What the President’s National Export Initiative Means for Economic Security

July 8, 2010 By Eric Peckham

Yesterday President Obama announced the creation of the President’s Export Council, a collection of the nation’s top business executives and senior Administration officials, to develop policies that will lead the country towards meeting the President’s goal of doubling exports within the next five years. President Obama emphasized that “boosting America’s exports strengthens our economic growth and supports millions of good, high-paying American jobs.” Strengthening our economy will require us to look abroad for ways in which American companies can expand their reach, raising the demand for new, skilled workers domestically as these companies seek to manage their growth.

The President’s $58.8 billion International Affairs Budget request has a major role to play in how effective the United States can be in bolstering exports and competing in the global marketplace. Today more than 1 in 5 U.S. jobs are tied to global trade — and the fastest growing markets for U.S. export are developing countries, totaling nearly half of U.S. exports. And just last week, Land O’ Lakes CEO Chris Policinski wrote in Roll Call that “we can create thousands of jobs for working Americans by developing new markets. In fact, the process has already begun. Over the past four decades, international trade has tripled as a share of our national economy.”

Watch what President Obama had to say about the National Export Initiative back in March

As China, India, and other countries continue to bolster their economic prospects by investing abroad and reaching fresh markets in the developing world, the United States must do the same if it hopes to retain its global economic leadership. In his announcement, the President highlighted that “95 percent of the world’s customers and fastest growing markets are beyond our borders.  So if we want to find new growth streams, if we want to find new markets and new opportunity, we’ve got to compete for those new customers – because other nations are competing for those new customers.”

This will require more than just domestic policy reforms to incentivize American businesses and help them expand. In order to double exports and, most importantly, remain competitive long term, the U.S. has to invest in economic development abroad. Across the developing world are billions of people who represent vast, untapped markets for American products. Committing the funds now to help the world’s poorer communities develop local businesses that will raise their incomes and their ability to purchase goods is critical. China and other economic competitors are already pouring billions of dollars into impoverished African and Asian communities to create millions of new consumers for their nation’s companies. America ought to do the same. The Chinese government’s direct investments in economic, education, and healthcare improvements have built up new markets, access to natural resources, and loyalties that have helped its trade with Africa rise from just over $10 billion in 2000 to likely over $100 billion this year.

In the United States, the International Affairs Budget supports similar development programs across the world, promoting the establishment of successful new markets along with democratic governance to enhance political stability. If we invest in the developing world now, it will create more jobs and prosperity at both ends in the years to come.