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Remarks at 2010 International District Export Council (DEC) Conference

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Remarks at 2010 District Export Council (DEC) Conference

Good morning everyone.  It’s great to see so many people here for this conference. 

And I am delighted to be here for “Canada Day.” Canada, besides being a close ally and friend, remains our largest trading partner. Two-way merchandise trade between our countries totaled $429 billion last year, and behind all those dollars are jobs, from coast to coast.   

I also want to thank all of our District Export Council members for organizing this conference and the terrific work you’re doing.

You have a proven track record of success in selling to foreign markets. And you are a strategic force in marketing the benefits of exporting in your communities.

It’s because of that record of success I’m here today to ask all of you to go further – to establish new stretch goals for boosting U.S. export sales.

The new DEC-100 pilot program, announced yesterday, which asks the DECs to work with an additional 2-to-5 export companies, is a good start.  I encourage you to go even higher.

That’s the challenge the president has given us at the national level.

What hangs in the balance is a future where more Americans are working at jobs that provide dignity, security and a sense of hope for the future.

That’s why, at its heart, President Obama’s National Export Initiative sets a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015.

The more American companies export, the more they’ll need to produce; and the more they produce, the more people they’ll need to hire.

I’m here today to talk with you about what we’re doing every day to realize that future – helping you reach new markets, grow your businesses and hire new workers.

But first, a little bit about where we are.

Despite what you might have heard, the U.S. remains the world’s number one exporter. We export more in services than any country in the world, and nationally, one in five manufacturing jobs is supported by exports. 

But we can – and we must – do better.

Under the President’s NEI – and with traditional drivers of American economic growth facing headwinds – we are committed to doing more than ever to help U.S. companies reach new customers and capture new markets.

Exports made up 12.3 percent of U.S. GDP during the first half of 2010. Compare that to countries such as Germany, where exports account for nearly half the economy.

Today, only 1 percent of U.S. companies export.  And, of those, 58 percent export to only one country.

Exporting is fundamentally a decision driven by our entrepreneurs, businesses, and farmers; but within global trading rules, government does have a role to play.

The NEI is an unprecedented effort, which is:

First, expanding the U.S. government’s trade promotion efforts in all its forms.

This can mean a lot of different things.

It can be:

  • Commerce Department trade experts doing the tough shoe leather work to find a U.S. company new customers in Brazil;
  • Agriculture Department personnel helping a farmer navigate local rules and regulations as he tries to sell his wheat into Germany; or
  • State Department officials making sure a U.S. company gets a fair shake for a government procurement contract in China.

To put it another way, prior to the NEI, export promotion may have been a “some of the time” focus for many U.S. cabinet agencies and departments.

The NEI makes it an “all the time focus.”

At the Commerce Department, we are intensifying the work of our team of...

  • over 1,500 trade professionals
  • in 127 cities in 79 countries, and
  • 109 domestic offices in the United States

...whose primary job is to find buyers and customers for made-in-the-U.S. goods and services such as yours.

That includes the four Michigan-based U.S. Export Assistance Centers – in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Pontiac and Ypsilanti – and our CommerceConnect office in Waterford.

Information on our Commercial Service can be found at  And we’re pleased to have some of our trade specialists here at this conference. 

Second, the NEI is helping to make more credit available, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses that want to export.

In Fiscal Year 2010, the Export-Import Bank helped nearly 2,000 companies expand their export sales. And so far in 2010, it has increased its loan approvals by nearly 20 percent over the same period last year, from $18.3 billion to $21.5 billion.

Just recently, Ex-Im launched a new supply-chain finance guarantee program through which suppliers of components used in products destined for export can sell their accounts receivable.

Finally, we’re continuing to sharpen our focus on knocking down trade barriers that prevent U.S. companies from accessing foreign markets.

The American people must feel confident that when we’re party to an agreement that gives foreign countries the privilege of free and fair access to our domestic market, we are treated the same over there.

Since the initiative was announced in January, NEI efforts, combined with a strengthening world economy, are paying dividends.

  • Exports are up roughly 18 percent over the first eight months of this year. And,
  • U.S. exports of manufactured goods are up 21 percent.

These increases are having an impact on the economy:  Exports accounted for more than one half of GDP growth in the four quarters of recovery – as much as consumption.

We are counting on the DECs to play a leading role in helping to meet the President’s NEI goals.

Imagine if we could just get the company that’s selling products to Canada to grow into Mexico, or the company providing services in France to move into neighboring Spain. 

Do that enough times and America will not just meet, but beat the goals laid out by the President.

And everyone wins.  Our trading partners gain access to innovative U.S. goods and services that help them create growth and improve the quality of life for their people.  And U.S. companies gain new customers whose purchases help create growth and jobs here at home. 

I’ll close with this. Today for all the challenges our economy face...for all the families struggling to keep up with their mortgage or find a job...and I know that families right here in Detroit and in Michigan have been hit especially hard...we are moving in the right direction.

That started with the Recovery Act, which created demand in our economy when local governments, consumers and businesses couldn’t or wouldn’t spend. It had a direct impact on people across Michigan. More than 3.5 million families took advantage of the Making Work Pay tax credit, and nearly 2 million people hardest hit by the recession received emergency assistance. Meanwhile, the Recovery Act put people to work on 816 road, rail and runway projects across Michigan – totaling more than a billion dollars in investments that help make trade go. 

Of course, since I’m in Detroit, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention what was happening with America’s car makers. Last year, two of the Big Three were headed toward liquidation. The financial crisis and the Great Recession intersected with an industry that for too long had been slow too to adapt.

With a million jobs across the U.S. on the line, President Obama stepped in with a plan that provided the help the automakers needed and the accountability taxpayers deserved. This administration, this president, bet on the workers and the companies that helped make America great. And we did it despite the criticism from skeptics who were prepared to leave the industry for dead.

President Obama was right. As he noted this summer, U.S. automakers have added 55,000 jobs since last June – the strongest job growth in more than 10 years in the auto industry.

And today, after shedding jobs for 22 consecutive months, we’re seeing that recovery across the entire economy. The private sector has now added jobs for nine months in a row, and we’ve had four straight quarters of positive growth.

But, as we emerge from this recession, the question is, where do we go from here?

The answer can’t be backwards.

That’s why, under President Obama’s leadership, we have focused on reinvigorating the building blocks of our innovative economy. 

And why the work you are doing to help American companies and American workers get into new international markets is so important.

Keep up the great job, and our doors are always open, so let us know how we can help.

Before I turn over the podium, I have a very important presentation to make.  As Commerce Secretary, I take every opportunity I get to tout the world-class products and services we produce in the United States.

In recent weeks, we saw some really extraordinary examples of just how good U.S. manufactured products are.

Two Pennsylvania companies – Shramm Inc., which produces drill rigs, and Center Rock Inc., which produces drill bits – were instrumental in the amazing rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped 2,000 feet underground.

Not only was their equipment used, but both companies also put experts on the ground to trouble shoot during the rescue effort.

Fred Slack, Shramm vice president of business development is with us today.  Can I ask Fred to please join me at the podium….

On behalf of the Administration and the Department of Commerce, it’s with great pride and pleasure that I present you this Certificate of Appreciation. 

Congratulations, and thank you.  

And my thanks again to all of you for the important work you are doing to keep our exports and our economy growing.