-growth markets like China, India, and Brazil; and to develop a comprehensive strategy to identify market opportunities in fast-growing sectors like environmental goods and services, renewable energy, healthcare and biotechnology.”