President Obama Insists Export Target is Reachable

Exports were up in the first four months of the year almost 18% from last year.

President Barack Obama insisted on Sept. 16 that his goal of doubling exports within five years was achievable, and was vital to repairing the fragile economy and U.S. manufacturing industry.

Obama set the target soon after taking office, drawing skepticism from some trade analysts, but he told his Export Council -- a group of key industry figures and officials -- that he would not back off the target.

He spoke as the council issued a report into its progress so far which noted that exports were up in the first four months of the year almost 18% from last year, though from a low base.

The report did not however lay out a timetable for implementing stalled free trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

"The more American companies export, the more they produce and the more they produce the more people they hire, and that means jobs," said Obama, who has spent the last few days highlighting his economic recovery plans.

"When I made this initial announcement, some were skeptical. But the truth of the matter is, is that if we are increasing our exports by 14%, 15% per year, something that is achievable, then we can meet our goal," he said.

"And that's one of the ways that we're going to make this economy in the 21st century what it was in the 20th century -- an unparalleled force for opportunity and prosperity for all our people."

The report suggested expanding government efforts to help U.S. businesses win more foreign government contracts and to attract customers across the world. It proposes that more foreign buyers should be enticed to U.S. trade shows and makes the case for extending more export credits to small and medium size businesses.

Critics of Obama's trade policy however complain that he has so far not done enough to reinvigorate free trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama which have yet to be ratified by the Democratic Congress. Officials said on Sept. 15 that Obama wanted to resolve the final areas of conflict with South Korea by the time he visits the key U.S. ally in November.

Some analysts believe that Obama will get political cover to push the agreements if Democrats who rely on the support of big labor unions, lose their congressional majorities to Republicans in November's elections.

The president, who critics often claim is "anti-business" earlier this year picked Boeing CEO Jim McNerney and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns to serve as co-chairs of the President's Export Council.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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