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Remarks at President’s Export Council Meeting

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Remarks at President’s Export Council Meeting 

Thank you, Jim and Ursula. And thanks to everyone here who has done so much to promote U.S. exporting, including Members of Congress.

I’ll start with an exciting piece of news. This morning, the president issued an Executive Order establishing the Interagency Task Force on Commercial Advocacy, led by the Commerce Department and our Advocacy Center. Several companies here today have used the Advocacy Center. Last year alone, the Center helped U.S. firms win about $87 billion in contracts, 85% of which was export content.  This is a dramatic increase from previous years.

As you know, our exporters face increasingly tough competition for major international public contracts.

Through this new task force, we will bring to bear the resources and engagement of over a dozen Federal agencies.  Together, we will help level the playing field for U.S. exporters with regard to their foreign competitors.

We’re going to provide stronger commercial diplomacy, better market intelligence, heightened visibility of new opportunities, and better access to all of the tools and resources that agencies provide, including financing and technical assistance.

This is a smart approach which will lead to more wins for our companies and more jobs here at home. I want to thank, in advance, the many federal partners involved. I know we’ll be doing great work together.

Of course, this will be part of our broader, continued efforts under the President’s National Export Initiative.  As some of you know, exports have been leading the economic recovery in the U.S., growing faster than may other sectors.  Even though U.S. exports have slowed a little with the growth slowdown in Europe and Asia, we are still on track to break a record for U.S. exports, exceeding 2011’s record-breaking $2.1 trillion.  

All of us in the administration have placed a high value on the input from the private-sector leaders and PEC members who have given such insightful recommendations over the past four years. 

And it’s important to stop and reflect on just how far we’ve come together–as you do in this new report:

  • You have been champions of the NEI, helping the U.S. increase exports by over a third from 2009 to 2011, supporting 1.2 million additional jobs along the way;
  • You have strongly supported–and are now spreading the news about–the trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama;
  • You have drawn attention to the benefits of Russia joining the WTO. . . . and to the importance of permanent normal trade relations with Russia;
  • You have informed entrepreneurs and business owners regarding how they can use exporting as a strategy to grow and create jobs–especially through the people and the tools they can find at places like the Commerce Department.

And perhaps most important, you’ve helped formulate some very effective export strategies that use a strategic, data-driven process to identify and analyze the markets and sectors where the U.S. has–or could have–a competitive edge. 

Specifically, I want to thank the Global Competitiveness Subcommittee for identifying where public-private engagement can make a big impact, with measurable results. On that note, last week I was in Africa promoting the trade and investment goals of the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which the President issued in June.

Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to grow between 5 and 6 percent in the coming years. And 6 of the 10 fastest-growing countries in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. So this is a region with enormous potential for export growth.

  • In Johannesburg, I launched the Doing Business in Africa campaign. It’s aimed at helping more American investors and exporters see the benefits of entering or expanding their presence in those markets.
  • Then, in Nairobi, I launched a Commercial Dialogue between the U.S. and the five nations that represent the East African Community. This Commercial Dialogue, among other things, brings private-sector leaders into the policy dialogue about key reforms that are needed to reduce trade barriers and enhance the business environment.

U.S. businesses are strongly positioned to meet the rising demand in Africa, as well as places like Turkey and Poland, which I’ve also visited since the last time this Council met, and more. We have competitive advantages across a number of industries – including infrastructure and energy.  

We also see strengths in manufactured exports such as cars and car parts as well as services exports such as travel and tourism. In fact, we now expect 66 million international travelers to have traveled to the U.S. in 2012–a 6 percent increase from last year and yet another new all-time record.

Looking forward, we should continue our work to expand the base of small- and medium-sized businesses who export. Their share of U.S. exports has grown from about one-fourth at the turn of the century to about one-third today.

  • For instance, one goal of the Doing Business in Africa campaign is to encourage small businesses in African Diaspora communities in the U.S. to consider export to Africa.
  • We also need to train more of our business counselors in exporting–as SBA is doing, and we need to expand export financing to more small exporters–as Ex-Im is doing.

In addition, we want to build on the fact that about 150 U.S. metro areas exported more than $1 billion in merchandise last year.

  • That’s why we partnered with the Brookings Institutution on the Metropolitan Export Initiative, and I believe everyone here got a copy today of the 10-step guide on how to create actionable export plans. Please share it.
  • I’m glad to see that we have advocates for this approach from the NGA and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

At this key moment–when many other countries are experiencing slower growth–we simply can’t let up. We must redouble our efforts to meet the NEI goals and to create even more, good, export-driven jobs here at home.

We’ve passed the halfway point of the NEI. We must focus to make sure the next two years are just as successful, whether we’re focusing on next-tier markets, turning more small businesses into global exporters, moving goods more efficiently across the border to our biggest trading partners (Canada and Mexico), and more.

I want to thank all of you in advance for your ongoing help in this effort. As we say here at the Department of Commerce, our goal is to “build it here and sell it everywhere.” With your help, we can make that happen.