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Remarks at Presentation of President's "E" and "E Star" Awards

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AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Thursday, May 13, 2010

CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS

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Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at President's "E" and "E-Star" Awards
Washington, D.C.

Press release

Thank you, Suresh, for the kind introduction.  I want to join in welcoming our special guests today.

I especially want to recognize our guests of honor at this ceremony—the recipients of the President’s E-Award and E-Star Award.

Both as Secretary of Commerce and the former governor of Washington—one of the most export-dependent states in the country—I have a deep appreciation for the enterprise and initiative that goes into finding sales opportunities beyond our borders.

The group that we are honoring here has a consistent record of success in doing just that.

The businesses receiving these awards represent a wide range of industries and services, everything from:

  • DNA testing technology;
  •  to motion picture and TV hardware and lighting control devices;
  • to frozen gourmet treats.

You are selling high-quality products and services in every corner of the world and most important, you are helping to create good jobs for American workers.

Now I don’t want to put any pressure on you, but we need you to continue to set the pace as exporters and export servicers.

Through his National Export Initiative (or NEI), President Obama has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years, supporting two million American jobs.

This initiative was designed with one overriding goal in mind: to get people back to work in jobs that provide security, dignity and a sense of hope for the future.

The Department of Commerce has a leading role to play in this effort.  And we are going to do everything in our power to mobilize businesses and organizations like yours to meet—and maybe even exceed—the president's ambitious export goals.

Why the emphasis on exports?

Because with traditional drivers of U.S. economic growth like consumer and business spending facing headwinds, America simply must elevate exports as a key part of our economic recovery efforts.

While the U.S. is already a major exporter, we are underperforming.

Consider the fact that U.S. exports as a percentage of GDP are still well below nearly all of our major economic competitors.

And today, less than one percent of America’s 30 million companies export—a percentage that is also significantly lower than all other developed countries. And of U.S. companies that do export, 58 percent export to only one country.

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 is going to find that its export goals are achievable.

With our increasingly interconnected world—where 95 percent of consumers reside outside our borders—these are opportunities—as the honorees here already know—that American companies cannot afford to miss.

Under the National Export Initiative, there is going to be more credit available for exporters, more government trade promotion, and a sharper focus on knocking down the barriers that prevent U.S. companies from getting free and open access to foreign markets.

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.”

We’re going to have Agriculture Department employees in Virginia educating farmers about export opportunities in Europe, and Commerce Department trade specialists pounding the pavement in Beijing to find new customers for U.S. businesses.

The NEI is going to provide even more resources and focus on the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration (or ITA)—which has a global network of trade specialists posted in 109 U.S. cities and at 128 U.S. embassies and consulates in 77 countries.

As part of the NEI, ITA will:

  • Put a special focus on increasing by 50 percent the number of small and medium-sized businesses exporting to more than one market;
  • Increase their presence in emerging high-growth markets like China, India, Brazil and the Middle East;
  • And develop a comprehensive strategy to identify market opportunities in fast-growing sectors like environmental goods and services, renewable energy, healthcare and biotechnology.

And if the president’s 2011 budget is approved, ITA plans to bring on as many as 328 trade experts—mostly in foreign countries—to advocate and find customers for U.S. companies.

I'm also excited to report that next week, I am going to lead a clean energy business development mission to China and Indonesia – which is the first cabinet level trade mission since the president first announced the NEI.

This initiative presents 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 competing with us for the same business opportunities and the same customers all around the world, 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 proof is right here in this room.

The federal government just has to do a better job of connecting the foreign consumers that want our stuff with the U.S. companies who make it.

The National Export Initiative will do exactly that.

I want to thank you for reaching out to the markets of the world and for your contributions to your communities and our country.

On behalf of President Obama, who couldn’t be here today, and all of us at the Department of Commerce, congratulations to each of the winners of the President’s E-Award and E-Star Award.

And thank you for your contributions to our communities, to our country, and to our balance of trade.

Thank you.