As President Obama travels across the country discussing how we can achieve a better bargain for the middle class, he’s outlining steps necessary to ensure that every American has a good job with a secure future. A strong trade agenda is critical to continuing the progress we’ve made building economic stability and creating jobs.
Since Obama directed his administration to help more U.S. businesses sell made-in-America products to the world, trade has been an increasingly bright spot in our economy. U.S. exports have reached record levels for the last two years despite economic headwinds from abroad, exceeding $2.2 trillion in goods and services last year.
Most important, American exports have supported 1.3 million additional American jobs, for a total of 9.8 million in 2012. We’re seeing our strongest private-sector job growth in 14 years — including the first rise in U.S. manufacturing jobs since the 1990s.
Policies that help American businesses export their products and compete globally on a level playing field are crucial to continued success. Making things in America and selling them around the world can support more high-paying jobs here at home, boost American manufacturing, and spur the innovative spirit that has always made America great.
U.S. businesses and workers have tremendous opportunities in the global marketplace. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers, with 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power, live outside our borders.
To help Americans seize those opportunities, the U.S. Department of Commerce promotes U.S. exports in foreign markets and encourages foreign investment in the United States.
The U.S. trade representative seeks to open new markets; to level the playing field for American workers in areas like labor, the environment and intellectual property rights; and to enforce our partners’ trade commitments.
The first step toward selling more American goods and services globally is to build strong businesses here.
In his recent speech at the Amazon Chattanooga Fulfillment Center, Obama called on Congress to help bring manufacturing jobs back to America with new tax incentives, and new tax credits to help hard-hit communities attract investment, and to build on a successful model to create 45 manufacturing “innovation institutes,” turning communities into hubs for high-tech jobs.
The Department of Commerce can help ensure that growing U.S. enterprises have the resources necessary to succeed in the global marketplace. Last year, with help from the department, 5,200 American companies were able to export for the first time or sell more to new markets, including more than 4,000 small- and medium-size enterprises. In 2012 alone, the department helped U.S. companies achieved $63.3 billion in new exports for the year, which supported more than 310,000 American jobs.
We’re also reeling in foreign investment and jobs to American communities, and planning to grow that effort. In Chattanooga, Tenn., the president also talked about SelectUSA, a coordinated federal effort he initiated two years ago to attract companies looking to invest and create jobs in the United States. This fall, Commerce will bring business leaders from around the world to Washington to connect them with state and local leaders at the first SelectUSA Summit.
While Commerce advocates for U.S. companies abroad, thereby supporting job creation at home, and helps American businesses access existing export markets, the USTR is opening new ones, keeping those markets open, and making sure Americans have a level playing field on which to compete and win.
In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, America must seize every opportunity. Through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, we seek to open markets representing nearly two-thirds of global GDP (in current U.S. dollars). Negotiations to further open the world’s services markets to competitive American companies, facilitate trade with World Trade Organization member countries, and increase trade in information technology products can all increase opportunities for American businesses and workers here at home.
The administration also recognizes that after completing an agreement, it must ensure that all commitments in the agreement are honored. That’s why Obama has significantly increased trade enforcement, including by establishing the whole-of-government Interagency Trade Enforcement Center.
Our ultimate goals are fostering economic growth, supporting jobs here at home, and strengthening our country’s middle class. U.S. exports are helping to drive our nation’s economic recovery, and more than ever, two-way trade is providing inputs for value-added, Made-in-America goods.
Putting more Americans back to work through smart incentives and responsible, jobs-focused trade policies is something we can all get behind.
Penny Pritzker is the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. Michael Froman is the U.S. Trade Representative.