By Anna Fifield in Washington
March 11 2010
President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled five steps that he said would lead to the doubling of US exports and the creation of 2m jobs within the next five years, part of his administration’s efforts to strengthen the American economy and foster private sector job growth after the worst recession in generations.
Under the “National Export Initiative”, the Obama administration will establish two boards to focus on boosting exports, expand export financing and help US exporters in existing and new markets.
The export promotion cabinet will comprise the secretaries of state, treasury, agriculture, commerce and labour, while a re-launched president’s export council, which will become the principal national advisory committee on international trade, will be headed by Jim McNerney and Ursula Burns, the chief executives of Boeing and Xerox respectively.
“We have to rebuild our economy on a new, stronger, more balanced foundation for the future – a foundation that will advance the American people’s prosperity at home, and support American leadership in the world,” Mr Obama said in a speech delivered to an Export-Import Bank conference in Washington on Thursday.
“We are rebuilding an economy where we generate more American jobs in more American industries by producing and exporting more goods and services to other nations,” he said.
Acknowledging that there are sharp differences of opinion between Democrats and Republicans, and between business and unions on trade and globalisation issues, the president said that the US had to enter new markets and new sectors to remain ahead.
“In a time when millions of Americans are out of work, boosting our exports is a short-term imperative. Our exports support millions of American jobs,” he said, adding that every $1bn increase in exports supported more than 6,000 additional jobs.
“It’s also critical for our long-term prosperity. Ninety-five percent of the world’s customers and the world’s fastest-growing markets are outside our borders,” he said. “If we stand on the sidelines while they go after those customers, we’ll lose out on the chance to create the good jobs our workers need right here in America.”
In addition the export promotion cabinet and the president’s export council, the national export initiative will give the Ex-Im Bank a new facility to provide up to $2bn a year for trade finance for small and medium enterprises, and will increase funding for export promotion programs by $134m next year. The Obama administration will also seek to ensure that existing trade agreements are properly enforced, and would press ahead to ratify pending agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
The initiative also includes new measures to reform the US export control system, which restrict the export of sensitive “dual-use” technologies to countries such as Iran and North Korea.
The White House said the reform program would focus on the enforcement of strict controls around the export of the most critical technologies and products, while streamlining the regulations that apply to exporting certain products.
Right now, exporters of products with encryption capabilities, such as mobile phones or network storage systems, must apply to the commerce department for a technical review of the product before they can export, a process that can take up to 60 days. The administration will replace this with a more efficient one-time notification-and-ship process that could eliminate up to 85 per cent of technical reviews.
Further changes will be detailed by Robert Gates, defense secretary, in the next few weeks, the White House said.