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The President’s Export Council: A Vital Voice in Trade Policy

Since 1973, the President’s Export Council has been an important means of communicating the business community’s views on trade issues to the administration. Here is a look at its workings.

by J. Marc Chittum

On July 19, 2006, the President’s Export Council (PEC) is scheduled to hold its next meeting in Washington, D.C. It will address issues such as proposed letters of recommendation the U.S.–Korea Free Trade Agreement, radio frequency identification, immigration, and avian flu preparedness. The council is the principal national advisory committee on international trade. It advises the president of government policies and programs that affect U.S. trade performance; promotes export expansion; and provides a forum for discussing and resolving trade-related challenges among the business, industrial, agricultural, labor, and government sectors.

History and Structure

President Richard Nixon established the council in 1973. At that time, it was composed of 20 members, all of them business executives. Six years later, in 1979, President Jimmy Carter reconstituted and expanded the PEC. Council membership grew to the current roster of 48 members and was extended to include leaders of the labor and agriculture communities, members of Congress, and members of the executive branch.

The 28 private-sector members of the PEC are appointed by the president, and they serve at his pleasure, with no set term of office. Five senators and five representatives are appointed to the council by the president of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, respectively. Executive branch members serve by virtue of their office, and members include the secretaries of commerce, agriculture, energy, homeland security, labor, state, and treasury; the U.S. trade representative; the chairman of the Export–Import Bank of the United States; and the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The full council meets at least twice a year, usually in Washington, D.C. The members do not receive compensation for their service, and their activities are subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

The PEC maintains subcommittees according to the council’s interests, and membership in those subordinate committees is drawn from the council’s membership. The PEC currently has three subcommittees:

1. Trade Promotion and Negotiations

2. Technology and Competitiveness

3. Services.

The PEC also maintains a Subcommittee on Export Administration (PECSEA). Because the PECSEA includes non-PEC members, it is chartered separately. The PECSEA was created in 1976 to review export control issues. Its members are appointed by the secretary of commerce. Like the other subcommittees, it may also hold separate meetings.

Active Voice in Trade Issues

Over the years, the PEC has been an important voice in promoting programs and policies that support U.S. exports. Those programs and policies have included supporting the passage of legislation, such as the Export Trading Company Act and amendments to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; making recommendations on innovative programs at the Export–Import Bank and the Agency for International Development; and undertaking detailed reports on trade issues at the request of the president.

During the current administration, the PEC has submitted 26 letters of recommendation. Those letters cover a broad spectrum of issues, including the following:

• Security, travel, and visas

• Trade negotiations and the World Trade Organization

• Unilateral sanctions and export controls

• Innovation and competitiveness

• U.S. trade and economic relationship with China

China has been the focus of much of the efforts of the council during its current tenure. In addition to submitting four letters of recommendation on China since 2003, council members participated in a fact-finding trip to Beijing and Shanghai, China, in June 2004.

The PEC uses letters of recommendation, along with discussions during its meetings, to convey its advice to the president. The PEC advises the president through the secretary of commerce. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Franklin L. Lavin serves as the council’s executive director. The International Trade Administration’s Office of Advisory Committee serves as the executive secretariat for the council’s activities.

J. Marc Chittum is the executive secretary and staff director of the President’s Export Council.


For More Information

Information on the current activities of the PEC, including the full text of its recent letters of recommendation and transcripts of its meetings, can be found on the council’s Web site. The executive secretariat of the PEC can be contacted at tel. (202) 482-1124.