American exports have traditionally played a vital role in U.S. economic expansion. Now, they have become even more important since job growth is key to a sustained economic recovery. Local and state governments, as well as local trade organizations such as World Trade Centers and chambers of commerce, can play a more integral role in helping small and medium enterprises (SMEs) increase exports.

The Benefit of Boosting Exports

U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) growth reached 5.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009. However, double-digit unemployment continues to negatively impact confidence in the economy. The Obama administration, in an effort to expand U.S. output and job growth, has recently announced the National Export Initiative and the ambitious goal of doubling exports in five years.

Boosting exports has additional benefits, including the reduction of American debt. In his December 2009 testimony before Congress, Howard Rosen, Visiting Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said, “There are several ways the United States can reduce its debt burden, but most of them will require enormous sacrifice on behalf of American workers and their families and will bring considerable damage to the U.S. economy. The only way out of the economic mess we currently find ourselves in, without causing more damage at home and abroad, is to significantly increase U.S. exports.”

An Increased Local Role

Currently, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture, among many other federal agencies, provide outstanding export-related services. In fact, SMEs utilize these services with much success. Nevertheless, many SMEs say they prefer to access all pertinent export information and services in one local, easily accessible source, and require a blend of support, ranging from federal programs to local public/private partnerships, to:

  • Gain basic export knowledge,
  • Identify potential markets,
  • Produce country-specific market data,
  • Understand accounting, cultural, and legal issues in each market, and
  • Learn about local country-specific customs, labeling, and product requirements, etc.

Municipal, state and federal agencies, in cooperation with local business organizations, would be wise to establish local export infrastructures to fulfill the wishes of SMEs. Plus, these local organizations are well positioned to identify and encourage new exporters due to their community involvement, local knowledge and personal relationships.

On the Right Track

U.S. exports grew at an annual rate of 28 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, the fastest increase and the largest contribution to growth in 30 years, according to a National Association of Manufacturers’ report. In order to create new jobs and GDP growth on a sustainable long-term basis, and to reduce our national debt, it’s essential that exports continue to rise. Plus, it’s important that more American firms get into the exporting business. Increasing the role of local governments and organizations to help achieve this would be a big plus.

Shawn Mahoney is Managing Director of International Services at Excengin Worldwide ( This article appeared in Impact Analysis, March-April 2010.

Shawn Mahoney
About The Author Shawn Mahoney [Full Bio]
Shawn Mahoney is the Managing Director of EP Consulting Group and Board President of EMC2 the World. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Shawn is focused on China business consulting, China trade compliance and global competence development and training.

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