Pop the cork on U.S. exports
While President Obama struggles to implement health care reform, controls on greenhouse gas emissions and a successful military strategy in Afghanistan, his administration has made positive steps to uncork the country's export potential.
For far too long, U.S. exporters were largely relegated to the sidelines by the dollar's high value, the corporate race to outsource production to lower cost labor markets overseas, and an outdated federal system of export controls.
What a difference a year makes. The dollar's value declined against other currencies during the global economic crisis. U.S. consumers and federal regulators have fired back at importers of shoddy products. And recently, the Obama administration announced that it will seek to modernize the country's Cold War-era export control system (see page 40).
What hasn't changed is the ability to produce high quality goods, such as machinery and agricultural commodities, which are sought after by overseas buyers. Many of these products are generated by small and mid-sized companies, which have traditionally focused their sales and marketing on the U.S. market.
To better tap the export market, the Obama administration must continue to support outreach programs through the Commerce Department, Small Business Administration, Export-Import Bank and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. When companies understand the export process and reap the financial rewards of penetrating new markets, chances are they'll continue to ship abroad.
From the business perspective, freight forwarders and non-vessel-operating common carriers could lend a hand to new exporters by explaining how the export process works, and assisting them with any regulatory compliance needs.
Carriers should develop marketing strategies to attract U.S. export business. Two years ago, when the prices of U.S. manufactured goods started to become more attractive on the global market, exporters suddenly found it difficult to obtain adequate container capacity from the liner carriers. This mistake should not be repeated.
Overall, in order for any U.S. export facilitation policies put forth by the Obama administration to succeed in this downtrodden economy, political bipartisanship, which has proved fatal to recently proposed societal improvements and pitted industry against itself in some cases, must be checked at the door. Let's not allow U.S. exports to be kept in a bottle.