Exports: Maine, Performing. Manufacturers, Underperforming?

A round-up of trade related news that mentions the National Association of Manufacturers:

Pat Mears, NAM’s director for international commercial affairs, spoke at the 2010 Trade Conference in Rockport, Me. The Bangor Daily News reported, “Maine looking to Canada, Asia for growth“:

Domestic demand is going to be slow in the U.S. Real growth is outside of the U.S.,” she said during her talk. “Ninety five percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States.”

As for Maine, Mears said it is in a unique position. Most states, she said, do not have an international view of the world, but because Maine shares a border with Canada, Maine companies tend to think out-side of country lines already.

“Maine should be doing what Maine is doing,” she said. This includes working on exporting natural resources, working on wood composites and creating international ties.

Gov. John Baldacci also spoke. From his office, “Governor Unveils New Investment Initiative“:

ROCKPORT – Governor John E. Baldacci today unveiled a new Foreign Direct Investment initiative at the 30th Maine International Trade Day event held at the Samoset Resort.

The initiative will focus on increasing investments in Maine’s renewable energy and advanced materials fields, enhancing Maine’s capacity to be a center of excellence in wind energy, composites and advanced materials. The initiative will attract investments in business and R&D, further strengthening Maine’s internationally active, exporting companies and supporting the State’s universities.

Diagonally across the country in San Diego, Michele Nash-Hoff, president of ElectroFab Sales, reports on a speech by the Commerce Department’s point person for manufacturing. From “Can U. S. exports be doubled in five years?“:

Nicole Lamb-Hale, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services, would answer “yes” to this question—if manufacturers diversify their sales in multiple markets and take advantage of the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration programs to help them.

“While the U.S. is a major exporter, we are underperforming,”  said Lamb-Hale at the Pathway to Manufacturing Prosperity conference held last week by Industry Week and New Equipment Digest. “Currently, less than one percent of American’s 30 million companies export outside the U.S.  There’s great potential for improvement.”

Before charging American manufacturers with “underperforming,” Lamb-Hale would do well to acquaint herself with her own department’s foreign trade regulations administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).

We’ll assume the assistant secretary’s comments are not a shot at manufacturers, and we look forward to reading her speech for context. Suffice it to say, the Administration could help manufacturers perform if it submitted the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama to Congress and pushed for their enactment. Those agreements have been negotiated, agreed to, are ready to go and could pass.

The pending FTA’s are certainly much further along than the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a worthy initiative from the Administration but still in its early stages. (Here’s a novel approach: A listening tour!) The Wall Street Journal covers the nascent TPP today, “US Tries To Build Consensus For Trans-Pacific Trade Talks.” The NAM’s Vice President for International Economic Affairs Frank Vargo is quoted.

Frank has recently been in an information-packed exchange with Global Trade Watch, a group that supports trade in theory but rarely in practice. Brad Peck covers the debate at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s blog, the Chamber Post, “Trade and Facts Win — Will the Economy?.” Brad tips his hat to GTW’s Todd Tucker for recent reasonable comments but then locates this paragraph from a 2004 essay Tucker wrote on “Chávez, Venezuela and US Reaction:”

The success of the global struggle against neo-liberalism and imperialism will depend on the ability of counter-hegemonic efforts to survive and present compelling alternatives to neo-liberal globalization. Part of this struggle necessarily involves defending state actors who are able to harness the power of the state apparatus for development and to show the possibility of pursuing more independent paths. Like other instances in the hemisphere’s history, the US Empire is most threatened by the power of example of successful, independent states. International solidarity is crucial to the ongoing success of this democratic, development-oriented example.

Hah! Since then Chavez’s counter-hegemonic efforts have produced 30 percent annual inflation and a wave of expropriations and human rights abuses.

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