National Export Initiative
June 30, 2010 Federal Register - Requested Comments
By James R. Meenan
Experience Related to Comments Being Provided
For the past twenty years, I have been closely involved with assisting small and
minority businesses to expand their trade operations through gaining better
access to related Federal trade support programs. During that period, I have
- Twelve years on Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative’s
private sector trade policy advisory committee (ITAC/ISAC/and IFAC) representing
- Legislative Assistant for Trade with U.S. Senator Max Baucus; and
- Senior Trade Advisor to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business.
President Obama’s issuance of an Executive Order creating the National Trade
Initiative (NEI) was long overdue. As documented in a U.S. House Small Business
Committee Hearing on April 26, 2006 and follow-on reviews by seven Inspectors
General (see my Internet site for details at www.intl-trade-desk.org), the then
functioning Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) and its legislative
required National Export Strategy where sorely lacking in performance, clarity
and results. In fact, the review of the Federal Department receiving the largest
amount of trade promotion funding found that while that organization knew which
private institutions received those promotion funds, it did not know how the
funds were used or if any real trade expansion resulted from those expenditures.
In now moving forward, it is vital that a comprehensive NEI Plan be developed
that establishes real measurable goals that are to be achieved over its five
year period. These goals, along with their companion semi-annual and annual
benchmarks of performance, must be documented in advance in terms of the
qualitative and quantitative factors that will be measured so not only progress
can be measured but a true determination made that the goals have been achieved
and/or what shortfalls hindered their progress and achievement.
While, the TPCC
needs to work on establishing these performance goals for the overall NEI, it
must also insure that each member Federal organization's own NEI plans fit well
together and will in fact achieve the overall goals. Thus, each member's
submission must be put to a thorough test to determine if it adequately augments
the overall NEI and likewise has good clarity and sound performance benchmarks.
In past efforts, TPCC members would simply outline events they undertook during
the year and attempt to link them to some broad objective without much clarity
or being able to confirm what real trade improvements resulted. NOTE: I recently
had the pleasure to review the NEI Plan for a critical TPCC member. While the
organizations goals appeared sound and on target, they lacked clarity in regards
to spelling out what qualitative and quantitative factors would signal
achievement of those goals. More concerning, under its performance section, I
found it failed to establish any periodic benchmarks that would indicate if they
were on track to achieve the goals or not.
Most important to a successful NEI,
the Executive Office of the President must, this time, take an active role in
providing the leadership and oversight measures, including budgetary
reallocations were needed, to insure the Initiative goals are achieved in a
timely and fully documented manner. That Office will need to remain active in
promoting semi-annual and annual performance reviews of each TPCC member's NEI
Plans and be prepared to take all necessary corrective actions where needed.
It's this senior level oversight that in the past further impeded real trade
Over the years, I have found many Federal trade promotion efforts
that yielded good results. In many cases they were the direct result of
"INNOVATIONS" introduced by the employees running the programs whether they be
at Commerce, State, USAID, OPIC, Ex-Im Bank or SBA. It would be good if the NEI
could help foster new program innovations by encouraging enhance public/private
sector coordination to better insure the trade promotion efforts being offered
truly meet the exporters’ needs, particularly those of small, medium, and
(Based on U.S. House Small Business Committee
Hearing & Inspectors General Reviews) With the U.S. trade deficit in goods and
services running approximately $65 billion or more per month, so far in 2006,
the U.S. is well on its way to break the 2005 record annual trade deficit of
$724 billion. So far this year, through the end of February, the accumulated
U.S. trade deficit with China, alone, is somewhat worse, totaling $31.75
billion, up $2.63 billion from the same period in 2005.
Equally threatening is
the U.S. dependence on the inflow of foreign capital to finance these deficits
through the purchase of Federal debt instruments, which in turn lend support for
a strong dollar that continues this deficit to debt cycle.
Congress, in the
Export Enhancement Act of 1992, established the Trade Promotion Coordinating
Committee (TPCC) with two main purposes:
Two of the key duties assigned the TPCC were to:
- Providing a unifying framework to coordinate the export promotion and export financing activities of the U.S. Government; and
- Developing a government-wide strategic plan for carrying out federal export promotion and export financing programs.
Over the past 14 years, TPCC has had mixed results in fulfilling its Congressional
mandates. Without clear budgetary influence or a strong will to exert oversight
authority of the numerous federal entities that make up its members, currently
totaling 21, the TPCC’s impact on unifying the diverse U.S. trade promotion and
finance operations has been negligible.
- Assess the appropriate levels and allocation of resources among agencies in support of export promotion and export financing and provide recommendations to the President…and
- Coordinate official trade promotion efforts to ensure better delivery of services to U.S. businesses.
Our trading partners are well organized
and effectively market their small businesses in the expanding global markets,
particularly in China. With small businesses offering the best prospect to boost
export growth, we need to redouble our efforts to help them achieve this goal.
It is time the U.S. put some order into its federal trade promotion and financing operations through strengthening the TPCC by:
Building on the adverse findings from the April 2006 Hearing,
some seven Inspectors General were engaged to undertake specific federal
department reviews of the identified shortcomings.
- Elevating the TPCC to an Executive Office of the President level operation;
- Providing TPCC with budgetary input authority over the federal trade promotion and finance operations;
- Staffing TPCC directly or through detailed assignments to effectively perform oversight of the U.S. trade operations; and
- Linking the National Export Strategy with verifiable performance benchmarks to the annual federal budget submission.
Note: Corrective legislation HR 5196 was introduced
April 26, 2006
National Export Strategy
In September 2007, a Consolidated Inspectors General Report was issued covering the
Congressionally Mandated National Export Strategy and the operations of the U.S.
Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee.
In summary, the report concluded that
the National Export Strategy which had been submitted to Congress did not
clearly articulate a strategy, establish consistent goals for promoting exports,
align agency-specific strategic objectives with government-wide export promotion
strategic goals, or measure progress toward meeting those goals. To correct
these shortcomings, greater effort was needed by the Trade Promotion
Coordinating Committee to outreach to and engage all federal departments to
better prepare and implement a comprehensive strategy.
In March 2007, a Commerce Department Inspector General's Report was issued covering
the trade facilitation operations of the Department including its officers
assigned overseas, within the states, and at the multi-lateral development
In summary, the report highlighted the urgent need to manage the
identified trade leads so that U.S. businesses could better take advantage of
the business opportunities. It identified various disconnects within the federal
government that impeded the efficient and effective implementation of a sound
In February 2007, an Agriculture Department Inspector General's Report
was issued covering the use of the large trade promotion funding that has
been made available on a yearly basis.
In summary, the report documented the
fact, that while the Department knew which private organizations received the
funding provided for trade promotion, it was unable to document how the funds
were used or if any real results were achieved.