Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
The United States Chamber of Commerce
Thank you for having me here this afternoon. I am delighted to be here on the anniversary of the President’s announcement of the National Export Initiative in last year’s State of the Union Address, and just two days after he re-affirmed this administration’s goal to double exports by 2015.
While we all wish for a faster recovery, we come together today with growing confidence that our economy is picking up steam as we head into this new year.
Exports have been an especially bright spot in this story. Through November, exports grew nearly 17 percent compared to 2009. This is a tremendous accomplishment.
In total, net exports are likely to contribute between two and three percentage points to the annual rate of real GDP growth in the fourth quarter. November marked the highest monthly exports of consumer goods on record. It is an encouraging sign that as we dust ourselves off from the recession, we are not looking backwards but with clarity toward the future.
The economy of the future requires that American businesses compete and win in the global marketplace. The global economy can no longer simply rely on American consumption--and that includes our companies.
It is important that more companies – some of which are members of this vital organization – come to appreciate more fully how to make foreign trade a part of their strategic business plans going forward. About 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of our borders. And their importance will only continue to grow.
The IMF forecasts that 87 percent of world economic growth over the next five years will occur outside the U.S. India alone adds a population the size of Australia every year.
Engaging globally means that American companies are giving themselves a real chance to grow – and giving more Americans a chance to find employment. And greater participation in the global economy would increase economic activity worldwide, which drives economic progress and opportunity for all people. The new global middle class forming in countries with rapidly growing economies will drive the global economy forward.
President Obama, of course, understands the relationship between the new global economy and its connection to the American economy. On this very day a year ago, the President in his State of the Union Address connected the dots for the American people. In announcing his National Export Initiative, the President was defining in part how the American economy will grow in the future.
The significance of this announcement may have been lost on the talking heads, but it has not been lost on America’s businesses—many of whom I’ve heard from directly this past year. I view our getting together today as an extension of that moment. Let us recommit ourselves today to continue to grow our economy by working together to support businesses as they expand their sales overseas.
President Obama’s commitment to business did not begin with the NEI and it does not end there. As we move into the new year, there have been signals of optimism and a renewed spirit of cooperation to meet our common goals. As the President said earlier this month, “Making it possible for business to succeed is how we ensure that our economy succeeds and all our people succeed.”
This Administration continues to view the future now as it did a year ago: we must grow the domestic economy while making sure that we can do all that is possible within global trading rules to grow our international commerce with the nations of the world. His emphasis is on jobs and economic growth.
Growing our exports is an area of mutual interest. Exports are not Democratic or Republican, but they are about growing bottom lines and employment. It has been commonplace in this town to dismiss any proposal that comes from those with whom we often disagree. We will not be able to do that now.
A Republican House and a Democratic Senate need not be a divided government but rather one that explores areas of agreement. As we seek out these areas of mutual interest this year and beyond, I believe that the NEI is a winner for all sides.
Some critics suggested the NEI was no more than another federal program with a grand name, and that we have set our goal too high. But I am happy to say that so far we are on pace to meet our expectations. In the first year of the NEI we refocused the how various agencies of the federal government support American commerce overseas. We have not done so alone.
We have engaged the business community. From the President’s Export Council, some of whom are members of this organization, to the 300 companies that are members of the Industry Trade Advisory Committees, we have been listening, and already we have seen benefits for all. As an example, ITA’s Strategic Partnership Program developed and executed a New Market Exporter Initiative.
The initiative works with our strategic partners to identify their customers who sell to at least one international market and helps those customers expand to additional markets. As of today, these corporate and association marketing partners -- FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and the National Association of Manufacturers -- have pro-actively reached out to more than 12,000 companies that employ an estimated 725,000 people to consider how to increase exports.
To date, more than 750 of these companies registered with ITA’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service to receive export advice. Initial reports from our partners indicate an increase in export-related sales and additional foreign markets entered. Plans are in development to include new strategic marketing partners in 2011.
This program illustrates one of the innovative ways that government and business can work together to advance our common goals. In the past year we have also had success in many other areas. I led four of the 35 trade missions that ITA has managed and I have visited 17 countries to help advocate for American business.
And we have taken action against those who dump their products in our markets and prohibit our entry into theirs. We see these actions as a record of an Administration that understands business and has moved the ball forward. We are in the business of business development here and abroad.
Just a few years ago, government was taking unprecedented action to rescue our economy –action that included efforts from the last administration and ours. From TARP to the Recovery Act, we moved quickly to stabilize our economy.
These actions dispute notions that government does not have a role to play in our economy. The relationship between government and business is important beyond just times of crisis.
This past year has been an important bridge from the worst financial crisis of our lives to where we stand today. This past year has been one of record corporate profits. Banks are ready to resume paying dividends in the first half of this year for the first time in three years, giving hope to those retirees that had looked to them as a reliable source of income for their pensions. But we must do better. Unemployment is unacceptably high.
We stand at an important crossroads. The NEI contributed to the success of the past year, but it is not a one-year program. We are just getting started. Our plans for the second year are broad, but we are very specific about expressed goals, such as moving to finalize the trade agreement with Korea.
This is an agreement that will support at least 70,000 American jobs and level the playing field for American companies doing business in Korea. As the President said on Tuesday, this agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans and we hope Congress will pass it as soon as possible.
You should know, too, that the Administration is not giving up on trade agreements with those nations who want better trade relations with America. As the President mentioned on Tuesday night, trade agreements with Panama and Columbia are pivotal, and we also plan to continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.
At ITA we plan to build on our successes from 2010. In 2011, we will continue to strengthen the delivery of our services through expanding our public-private partnerships and continuing to enhance our use of technology. Last year, we significantly upgraded trade.gov and export.gov. In 2011, we are continuing our work on export.gov to streamline the delivery our services to businesses.
Although the process has been underway for months, one clear priority for 2011 is the development of sector and country strategies to increase U.S. export competitiveness.
We are looking to expand our partnerships with state and local governments and are in discussions with State International Development Organizations and other partners on how to best leverage these partnerships. We are looking to develop a competitive baseline of our top country competitors to help us communicate to Congress and others just how competitive the global market place is for U.S. business.
And of course we’ll be continuing to ensure that we’re protecting intellectual property rights, combating corruption, and promoting U.S. standards. In March, we will report to Congress as we do annually on the National Export Strategy that we will distribute nationally so that businesses and local communities can see how exports affect their local economies. The NES will provide more detail on some of the plans I have mentioned.
Going forward, we want to hear from you and all of your partners. Commerce and business do not simply generate the gross domestic product. You are strategic pillars of the nation’s security. To not incorporate business and commerce in one’s strategic outlook is to do a disservice to a country that faces a changed world in which the relationships among nations that defined the previous century are changing – and changing quickly.
It is not government alone who needs to have more sophisticated international trade strategies. This organization does tremendous work in promoting trade as a diversified source of revenue for businesses throughout the country. ITA’s resources – spread out across 109 cities in 48 states and in 77 countries – can be a formidable force if we can join you in expanding the number of businesses that can move into the world market.
We also are continuing to look sector by sector and country by country for opportunities that can be integral for companies contemplating their next stage of development.
In the end, the national security and the economic security of our country are one and the same: In a changing world, the growth of commerce and the growth of businesses – large and small – are of vital importance, especially for job creation here at home. Jobs make households secure; they do the same thing for a nation.
The way forward requires clarity, cooperation and collaboration. It seems to me that is the way forward for all of us.
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