Repositioning on World Trade: Initiatives Not Enough

By April 5, 2010General, Trade

WT100, a publication dedicated to global supply chains, reports a cover story on the Obama Administration’s trade policy, “A New Administration, a New Trade Policy,” noting the mixed signals that come from promoting a pro-trade National Export Initiative while failing to act on pending free trade agreements.

Pat Mears, director of international commercial affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers, is interviewed welcoming the emphasis on exports, saying, “It’s taken a long time.”

Mears said that while the U.S. is still the most productive manufacturing nation in the world, it is dead last among what she described as “the 16 major export nations” in terms of the percentage of production sold to foreign markets. “Clearly, as the president said, we have to get on our game, but I think to do that we’re really going to have to change the culture,” Mears said. “While many companies have been aggressive in finding markets abroad, I think there’s still this feeling that we’re a large, continental economy, and as a result the best place to seek opportunities is within our own borders.

“By contrast, look at Europe, where because of relative size of their home countries, businesses seem to have exports and exporting in their DNA,” she continued. “To compete successfully with such an ingrained philosophy, we need the administration to provide the leadership and continue driving the export message home.”

Mears’ NAM portfolio includes China trade, and she comments:

[The] up and down nature of U.S-China relations is something companies involved in trade in Southeast Asia are just going to have to deal with.

“Frankly, I think this is simply the way this relationship is going to be,” Mears said. “In part, that’s a result of the economic downturn. While the rest of the world suffered and the U.S. economic model, a model based on credit, unwound, they did fairly well by comparison.

“As a result, there’s a feeling in China that ‘this is our moment’ and ‘we are the resurgent superpower.’ That comes with a lot of complications for them and anyone dealing with them,” she added.

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