Commerce Secretary Unveils National Export Initiative

Following President Barack Obama’s announcement of his goal of doubling exports over the next five years to support two million jobs here in the U.S., Commerce Secretary Gary Locke unveiled details of the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI).

During his State of the Union Address, Obama announced his plan to help American businesses, particularly small and medium-sized companies, increase their exports and expand their global reach. Tasked with seeing this through, Locke acknowledged that the U.S. does not do a good enough job promoting American products around the world. Given the fact that we live in an increasingly global economy, American small businesses need a coordinated effort from the federal government to increase overseas opportunities for U.S. companies. The establishment of the NEI represents the first time the U.S. will have a government-wide export promotion strategy with focused attention from the President and his cabinet.

The National Export Initiative is focused on three key areas:

  • A more robust effort by the 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.
  • Improving access to credit with a focus on small- and medium-sized businesses that want to export.
  • 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.

At the centerpiece of the NEI is a new “Export Promotion Cabinet” made up of leaders from export-related departments and agencies including those from the Commerce and State Departments, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will report directly to the president. The group is charged with coordinating the administration’s export promotion strategy and each department has six months to come up with a plan for increasing U.S. exports. Those plans will be integrated into the strategy laid out in the NEI.

To further enhance export efforts, the President has proposed substantial increases funding for the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration in his FY2011 budget and has called on the Export-Import Bank to increase 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.

Efforts are already underway, as NSBA and the Small Business Exporters Association (SBEA)–a council of NSBA– met with Jim Sanford, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for Small Business, Market Access, and Industrial Competitiveness. In his newly-designated small-business role, NSBA and SBEA met with Mr. Sanford to discuss the challenges facing small exporters and begin the dialogue in determining ways to promote the global export opportunities these businesses can do to create jobs here at home. USTR is working with the other agencies to remove barriers that prevent U.S. companies from getting free and fair access to foreign markets—including combating unfair tariffs and non-tariff barriers as well as working with NSBA and SBEA to address practices that blatantly harm U.S. companies doing business abroad.

To read Commerce Secretary Locke’s full speech, please click here.