Obama Export Council: Economic Driver or ‘Rerun?’

President Barack Obama, like many economists, believes one of the keys to a robust economic recovery or even survival during the sluggish portions of the rebound lies in increased exporting by U.S. businesses. Thus, Obama has relaunched a stated effort to double U.S. exports over the next five years through the President's Export Council and the Export Promotion Cabinet.
It sounds great on the surface, but many in the business and finance world appear more than a little underwhelmed.

The President's Export Council, consisting of top business and labor leaders, and Export Promotion Cabinet, senior administration and Presidential Cabinet members, aim to increase businesses' profits with the end-goal of spurring significant job growth through a significant increase in exporting activity, even if the domestic economic rebound remains sluggish. Part of this stems from the emergence of economic opportunity abroad, as places including Brazil, India and even Muslim-ruled portions of the Middle East are experiencing surges in commercialism while battered Americans appear more fiscally conservative. Obama focused on that saying it is "not where jobs will are today, but where American jobs will be tomorrow."

"Ninety-five percent of the world's customers and fastest growing markets are beyond our borders," Obama said in a July address. "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 customers - because other nations are competing for those new customers.

Through the National Export Initiative, the Obama White House has tried to increase advocacy of U.S. businesses in the international marketplace and worked to new free trade agreements in recent months. But underwhelmed economists like Ken Goldstein, of the Conference Board, responded with comments such as, "I've seen this show before, and it doesn't play better in reruns."
One of the key obstacles to creating a spike in exporting is that domestic efforts to allow companies to sell more freely, easily and fairly abroad often have been stunted by what has been seen globally as protectionist, foot-dragging responses from the U.S. to offer the same opportunities to companies based in such emerging nations.

"I think it's a sincere effort, but it's window dressing at the moment," said NACM Economic Advisor Chris Kuehl, of Armada Corporate Intelligence. "They're forming a commission that's going to say ‘selling stuff is better than not selling stuff.' Wow. The problem is Democrats are negative on trade. You cannot sell if you don't buy. No country in the world is interested in exports if they can't import. If we want to sell to the Brazilians and Indians, we actually have to buy their stuff, too."

Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer

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