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Brookings and Metro Areas Develop Job-Supporting Export Strategies

Two years into the Obama Administration’s National Export Initiative, the United States is on track to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. In 2011, overall U.S. goods and services exports exceeded $2.1 trillion. U.S. exports have increased at an annualized rate of 15.6 percent – a pace greater than the 15 percent required annually to meet the President’s goal.

And according to a new Brookings Institute study released last week, “Export Nation 2012”, U.S. metropolitan areas are driving national export growth and jobs supported by trade. The metro areas of New York NY -Newark NJ, Los Angeles-Long Beach CA, Chicago-Naperville-Joliet IL, and Dallas-Forth Worth-Arlington and Houston TX were the top five ranking areas for export-supported jobs. According to Brookings, in terms of job creation, the rapid growth of U.S. export sales translated into significant job gains in 2010, with the United States adding 600,000 new export-supported jobs. This means job gains not only in the exporting industries themselves, but also for the suppliers to the exporting sector ,as well as the transportation and wholesale trade businesses hauling merchandise exports around the country.

Midwestern metros in particular experienced most of their export growth from manufacturing industries. In Milwaukee-Waukesha WI and Youngstown OH, for example, manufacturing contributed more than 90 percent of the metro export sales growth in the first year of recovery 2009-2010, in the leading industries of machinery and transportation equipment.

At the Brookings Export Nation forum, Deputy Assistant USTR for Small Business Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness Christina Sevilla met with city and state officials who are developing customized strategies to power their local economies through exports based on Brookings findings - including exports by small U.S. companies into big foreign markets being opened by new U.S. Free Trade Agreements. Carlos Valderrama , Senior Vice President at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, remarked that his region’s strategy includes targeting export-ready firms to enter markets where the U.S. has negotiated Free Trade Agreements. Mr. Valderrama notes that California companies are “targeting the Pacific Rim and Latin American countries where the U.S. has more than 15 FTAs. This is a great advantage for us, since our exporters want to do business with countries where we have the umbrella of an international agreement,” since the FTAs open the foreign market to U.S. goods and services and help ensure that foreign governments play by the rules.

Katie Clark, Executive Director of the Minnesota Trade Office, sees small companies in the Minneapolis –St. Paul area benefitting from trade with large new FTA partners like Korea. Ms. Clark noted that the Governor’s recent trade mission to Seoul helped Earth Clean, a small Minneapolis-based company that makes biodegradable fire retardants, make a $4.3 million sale to a Seoul-based distributor. Ms. Clark said, “we would like to see even more small Minnesota businesses like Earth Clean sell products in Korea.”