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Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Unveils Details of the National Export Initiative


Thursday, February 4, 2010



Commerce Secretary Gary Locke Unveils Details of the National Export Initiative

New effort central to President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports and supporting new jobs


Commerce Secretary Gary Locke unveiled details of President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) at a luncheon today at the National Press Club. During last week’s State of the Union speech, the president announced a goal of doubling exports over the next five years to support two million jobs in America.

Locke detailed how the Export Initiative will help the country reach that goal—providing more funding, more focus and more cabinet-level coordination to grow U.S. exports. The NEI represents the first time the United States will have a government-wide export-promotion strategy with focused attention from the president and his Cabinet.

“Increasing the export of American products and services to global markets can help revive the fortunes of U.S. companies, spur future economic growth and support jobs here at home,” Locke said. “This initiative will correct an economic blind spot that has allowed other countries to chip away at the United States’ international competitiveness.”

The National Export Initiative is focused on three key areas:

    1. A more robust effort by this administration to expand its trade advocacy in all its forms, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises. This effort includes educating U.S. companies about opportunities overseas, directly connecting them with new customers and advocating more forcefully for their interests.

    2. Improving access to credit with a focus on small- and medium-sized businesses that want to export.

    3. Continuing the rigorous enforcement of international trade laws to help remove barriers that prevent U.S. companies from getting free and fair access to foreign markets.

In addition to improving efforts in those areas, the Export Initiative creates an Export Promotion Cabinet reporting to the president that will consist of top leaders from agencies that can contribute to this effort, including from the Commerce, State and Treasury Departments, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Small Business Administration, the Export Import Bank and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The link between increased exports and high-quality jobs is significant enough to demand a smart, concerted effort to maximize this economic opportunity. We aren’t going to leave any jobs on the table,” said United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “The U.S. Trade Representative’s mission is to tear down foreign barriers to American exports and to open up new markets for U.S. goods and services. And with our partners across the government, we’ll work to ensure that job-creating export opportunities are available around the world to American businesses of every size and type.”

Within 180 days, each of the departments in the Export Cabinet will be responsible for submitting a detailed plan to the president about how it will enhance American exports. Those plans will be integrated into the strategy laid out in the NEI.

“The National Export Initiative’s coordinated effort to increase American exports will not only generate important income opportunities for farmers and ranchers, but also create off-farm jobs, furthering the Obama Administration’s work to strengthen and revitalize America's rural communities,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “This renewed emphasis on trade will help America’s agricultural producers, who are the most productive in the world, further expand the United States’ agriculture trade surplus and contribute to the continued growth of our economy.”

Access to Export Financing
To improve access to credit, the president has called upon the Export-Import Bank—which provides critical financing when private banks are unwilling or unable—to increase its financing available for small- and medium-size businesses from $4 billion to $6 billion over the next year. The 2011 budget also allocates additional money to help the Export-Import Bank administer its expanded efforts.

Progress is already being made. During the last three months alone, the bank has authorized $1 billion in small business financings and added 112 new small business clients—many of whom were first-time exporters—that are selling everything from nanotechnology-based cosmetics to date palm trees to sophisticated polymers to 45 countries around the world.

And Export-Import’s increased activity will dovetail with the administration’s other credit expansion efforts, including President Obama’s recent proposal to redirect $30 billion in repaid TARP loans to boost lending to small businesses.

“In face-to-face conversations with foreign companies and government officials during the past year, I have consistently heard the same message—they want to buy high quality U.S. goods and services, and they want more American companies to sell to them. Ex-Im Bank is prepared to increase our outreach to both buyers and small- and mid-sized businesses to provide critical export financing and help us achieve the President's goal of doubling U.S. Exports within the next five years,” said Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

More Resources for Export Promotion Efforts
The president increased the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration (ITA) FY2011 budget by 20 percent to help meet the goals of the NEI. Those new resources will allow ITA to:

  • Bring on as many as 328 trade experts to serve as advocates for U.S. companies;
  • Assist more than 23,000 clients to begin or grow their export sales in 2011;
  • Put a special focus on increasing the number of small- and medium-sized businesses exporting to more than one market by 50 percent over the next five years;
  • Increase their presence in emerging high-growth markets like China, India and Brazil;
  • And develop a comprehensive strategy to identify market opportunities in fast-growing sectors like environmental goods and services, renewable energy, healthcare and biotechnology.

Under the NEI, the 2011 budget also allocates $54 million to enhance the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s export promotion activities. That is going to result in more technical assistance to help farmers sell specialty crops, more foreign country promotions extolling U.S. commodities, and more direct assistance helping our farmers develop new foreign markets and increase market share in existing markets.

Helping American farmers sell more simply equals more jobs. American agricultural exports totaled almost $97 billion last year, which represented nine percent of the goods the U.S. ships abroad. This activity supports about a million jobs. These jobs are both on the farm and off, in urban and rural communities, across many communities and professions.

Improving Access to Foreign Markets
The National Export Initiative directs the government to continue its efforts to remove barriers that prevent U.S. companies from getting open and fair access to foreign markets—including combating unfair tariff and non-tariff barriers and addressing practices that blatantly harm U.S. companies.

This administration will pursue trade agreements that are balanced, ambitious and improve market access for U.S. workers, firms, farmers and ranchers.

Trade starts with the understanding that it only works in a system of rules where all parties live up to their obligations. The United States is committed to a rules-based trading system where the American people—and the Congress—can feel confident that when we sign an agreement that gives foreign countries the privilege of free and fair access to our domestic market, we are going to be treated the same in their country.

The Department of Commerce, through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), leads the administration’s trade promotion efforts and will help operationalize the National Export Initiative. This interagency group is chaired by the Secretary of Commerce to establish trade promotion priorities to expand trade and create jobs for Americans. The TPCC provides a platform for the Secretary of Commerce to advance a government-wide agenda on trade promotion and to directly engage the heads of other TPCC agencies. The Export Promotion Cabinet will coordinate with the TPCC.

Commerce’s International Trade Administration helps American companies export their products and services around the world, utilizing some 1,500 U.S. Commercial Service staff stationed in 77 countries across the globe.