Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General Suresh Kumar
U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service
UPS Small Business International Symposium
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
As prepared for delivery
Thank you very much for your introduction, Stan. Thank you UPS for inviting me here today. The UPS and the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service have had a long relationship that has connected small and medium-sized businesses to global opportunities and we are appreciative of their continued support.
As President Obama said in the State of the Union address last month, “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” To win the future, we must work together to create opportunities that encourage innovation and spur growth. We must produce innovative products and technologies, we must educate and train our workers and students so that we may scale new technologies and we must connect our exporters with buyers worldwide. Growing U.S. exports is not only good for the U.S. economy but also for our trading partners.
The National Export Initiative is at the forefront of the Obama Administration’s short and long term economic strategy for winning the future. The President’s goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years serves as a catalyst to enhance our competitiveness, create sustainable jobs and build a stronger America.
Through the National Export Initiative, we help companies expand their global footprint, reach more customers worldwide, and become more competitive. This helps create greater sustainable employment.
As Assistant Secretary and Director General of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service, I lead a team of 1,500 trade professionals in 109 offices across the U.S. and 127 cities in 79 countries. The Commercial Service is a key implementing agency of the President’s National Export Initiative and is committed to enhancing U.S. competitiveness. Last year, we assisted 18,000 companies export, of which 16,000 were SMEs. Nearly 5,600 companies increased their exports to a new market and 85 percent of those were small and medium-sized businesses. The Commercial Service helped U.S. businesses post over 12,000 export successes in 2010. Last year the State of Illinois recorded exports of nearly $50 billion, an increase of more than 19% percent over 2009, which is higher than the national export growth rate of 17%.
We maintain four U.S. Export Assistance Centers across Illinois. Our offices serve the region to ensure we reach SME exporters in important rural areas, not just the major metropolitan areas. Working with the state government, area universities, and local economic development agencies allows us to leverage our programs for the maximum benefit of SMEs in the Illinois region.
America is at its best when it is inventive. We invented the motor car, the airplane, the computer and even the internet and GPS which we commercialized through public-private partnerships. “Winning the Future” will require continued private sector innovation and the Administration is committed to lay the foundation for future success through policy mechanisms that reduce risk, provide greater predictability and influence common standards.
When we have innovated we have prevailed. That is why this Administration places so much emphasis on innovation, on building and owning the markets of tomorrow even as we vigorously compete for share in today’s markets. American products improve lives and livelihoods globally; because of our inventiveness, consumers around the world value a cache of “Made in the USA” more than one made elsewhere.
Private sector employers driven by small and medium-sized companies have added jobs for thirteen straight months. For the first time in 24 months (April 2009) unemployment is below 9% at 8.9%, but even this is unacceptably high. Facilitating and growing exports that create more employment has never been more important than now.
Innovation is the foundation for sustainable competitiveness in the 21st century. It is how U.S. companies and our products and services can reach the 95% of consumers who live outside our borders.
Winning the future requires increasing investment in research and development. The Obama Administration has made a substantial commitment to innovation by setting the goal of investing a full three percent of our GDP into research and development. Nowhere is this more important than with small and medium-sized enterprises, which make up 97% of all firms in the United States.
A larger focus for U.S. businesses must be to reinvent what we make, consume, market and sell. Government must reinvent its support, focusing on self-sufficiency, sustainability and innovation. An example of such reinvention came last year when the Administration brought together businesses, entrepreneurs, CEOs, regulators and representatives of foreign governments along with NIST to influence the development of common standards for SMART grid and ancillary products and services.
Hand-in-hand with innovation through R&D and investment in infrastructure from high speed rail systems to high speed internet, the Administration has a targeted focus on creating and funding sustainable solutions for the future that lead the global marketplace.
Illinois is an example of hardworking Americans who have the skills and dedication to produce the best products in the world: One such example is the V3 Company in Woodridge, Illinois. V3, a small engineering and environmental firm, sought the help of the U.S. Export Assistance Center office in Libertyville in bidding on World Bank-funded procurement projects. Our team in Libertyville counseled V3 on the process and connected them the World Bank’s unit that led to V3 successfully bidding to provide the maintenance of 30 water wells in Haiti at a contract value of $550,000.
The Commercial Service assisted NOW Health Group from Bloomington to begin exporting to China. Through the Commercial Service’s International Company Profile services, NOW Health worked with our offices in China to appoint a distributor. That led to an initial order of $250,000 that continues to grow.
There are several such examples of business building or problem solvingthat the Commercial Service’s trade specialists work on every day to assist local businesses. Our teams help SMEs develop plans to secure working capital, just as they assist others to navigate foreign customs and regulations.
The National Export Initiative or NEI, is designed to help more companies – like those gathered here today – to proactively develop plans to enter new markets.
Through our Gold Key matchmaking services, one-on-one export counseling, and our extensive network around the globe, the U.S. Commercial Service can assist you on the complete range of exporting issues. We are here to make exporting easier for you.
The Administration’s focus on innovation, education and commercialization reflects market-driven, competitive approaches that make sure that the United States is the best place to do business and to innovate.
Leveraging this strategy requires creating deep market linkages and connecting innovation to the marketplace. This is the core of the NEI — connecting American innovation and our innovative products and services with consumers worldwide. The U.S. Commercial Service leverages partnerships through its Strategic Partnership Program with corporations, like UPS, and trade associations to build awareness of exporting opportunities for small- and medium-sized businesses in order to help promote job creation here at home. This is what today’s event is all about.
Through these partnerships we support national export objectives by communicating to U.S. businesses about export opportunities and how the U.S. Commercial Service can lead them to success.
The Administration recognizes that increasing global trade provides opportunities for growing America’s SMEs. Exporting must play a larger role in the U.S.’s economic prosperity. The pre-crisis drivers of U.S. economic growth - domestic consumer and business spending - can no longer be the only levers of an emerging and even more globally connected marketplace. Those who seek access to U.S. markets must also remove barriers to trade and open their markets to U.S. products.
To win the future, U.S. businesses must expand their global reach to new markets. To accomplish the President’s goal of doubling exports, the Federal Government is utilizing all the resources of the export promotion agencies to help connect U.S. businesses with global consumers and market opportunities. Less than 1 percent of America’s 30 million companies export, and of those companies that do export, 58 percent export to only one country. Clearly we can, and must, do more to ensure that U.S. businesses capture the full potential of economic opportunities that exist internationally. Because when U.S. companies export more, we produce more. When we produce more, we need more workers.
And export related jobs on average pay 15 percent more than the typical wage in America.
The NEI is off to a great start. Exports grew 17 percent last year and support nearly 10 million jobs in America, including almost 7 million manufacturing jobs. But exports as a percentage of GDP were 12.5% in 2010; the United States lags behind countries like Germany where exports account for 40 percent, or Canada at 30 percent or even China where 25 percent of GDP comes from exports. Doubling U.S. exports is not only possible but necessary if we are to stay globally competitive and secure our economic future.
Innovation and exporting are inextricably linked; they ARE the drivers for sustainable American economic growth.
Leveraging public and private resources to increase exports helps us elevate awareness and the profile of products from the United States and create well paying jobs.
I look forward to our continued collaboration with UPS and the SMEs here today. For the American economy to produce the millions of new jobs we need in the years ahead, we need our small and medium-sized businesses to lead the way.
When you succeed, the entire American economy succeeds.Thank you for having me here today.
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