Assistant Secretary of Commerce Nicole Y. Lamb-Hale
Manufacturing and Services
"Why the National Export Initiative Matters to Cities"
National League of Cities' National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials
Monday, March 14, 2011
As prepared for delivery
I would like to start by saying thank you for inviting me to speak to you all today. I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to meet you and to discuss issues that are of importance to you, as well as to our country. The work that all of you do in our communities is critical for our economic recovery and for creating jobs.
You see up close the economic difficulties that many in our nation are going through, but you are also in positions to help create opportunities for your constituents and your communities.
I hail from Detroit, Michigan, now under the capable leadership of Mayor Dave Bing. Prior to joining the Obama administration, I practiced law in Detroit for more than 18 years. As a young lawyer, I came to understand the inner workings of Detroit and cities very well. In 1994, I had the privilege of serving as the legal advisor to the City of Detroit, under the leadership of my mentor and friend, Mayor Dennis W. Archer, in connection with its successful Empowerment Zone application. Because the process of pulling together a successful application required significant outreach and an understanding of the needs of all the constituents of the City, from community development organizations to churches, and from government leaders to the business community, I gained an appreciation for something that everyone in this room already knows: Cities are like a rich tapestry and are the heart and soul of our nation.
Looking back on that experience, I treasure the many meetings that I had the privilege of attending with leaders in the Detroit community, representing every constituency, who were working towards the common goal of obtaining Empowerment Zone designation for the City of Detroit.
That experience, and many since then, cause me to believe that cities are the foundation of our nation and that their success is our nation’s success. We are so fortunate to have a President of the United States who believes that also. Indeed, President Obama’s urban policy agenda is grounded in the recognition that our nation’s cities and metropolitan areas are vital engines for economic growth, innovation and opportunity. To maximize economic productivity and opportunity in a 21st century economy, the President believes that federal policy must reflect the new metropolitan reality—that strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, which in turn, are essential for a strong America.
In preparing my remarks for this evening, I reviewed the mission of the National League of Cities which, as you know is “strengthening and promoting cities as centers of opportunity, leadership and governance.” It is within the context of promoting cities as centers of opportunity that I want to share with you why the National Export Initiative, or NEI, matters to cities. The NEI matters to cities because it creates commercial opportunities that will sustain and create jobs in your cities.
Because the Obama Administration is committed to working with U.S. industries and companies in our cities and communities to help ensure that U.S. businesses enter and succeed in the global market and that U.S. workers and communities benefit, he launched the National Export Initiative during his State of the Union address in 2010. Pursuant to the NEI, President Obama set the goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014, to support several million jobs.
As a senior official in the International Trade Administration at the Department of Commerce, which is charged with leading the National Export Initiative, I am privileged to assist in the creation of opportunities for U.S. industries to sell in new markets – that is, to export. With 95% of the world’s consumers living outside our borders, exporting is a key option for creating U.S. jobs and to sustaining and growing communities. Even in 2009 during the height of the recession, 8.5 million jobs were supported by exports!
Despite this fact, however, many companies do not embrace exporting the goods they produce or the services they provide to those consumers.
Only 1% of U.S. businesses export and of those, 58% export to just one market. Imagine what it would mean for job growth in our cities if those businesses that export to one country now, begin exporting to three or four in the next few years.
To help drive our economic recovery and our future economic security, American companies need to sell not only to domestic, but also to international, customers.
The Five Pillars of the National Export Initiative
There are five pillars of the NEI:
Improving advocacy for U.S. goods and services and trade promotion;
Increasing access to export financing;
Removing barriers to trade;
Enforcing our trade rules; and
Promoting strong, sustainable, and balanced growth.
Let me give you some examples of the practical programs and opportunities that we in the International Trade Administration, along with some of our sister agencies, offer U.S. companies.
Senior officials in the Obama Administration, particularly the Secretary of Commerce, advocate for U.S. companies that are competing with companies from other countries to win lucrative foreign government procurement contracts.
ITA brings foreign buyer groups to trade shows that we certify. We organize and lead trade missions that take U.S. companies to other markets to meet foreign buyers. In fact, I will lead such a trade mission to India in mid-April for U.S. franchisors to find business opportunities in that rapidly growing market.
Second, export financing.
