The federal government is doubling down on its National Export Initiative, and it’s not hard to understand why.
Ever since President Obama launched the program in 2010, U.S. exports have climbed to a record $2.3 trillion per year, which represents an increase of $700 billion since 2009. More than 11.3 million American jobs now rely on exporting. That number is the highest it has been in 20 years.
“In addition, exports have been the driving force behind growth in communities across the country,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker told an audience last month in Washington, D.C. “In fact, exports account for nearly all of the post-recession growth in cities like Albuquerque, Youngstown, Detroit and Kansas City.”
What will the program’s next phase—what they’re calling NEI/NEXT—actually do for small businesses? Here are three steps the government is taking right now.
Getting specific about export opportunities // The government plans to introduce a series of targeted campaigns highlighting opportunities for exporters. The new Look South campaign, which helps U.S. businesses sell to the Latin America market, is a good example of what these campaigns will look like.
“Already, our Look South team has created more than 100 tailored guides that show where American products are in highest demand across the region—from auto parts in Honduras to medical devices in Colombia,” Pritzker said. “In addition, we are helping our trade partners adopt best practices to facilitate more commerce. For example, we are holding workshops for customs officials in Guatemala, Peru and the Dominican Republic.”
Look for campaigns that will encourage women- and minority-owned firms to sell internationally and programs dedicated to specific industries, such as high-tech.
Streamlining the paperwork process // By the end of 2016, the federal government wants to have one online platform where exporters can fill out forms from dozens of agencies. The Department of Homeland Security is already working on the effort to create this “single window.”
Encouraging more banks to work with exporters // Many small exporters have trouble finding credit, so the SBA and the Export-Import Bank plan to recruit more community banks to offer working-capital loans, loan guarantees and insurance. The Ex-Im Bank has started collaborating with a trade group, the Finance, Credit, and International Business Association, on a marketing plan.
These are just the initial steps. The federal government also plans to …
» Study whether infrastructure improvements could speed up the exporting process.
» Make it easier for companies to work with the government’s export financing programs.
» Educate local leaders, from governors to mayors, about export resources and best practices.
» Help developing countries fight corruption and improve their protections for intellectual property.
The full plan for NEI/NEXT can be found at www.trade.gov/neinext.