Obama’s Exporting Speech Addresses Small Biz

More than 1,000 people attended the Ex-Im Bank’s 2010 Annual Conference held in Washington, D.C. that featured President Barack Obama as its keynote speaker on March 11. As announced in his State of the Union address, Obama has set a goal of doubling United States exports in the next five years. That initiative is expected to create two million jobs.

To help achieve the goal of doubling exports, Obama signed an Executive Order the morning of March 11 that instructs the government to use all available resources to support that mission. The National Export Initiative (NEI) is an administration strategy aimed at improving conditions that affect the private sector’s ability to export.

President Obama established an Export Promotion Cabinet that will coordinate and develop the NEI’s implementation. The export promotion cabinet includes a wide array of cabinet members, such as Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. In order to increase American exports, the NEI will address several areas of concern including exports by small and medium size enterprises (SME’s), federal export assistance, trade missions, commercial advocacy, reducing barriers to trade, increasing export credit and promotion of services.

NEI will coordinate these efforts with the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, will report directly to the President and will provide Obama with a comprehensive plan to achieve the goals of the NEI no later than 180 days after the date the executive order was signed.

During his speech at Ex-Im Bank’s 2010 annual conference, President Obama detailed three strategies that will be used to double exports over the next five years:

  • The process that certain companies go through to get their products to market will be streamlined so that it takes a one-time 30 minute on-line application instead of 30 to 60 days;
  • Obstacles for exporting products to companies with dual national and third country national employees will be eliminated; and
  • The U.S.’s intellectual property will be aggressively protected so that someone else can’t just steal the innovative ideas America has and duplicate them with cheaper inputs and labor.

President Obama underscored the importance of the Ex-Im Bank’s position in helping to make these goals a reality.

Fred P. Hochberg, Ex-Im Bank chairman and president, opened the conference by emphasizing the importance of rejuvenating our economy and creating jobs by increasing exports of not only large business but small and mid-size businesses. He went on to say the President’s presence not only benefits all participants in the conference, but also raises awareness of the critical importance of exports.

Ex-Im Bank is critical to the goal of doubling exports over the next five years. Ex-Im provides financing to assure that U.S. goods and services reach markets abroad. In fiscal year (FY) 2009, overall Ex-Im Bank financings came to $21 billion, while authorizations for small business exporters totaled $4.36 billion, both historic highs.

The conference continued with a plenary session titled Working Together to Support U.S. Exports which was moderated by John Podesta, former chief of staff of President Bill Clinton and current President and CEO of the Center for American progress. The panelists for the session were Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative, Gary Lock, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Karen Mills Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration and Jacob Lew, Deputy Secretary of State.

The panelists agreed that developing clean energy technologies and exporting them are very important to the goal of increasing exports. They also pointed out that of the 30,000,000 small businesses in the U.S., only 250,000 are currently exporting to other countries, and most of those only export to one country so there is a lot of opportunity to increase U.S. exports. One of the strategies they discussed to help companies export more products and services is to have a liaison at each embassy to assist companies seeking to expand by exporting.

The panelists advised exporters in attendance at the conference who need help to call 1-800-USA-Trade for assistance and to go to http://www.ustr.gov/ for assistance with financing and aid in finding customers to trade their products with in foreign countries.

Underscoring the need for enhanced exporting opportunities for U.S. small businesses, SBEA, in conjunction with NSBA, recently released a survey on exporting. Please click here for the full survey.