The Export-Import Bank and the Small Business Administration (SBA) are aggressively helping businesses that are ready to export, by providing the funding and guarantees needed to export. U.S. firms apply for this assistance through those agencies. My unit, Manufacturing and Services, has published a Trade Financing Guide: A Quick Reference for U.S. Exporters that helps SMEs better understand how to obtain trade financing.
Third, removing barriers to trade.
Both tariff and other barriers prevent U.S. products and services from entering various markets. The trade agencies, such as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and the International Trade Administration (ITA), work to remove these barriers through consultations with other governments, concluding trade agreements, and enforcing those agreements.
Right now, the Administration is working to win Congressional approval of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS. There are government estimates that the benefits from the KORUS Agreement would add nearly $12 billion to annual U.S. Gross Domestic Product and increase exports to Korea annually by nearly $11 billion.
Once the Agreement is enacted, we will get the word out "on the street" about these new opportunities. I think you would be good partners to help us do that.
Fourth, enforcing our trade rules.
ITA is working to ensure that our trading partners live up to their obligations under the trade agreements we have with them. You may recall that President Obama approved the collection of additional fees on some Chinese tires that were entering the United States in numbers that injured our workers. He took this action under the terms of China's accession to the WTO.
And fifth, promoting strong, sustainable, and balanced growth.
The Department of the Treasury works to achieve balanced and strong growth in the global economy. We, at Commerce, support those efforts within the parameters of our mandate.
I’m happy to report that we are on track to reach President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2014. In the first year of the NEI, 2010, our exports increased by 17% and helped increase and maintain hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Implementing the National Export Initiative
We cannot forget that it is industry and companies that produce the goods and services that can be exported and will win market share. But government must help where it can to ensure that industry and companies can compete globally.
I have focused my unit, Manufacturing and Services, on advancing the international competitiveness of U.S. industries. We leverage our in-depth industry sector expertise to develop and execute trade policy and promotion strategies.
Our export strategies are the basis for an interagency effort to focus the full resources of the U.S. government on what really will make a difference for our industries, which in turn will create jobs here at home in our cities.
Part of our promotion strategies are the trade missions that I mentioned. This year, ITA will take U.S. companies on 35 trade missions to markets across the world. Companies return with business leads, contacts to develop, and a better understanding of the opportunities and business culture in the foreign market. You can learn more about the trade missions at export.gov.
ITA currently operates offices in 109 U.S. cities and in 78 countries that provide matching-making, market research, business counseling, and other services that help companies break into new markets. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to reach out to the Export Assistance Center in your city or region. You can find the list at buyusa.gov.
Another part of our strategy is to get out of Washington and talk with businesses about the services available through the Federal government that can help them export.
A prime example is a series of road shows, called Manufacture America: National Export Initiative. These are being presented in coordination with the Export-Import Bank, Small Business Administration, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, or MEP.
We have already scheduled several road shows focusing on medical technology. We will be in San Francisco this Thursday, March 17; in Montgomery County, Maryland on April 27th; in Cleveland and Columbus, May 18th and 19th; in Louisville on May 21st; in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 14th; and back here in Washington, the week of June 22nd.
We will also hold an NEI Minority Business Seminar in my hometown of Detroit on October 24th.
Other Department of Commerce Resources of Interest to Cities
I want to touch on a couple other important programs that are of interest to cities because they will spur job growth.
The Department of Commerce, along with the Departments of Education and Labor and the SBA, are promoting regional innovation clusters throughout the nation. Using clusters such as Silicon Valley in California and the research triangle in North Carolina, this effort known as the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters, or TARIC, is working to link disenfranchised communities to new industries by creating regional industries that will be less susceptible to off-shoring.
The Economic Development Administration, or EDA, leads the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, preparing American regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy.
The EDA’s trade adjustment program has been combined with its economic adjustment program to help communities rebuild and to streamline government procedures. You can find more information at EDA.gov.
The Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Administration, or MBDA, actively promotes the growth and competitiveness of large, medium, and small minority business enterprises. They have loan and grant opportunities for minority owned businesses.
From the number and scope of these strategy and program examples, you can see that the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that America prospers.
Let me conclude by sharing a quote with you from President Obama’s State of the Union speech this year: “We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. . . That's how we'll win the future.”
I am committed to working with you to help us win that future for our industries, workers, and communities.
Thank you so much for privilege of speaking to you this evening.
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