Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General Suresh Kumar
U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service
Remarks on the National Export Initiative
Monday, March 29, 2010
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Mayor Davidson, for your warm welcome. Thank you also to Congressman Reichert for joining us at this wonderful luncheon. It is an honor and privilege to be joined by so many of our partners and clients here in Bellevue, at your beautiful City Hall, to speak about President Obama’s National Export Initiative.
During the State of the Union address, the President set a goal of doubling exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million good, high-paying jobs here at home. Then, a few weeks ago, the President signed an executive order outlining his historic National Export Initiative, which instructs the federal government to use every available federal resource in support of this goal.
In a time when millions of Americans are out of work, boosting our exports is a national imperative. Therefore, the NEI was designed with one overriding goal in mind: to get people back to work in jobs that provide security, dignity and sense of hope for the future.
As you are all well aware, there are few parts of the country that rely on exporting more than the State of Washington. In 2009, Washington exported over $50 billion in merchandise, ranking it as the fourth largest exporting state, and the vast majority of those exports come from the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area. Washington is also the home of over 8,000 exporters, almost 90% of which are small and medium-sized companies. However, the most dramatic and important figure is that over 40% of all manufacturing workers in Washington depend on exports for their jobs.
This linkage between exports and job creation is a key characteristic of the 21st century economy. That is why for the first time the United States will have a government-wide export-promotion strategy with focused attention from the President and his cabinet.
With traditional drivers of US economic growth like consumer and business spending facing stiff headwinds, it has never been more important for our companies to increase their sales to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live outside the United States. The President refuses to sit on the sidelines and let jobs be created elsewhere when America still has the most innovative economy and the most productive workers in the world.
So, here’s how we plan on accomplishing this mission.
First, this Administration will engage in a more robust effort to expand trade promotion and advocacy in all its forms, including educating U.S. companies about opportunities overseas; directly connecting them with new customers; and advocating more forcefully for their interests. Our USEACs provide a framework for one-stop-shops that provide a comprehensive toolkit of services – from regulatory to intellectual property rights to financing to counseling to promotion – to help potential exporters grow and expand into new markets.
Let me give you some specific examples of the terrific work being done by the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in Washington
- One of our clients, Absorption Corporation, out of Ferndale, Washington, is an SME that manufactures environmentally friendly products with renewable materials for pets. Last year, Absorption participated in one of our trade events in Italy, and now Absorption sells thousands of dollars worth of its products into Europe.
- Another client, E3 Energy Partners, is another SME located in Seattle, which develops biomass and waste-to-energy renewable energy projects. E3 recently participated in a renewable energy trade mission to Sweden and Denmark. As a result of our Gold Key matchmaking program, E3 signed a contract generating new sales in Sweden.
- Finally, Seafood Producers Co-op, out of Bellingham, Washington, worked with our European Union office in Brussels to release a $350,000 shipment of frozen salmon in Germany. After quick intervention by our office in the EU, the German authorities released the stuck shipment.
These are just a few examples of our day-to-day work keeping U.S. goods flowing smoothly over international borders. That is why we are so pleased that as part of the National Export Initiative, the President’s 2011 budget includes a 20% increase to the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration to educate U.S. businesses about opportunities overseas and directly connect them with new customers.
Second, the National Export Initiative will improve access to credit, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses that want to export. In particular, the President has called upon the Export-Import Bank, which enables critical financing when private banks are unwilling or unable to do so, to increase its financing available for small- and medium-sized businesses by $2 billion over the next year.
Third, the National Export Initiative will strive to ensure that American companies have free and fair access to foreign markets. This Administration will aggressively enforce our current trade agreements and strengthen our existing relationships, and we’ll increase the government’s attention on removing barriers that are hampering U.S. companies.
In particular, as the President highlighted during remarks a few weeks ago, access to the Asia Pacific region will be critical to America’s ability to create jobs and grow in this new economy. The U.S. will continue to strengthen its economic partnership in Asia, with a particular focus on China, India, and Southeast Asia. Not coincidentally, these are the same foreign markets that are so critical to Washington’s economy.
The National Export Initiative will help build a stronger economic foundation and allow us to return to the type of sustainable growth that not long ago helped build the strongest middle class in history.
From clean and green technology to transportation equipment to computers and electronics, America’s strength has always been our ability to create and sell products and services that help others around the world improve lives and livelihoods.
That’s what we've got to get back to: creating, building and innovating. That is what this country is all about.
With the National Export Initiative, American businesses that want to export – especially small and medium-size enterprises – are going to have a more vigorous partner in the US government.
As I said earlier, this National Export Initiative drives ambitious goals: a doubling of exports in five years supporting 2 million jobs. It's an aggressive goal, but these challenging times demand nothing less.
With millions of Americans out of work, and our competitors in Europe and Asia increasingly chasing the same business opportunities that we are, we don't have the luxury to be passive.
There has never been any question that American companies make goods and services that are desired all over the world.
The federal government just has to do a better job connecting the foreign consumers that want our products and services with the US companies who sell them.
The National Export Initiative will do exactly that.
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