On March 11, the White House issued an Executive Order to promote exports. This Executive Order establishes a high-level Export Promotion Committee whose job is to set the strategic plan for the National Export Initiative (NEI).
Remember that Over a year ago, during the State of the Union Address, President Obama pledged to double exports. Most of the White House data on doubling exports has used the 2009 export statistics as the baseline (this was the baseline used in the September 16, 2010 NEI Report). That year’s exports numbers were 17% below both 2008 and 2010, so it is a conveniently low figure from which to start.
Let’s look at those numbers. The Administration is taking credit for a significant increase in exports in 2010. 2010 numbers are up 17% over 2009 numbers. But all the country really did is return to (just below) 2008 numbers. Census Bureau export data shows that the U.S. exported $1.839 trillion in goods and services in 2008. After dipping to $1.571 trillion in 2009, the country returned to $1.832 trillion in 2010.
I’m not saying that the government has been inactive – organizations like the USTR and the ITA have been very proactive in promoting U.S. exports. ITA has been ramping up interest in the private sector in the MDCP program; despite the fact that Congress chose not to fund the lion’s share of the program (refusing to permit ITA to spend the $15 million for the export-partnership program despite the fact that the funds were authorized in the Small Business Jobs Act). But the Administration seems to be doing very little to provide any real leadership or support from the top.
The recently-created Export Promotion Committee has until September 2011 to establish the strategic plan that will drive the NEI. This means that three years will have passed since the 2009 figures that form the Administration’s baseline, and nearly two years will have passed since the President pledged to increase exports. At that stage, we will be just beginning to investigate actual changes to our laws and policies that might help increase exports.
Does anyone else find it amazing that the President announced an intent to increase exports without having any sort of plan for how to accomplish this goal; and then is taking two years just to come up with a plan for how to address the issue?
By the time the President is debating against his opponent in the 2012 Presidential election, he will likely have a good strategic plan in his hands for how to increase exports, but any actual increases in exports between now and then will certainly be a product of market forces and commercial initiative, rather than any Administration plan.