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Importance of Services Negotiations, Help for Small Exporters Emphasized in Policy Recommendations

At a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., the President’s Export Council made a series of four recommendations on U.S. export policy: multilateral negotiations on services exports, government help for small businesses, import safety, and immigration reform.

by Pierce Nixon

The President’s Export Council (PEC) met in Washington, D.C., on April 8, 2008, to approve four letters of policy recommendations for President George W. Bush. The letters emphasized the need for stronger support of the U.S. service industry in foreign markets, encouraged efforts to reduce regulatory obstructions for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) abroad, highlighted the necessity for immigration reform to help offset workforce shortages in highly trained positions, and discussed potential ways to ensure the safety of imported goods.

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Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez (center) and J. W. Marriott Jr. (right), chair of the President’s Export Council, at the April 8, 2008, meeting of the PEC in Washington, D.C.
Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez (center) and J. W. Marriott Jr. (right), chair of the President’s Export Council, at the April 8, 2008, meeting of the PEC in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)


Importance of Services Sector in Doha Talks

The PEC applauded the administration’s work to secure lasting bilateral and regional free trade agreements, but it underscored the potential benefits for U.S. firms that may arise out of the multilateral Doha negotiations being conducted by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The PEC suggested that the negotiators give services the same level of attention as agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) to make foreign markets more accessible to U.S. firms in the services sector—which is now the largest sector of the U.S. economy. The PEC pointed out that many WTO members are unwilling to allow liberalization of their economies that would be sufficient to support a significant U.S. service sector presence, and it encouraged the administration to make support for services a priority at the Doha negotiations.

The Role of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Many countries support domestic business by subsidizing production and by creating impediments to competition from foreign firms. Those policies impede the operations of U.S. firms in foreign markets, and SMEs usually suffer the most.

SMEs account for more than 28 percent of U.S. exports and support more than half of private-sector employment in the United States. The PEC urged the administration to support SMEs by continuing to pursue comprehensive trade agreements, by encouraging large businesses to use SMEs in global supply chains, by improving communication about U.S. government programs that assist SMEs, and by promoting uniform international trade standards and rules.

Immigration Reform and the Need for Skilled Labor

The increased emphasis on homeland security and a strong border presence has been necessary to protect the United States since September 11, 2001. But those measures have unintentionally reduced tourism and immigration of highly skilled workers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The PEC pointed out that the U.S. economy depends on the immigration of STEM workers to fill necessary positions and that a shortage of qualified employees threatens U.S. competitiveness abroad. To help alleviate the STEM worker shortage, the PEC suggested that all highly skilled graduates be exempt from H-1B visa application and green card caps, that graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees be automatically eligible for green card status, and that visa programs be modernized to increase employment-based quotas and to ensure that talented workers can retain U.S. residency.

Import Safety

Several high-profile recalls of dangerous imported goods during the past year have renewed efforts to ensure the safety of U.S. imports. The PEC suggested that the administration use technology to track product movements and to expedite potential future recalls. It specifically referenced the recommendation by the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety (IWGIS) regarding the use of advanced technologies—such as integrated circuit cards (smart cards) and radio frequency identification devices, which retailers are already using to learn their customers’ preferences and to provide targeted discounts—to expedite notification to consumers of recalls. As the IWGIS noted, such technologies—when combined with voluntary disclosure of limited personal information—allow retailers to quickly locate and inform those consumers most likely to be affected by dangerous goods.

In implementing the IWGIS’ recommendations, the PEC emphasized that effective notice is a crucial step in the event of a recall, and urged the administration to work closely with the private sector to ensure adoption of systems for recalls and other supply chain management issues that will result in providing the right information about a product recall to the right parties (including regulatory authorities and retailers) at the right time.

Pierce Nixon is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.

For More Information

Established in 1973, the PEC is an advisory committee to the president on exporting. Its membership includes representatives from business, industry, agriculture, labor, and government. For more information about the PEC, including the full text of the latest letters of recommendation, visit their Web site.