President Obama made an eyebrow-raising claim in his January State of the Union address: he wants to double U.S. exports in five years. That is, to say the least, ambitious, and it was met with wide skepticism. On Thursday, the White House unveiled their plan for doubling exports. Many commentators are far from convinced, but even the skeptics seemed impressed by the plan's bold but measured provisions. Here's the proposal and what people are saying about it.
- Obama's Plan The Washington Post's Howard Schneider reports that it "includes $2 billion in new export financing through the Export-Import Bank, which helps U.S. companies finance overseas sales; establishment of a Cabinet group to promote U.S. goods and services abroad; and an expanded role for the Nixon-era President's Export Council, to be chaired by W. James McNerney, Boeing's president and chief executive. Restrictions on the overseas sale of some high-end technology goods may also be eased." He says it relies on the dollar not becoming too strong and on developing free trade agreements.
- Easier Than It Sounds Foreign Policy's Annie Lowrey notes that U.S. exports have long risen at a high rate, and the recession lowers the goal posts. "The average five-year increase is around 140 percent. Still, Obama's plan to double the number by 2015 does not seem so far-fetched. For one, trade has fallen due to the recession, meaning the United States needs to double a lower-than average number."
- It's All About Free Trade ABC News' Karen Travers writes, "Analysts say that achieving this goal without enacting any of the outstanding free trade agreements will be difficult and don't see any substantial commitment from the White House to push those deals to completion." Stalled trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama could make or break Obama's exports goals.
- It's All About National Security The Economist says the "most significant" provision "responds to complaints that national security controls interfere with exports. The current system will be replaced with a one-time notification. The review time would drop to 30 minutes from the current one-to-two months for 85% of the 3,300 affected products. Standards governing how exporters allow foreigners to handle products with potential military applications will be simplified."
- Cotton, Brazil and Free Trade Conservative think tank Heritage Foundation insists that the U.S. cotton subsidies harm our trade relationship with Brazil, which could be the "poster child" for doubling exports. "If we're seeing the beginnings of a trade war between the United States and Brazil, the United States fired the first shot." Because the U.S. does not end its cotton subsidies and open trade with Brazil, "international hopes for a renewal of the United States' traditional commitment to trade liberalization were dashed yet again."