Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General Suresh Kumar
U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service
Remarks on the National Export Initiative
Monday, March 22, 2010
Los Angeles, California
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Bill, and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation for your warm welcome, as well as for hosting our U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) here in Downtown L.A. It is a privilege for me to be joined by so many of our partners and clients in the international trade community to speak about President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI).
During the State of the Union address, the President set a goal of doubling exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million good, high-paying jobs here at home. The President then signed an executive order outlining his historic National Export Initiative, instructing the federal government to use every available resource in support of this goal.
In a time when millions of Americans are out of work, boosting our exports is a national imperative. The NEI was designed with one overriding goal in mind: to get people back to work in jobs that provide security, dignity and sense of hope for the future.
There are few parts of the country that rely on trade and investment more than Los Angeles, which has the busiest port in the United States. In 2009, California was the second largest exporter state after Texas, with over $120 billion in exports. Over 55,000 companies export goods from California, 95% of which are small and medium-sized companies. No wonder then that 16 of our 109 USEACs are in California, four alone in the Los Angeles area.
Southern California continues to have the largest manufacturing base of any U.S. metropolitan area, and nearly 25% of all manufacturing workers in California depend on exports for their jobs. By helping more companies export, we will keep the manufacturing base strong in California.
This linkage between exports and job creation is a key characteristic of the 21st century economy. That is why for the first time the United States will have a government-wide export-promotion strategy with focused attention from the President and his cabinet.
With traditional drivers of US economic growth like consumer and business spending facing stiff headwinds, it has never been more important for our companies to increase their sales to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live outside the United States. The President refuses to sit on the sidelines and let jobs be created elsewhere when America still has the most innovative economy and the most productive workers in the world.
So, here’s how we plan on accomplishing this mission.
First, this Administration will engage in a more robust effort to expand trade promotion and advocacy in all its forms, including educating U.S. companies about opportunities overseas; directly connecting them with new customers; and advocating more forcefully for their interests. Our USEACs provide a framework for one-stop-shops that provide a comprehensive toolkit of services – from regulatory, to intellectual property rights to financing to counseling to promotion – to help potential exporters grow and expand into new markets.
Let me give you a specific example of some of the terrific work being done by the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in this area. One of our clients is Capstone Turbine Corporation, out of Chatsworth, which manufactures clean-burning, low emission micro-turbine energy systems. Our trade professionals in LA worked with Capstone to help them sign a successful distributor agreement and subsequently sell $2 million worth of micro-turbine systems to Brazil to power a major wastewater treatment plant. Capstone is a quintessential example of a successful exporter, as exports now account for over 65% of its total sales. As such, the President awarded Capstone our nation’s highest export award for its achievements just last fall.
As part of the National Export Initiative, the President’s 2011 budget includes a request to Congress to provide an additional $132 million to the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to educate U.S. businesses and farmers about opportunities overseas and directly connect them with new customers.
Second, the National Export Initiative will improve access to credit, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses that want to export. In particular, the President has called upon the Export-Import Bank, to enable critical financing when private banks are unwilling or unable to do so, and to increase its financing available for small- and medium-sized businesses by $2 billion over the next year.
Third, the National Export Initiative will strive to ensure that American companies have free and fair access to foreign markets. This Administration will aggressively enforce our current trade agreements and strengthen our existing relationships, and we’ll increase the government’s attention on removing barriers that are hampering U.S. companies.
The National Export Initiative will help build a stronger economic foundation and allow us to return to the type of sustainable growth that not long ago helped build the strongest middle class in history. America’s strength has always been our ability to create and sell products and services that help others around the world improve lives and livelihoods. With the NEI, American businesses that want to export – especially small and medium-size enterprises – are going to have a more vigorous partner in the US government.
As I said earlier, this National Export Initiative drives ambitious goals: a doubling of exports in five years supporting 2 million jobs. It's an aggressive goal, but these challenging times demand nothing less.
With millions of Americans out of work, and our competitors in Europe and Asia increasingly chasing the same business opportunities that we are, we don't have the luxury to be passive.
There has never been any question that American companies make goods and services that are desired all over the world.
The federal government just has to do a better job connecting the foreign consumers that want our products and services with the US companies who sell them.
The National Export Initiative will do exactly that.
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