Export Promotion:

Issues for Assessing the Governmentwide Strategy

T-NSIAD-98-105: Published: Feb 26, 1998. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1998.

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GAO discussed issues related to the U.S. government's role in promoting exports, focusing on the: (1) evolution of the government strategy designed to reshape federal export promotion activities; and (2) results and issues related to GAO's past work on U.S. government efforts to improve U.S. export promotion programs.

GAO noted that: (1) Congress, in enacting the Export Enhancement Act of 1992, required the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) to improve the delivery of export assistance to U.S. firms; (2) the TPCC efforts have focused on three broad areas: (a) devising a governmentwide strategy and a unified budget that would set priorities; (b) developing partnerships with all levels of government and the private sector; and (c) dealing with obstacles that U.S. businesses encounter as they compete against businesses supported by their foreign governments; (3) the TPCC has taken a number of steps in each of these areas, but some of their goals remain elusive; (4) with respect to the strategy, the cooperating agencies have established priority foreign markets and increased the visibility of the components and distribution of the aggregate federal expenditures on export promotion activities; (5) partnerships have been developed through a number of initiatives, including a network of export assistance centers to help unify the delivery of export promotion services, and making the U.S. Export-Import Bank's (Eximbank) and the Small Business Administration's (SBA) working capital program procedures more consistent and to enable exporters to receive financing more easily; (6) the TPCC has also worked to keep U.S. financing programs fully competitive; (7) GAO's work also suggests that outstanding issues remain regarding the effectiveness of the cooperative efforts of the agencies under the TPCC to achieve the congressional objectives of the 1992 legislation; (8) for example, while the expenditures of the 19 federal agencies are now clearly presented in one place, major challenges remain for achieving the unified budget that would align resources with national priorities and program performance; (9) while the Department of Commerce and the SBA have colocated in 19 cities, with some closer ties with Eximbank officials, no evaluation has been completed on how effectively these centers are operating to achieve the intended objective of streamlining the delivery and quality of services to small- and medium-sized businesses; and (10) the elapsing of 5 years since the passage of the Export Enhancement Act provides a good opportunity for Congress to assess the achievements and remaining challenges for the effort to strategize, streamline, and coordinate the wide array of federal export promotion efforts through the institutional mechanism of the TPCC.

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