Chairman Rockefeller's Remarks on A World of Opportunity: Promoting Export Success for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

October 6, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C.--I want to thank all of today’s witnesses for their testimony before the Subcommittee and for their ongoing work to promote America’s businesses and products abroad.
America has always reached out around the globe, through its exports. Now, as the world grows ever more connected, exports have taken an even greater role in our economic livelihood. For the past five years, American exports have grown at double-digit yearly rates and have increased from 9.5 percent to 13 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP). U.S. exports now support six million jobs in the manufacturing sector and nearly one million jobs in the agricultural sector.
And yet, we could be doing even more to realize America’s full export potential. Exports account for a smaller portion of American GDP than other leading exporting nations.  Less than one percent of U.S. businesses export overseas and nearly 60 percent of these companies trade with only one foreign country.
Small and medium-sized businesses in particular have not taken full advantage of potential markets abroad. But that can and should change. As our economy continues to struggle, overseas markets for American exports represent a tremendous opportunity to spur growth here at home. Firms that engage in overseas trade tend to have higher rates of productivity growth and pay higher wages to their workers. 
It is a powerful investment that pays great dividends: according to the National Association of Manufacturers, one dollar invested in export promotion generates $100 in new business.  Sometimes the return can reach $300 for each $1 invested. By leveraging U.S. competitiveness and tapping new markets, we can narrow our trade deficit and create quality jobs.
And the federal government plays a key role: its agencies and their policies translate that investment into real opportunity for American businesses and workers.  At least 20 federal agencies, along with countless businesses, trade associations, and even local government offices in states like West Virginia are actively working today to promote trade abroad. Chief among them are the International Trade Administration (ITA) at the Department of Commerce, and the Export-Import Bank and we must ensure they have the resources to do their job. 
With today’s hearing we can examine their work, learn from their success, and discuss new ways to maximize their efforts. In particular, I want to explore interagency effectiveness, strategies for monitoring and enforcing increasingly complex trade rules, and how they apply to small and medium-sized businesses.
I want to thank Senator Klobuchar for chairing this important hearing and I look forward to working with our colleagues to make export promotion a priority in the months ahead.