Federal government agencies have an important role to play in helping U.S. exporters, especially small and medium-sized businesses, overcome obstacles to selling their goods and services abroad.
In January 2010, the President launched the National Export Initiative with the goal of doubling U.S. exports over 5 years.
The initiative directs the new Export Promotion Cabinet and 20 member agencies of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee to coordinate and align their export promotion activities, which include counseling, customer matchmaking services, and financing for exporters. The initiative lists other priorities including:
- Exports by small and medium-sized businesses
- Federal export assistance
- Increased export credit
- Reduced barriers to trade
- Export promotion of services
Figure 1: U.S. Exports, 2009 to 2012, and Exports Needed to Meet 2014 National Export Initiative Goal
Note: The bars for Annual exports to meet goal represent the annual export totals required to achieve the 2014 goal of doubling exports over 2009 levels, assuming identical year-to-year percent increases. Under this assumption, starting in 2010, export totals need to increase by 14.9 percent over the previous years totals to double by 2014. Actual yearly export totals may vary from Annual exports to meet goal.
Even with some progress in promoting U.S. exports, coordination and management challenges across the many export promotion agencies could hinder their effectiveness in supporting the initiatives goal. GAO has found, for example:
- The U.S. Commercial Service, the trade promotion arm of the Department of Commerces International Trade Administration, has experienced weaknesses in its performance management, resource allocation, and workforce planning.
- The U.S. Export-Import Bank, which supports U.S. exporters by providing loans, guarantees, and insurance, faces growing competition from emerging economy export credit agencies, which can provide financing on more favorable terms outside the restrictions of existing international agreements.
- The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has made progress addressing the challenges it faces in coordinating with private sector advisors and the Congress. USTR is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy, and for overseeing negotiations with other countries.
- The Office of Manufacturing and Services, within the Department of Commerce, could improve the visibility and accountability of its efforts to enhance the global competitiveness of U.S. industry.