- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2010

President Obama on Thursday ordered an all-out effort by the U.S. government to increase exports to create more jobs amid record-high unemployment.

“This morning, I signed an executive order instructing the federal government to use every available federal resource in support of that mission,” the president told the roughly 1,200 people attending the Export-Import Bank’s annual conference in Washington.

As part of the president’s initiative, he also has created the Export Promotion Cabinet, which will include officials from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Labor and State to execute his plan to double U.S. exports in five years.

Mr. Obama said the officials, including the president of the Export-Import Bank, will focus on such issues as getting financial support for export-related businesses and cracking down on countries that fail to comply with trade agreements.

The president originally announced the five-year plan during his State of the Union speech in January and restated Thursday the initiative will support 2 million U.S. jobs.

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Achieving that goal will be difficult of several reasons. More exports could result in job losses because the United States will have to rely more on imported raw materials. In addition, Democrats and their union supporters oppose reopening trade negotiations with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Democrats also oppose free-trade deals, in part because of South Korea’s imposition of restrictions on U.S. imports and the attacks on Colombian labor leaders.

The export of U.S. goods and services nearly doubled in the 1990s and nearly doubled again in 2009 — from roughly $1 trillion in 2003 to more than $1.8 trillion in 2008, said Mr. Obama, citing Census Bureau Foreign Trade Division figures.

He also said 95 percent of the world’s customers and the world’s fastest-growing markets are outside U.S. borders.

Mr. Obama said the United States is a world leader in exports but should not rest upon its perch. He also urged both political parties to realize that other countries will profit in the exports business “if we stand on the sidelines” while they go after those customers.

“I know there are differences of opinion between Democrats and Republicans, between business and labor, about the right approach,” he said. “But I also know we are at a moment where it is absolutely necessary for us to get beyond those old debates.

“Those who would once support every free trade agreement now see that other countries have to play fair and the agreements have to be enforced. Otherwise, we’re putting America at a profound disadvantage. Those who once would oppose any trade agreement now understand that there are new markets and new sectors out there that we need to break into if we want our workers to get ahead.”

The president also re-established the Presidents Export Council, the national advisory committee on international trade. He named as chairman Jim McNerney, Boeing Co.’s president and chief executive officer.

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