From the moment he took the oath of office, President Obama has made one thing clear: his administration would be dedicated to putting Americans back to work across the country. In his first State of the Union address on Jan. 27, the president reaffirmed that commitment - and pointed to the potential of trade to support millions of jobs for American workers. Specifically, the president set a goal: to support 2 million American jobs by doubling American exports over the next five years.
That's a hefty challenge, but it's also a goal that America can reach.
To increase exports and create jobs, U.S. businesses must be able to compete anywhere in the world. There is a great deal that we can do to help: working to remove trade barriers abroad; helping firms - especially small businesses - overcome hurdles to entering new export markets; assisting with financing; and pursuing a government-wide approach to export advocacy abroad, among other steps.
The link between increased exports and high-quality jobs is significant enough to demand a smart, concerted effort that maximizes this economic opportunity. We are not going to leave any jobs on the table. This is why the president is deploying his Cabinet and his economic team to launch a National Export Initiative.
Under the initiative, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; the departments of Commerce, Agriculture and State; the Small Business Administration; the Export-Import Bank; and other federal agencies are teaming up to make the economic opportunities of trade - and the jobs that can come with trade when we do it right - available to more American manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and service providers.
The head of these agencies and others will form the president's Export Promotion Cabinet. Together, the members of the Export Promotion Cabinet will mobilize the federal government's export promotion, export advocacy, and trade policy efforts. Each federal agency involved in the National Export Initiative will leverage its particular expertise to boost job-creating trade opportunities.
The Small Business Administration, the Commerce Department, and the Export-Import Bank will provide critical trade promotion assistance and trade financing to American exporters - helping American businesses and workers to get the information and resources they need to take advantage of international trade opportunities.
At the same time, the Office of the United States Trade Representative will create trade opportunities by reducing foreign barriers to American exports, opening up new market opportunities around the world, and enforcing Americans' trade rights.
As America's lead trade policy agency, USTR makes sure that our existing and future trade agreements deliver the market access and economic opportunity they promise. The United States must seize trade opportunities with the potential to support American jobs, and we must engage to shape trade opportunities that will offer jobs and economic growth for years to come.
This is why USTR is working hard to make the world's markets more open to American goods and services; why we are pressing toward a breakthrough in the Doha round of trade negotiations; why we are connecting with growing economies in the Asia-Pacific through the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and why we are seeking to strengthen bilateral trade with key partners such as Panama, Colombia and South Korea.
Over the last year, we have acted to level the playing field around the world and here at home for American businesses and workers. USTR has negotiated solutions to trade disputes when possible, and we have not hesitated to seek legal recourse where necessary. We have brought down long-standing trade barriers. And we have engaged with America's trade partners to create new opportunities for Americans in key markets around the world.
The administration is committed to realizing the potential of increased exports and smart trade policies to contribute to this country's economic recovery. Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States. If Americans can sell more of their products to those consumers, American businesses can save, create and support high-quality jobs at home. The president understands that and so does his administration.
We will not pass up any opportunity to ensure that every American who wants a job can find one.
Ron Kirk is the U.S. trade representative, the president's principal trade adviser and negotiator, and spokesman on trade issues.