WASHINGTON (CN) – The key to job growth is increasing U.S. exports to other countries, which account for 95 percent of the world’s fastest-growing markets, President Obama said Wednesday. “When the playing field is even, nobody can beat us,” he said. “And we are better positioned than anybody – as uniquely positioned as ever – to compete with anyone in the world.”
Obama, flanked in the White House by Boeing president and CEO Jim McNerney and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, announced the relaunch of the President’s Export Council, which was created in 1973 to promote exporting U.S. goods and services. Obama is reforming the council to deliver on his State of the Union address promise to double U.S. exports by 2015.
In the first quarter of 2010, U.S. exports rose by almost 17 percent compared to the same quarter last year.
In 2008, American exports accounted for nearly 7 percent of all U.S. employment, supporting one in three manufacturing jobs and 10.3 million jobs overall.
While private sector created 600,000 jobs in the first half of this year, the economy is still reeling from the loss of 7.8 million jobs since December 2007. Currently, there are five unemployed workers for each job opening in the United States.
McNerney will serve as chair of the council and Burns will serve as vice chair. Walt Disney president and CEO Robert Iger, Pfizer chairman and CEO Jeff Kindler, Ford Motor Company president and CEO Alan Mullaly and Verizon chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg will also sit on the council.
Obama said the business leaders can offer “unfiltered advice and expertise on how best to promote American exports.”
The council also includes congressional leaders and administration officials.
Obama billed the export initiative as a way to push the United States ahead in the race against other countries for new markets.
“If we want to find new growth streams, we’ve got to better compete for those customers — because other nations are,” Obama said.
A year and a half ago, the United States controlled 2 percent of the advanced battery technology market, Obama said. But with government seed money to spur private investment, the United States is on track to own 20 percent of the global market by 2010 and 40 percent by 2015, he said.
The president also pushed for further investment in education and the nation’s infrastructure — roads, railways and a smart grid — to enhance worldwide competitiveness.
To bolster the U.S. export business, Obama said the government is going to “go to bat” for businesses that want to sell to foreign markets, including training officials at U.S. embassies and consulates to help potential exporters.
Obama also said the administration is focused on increasing access to export financing for small- and mid-sized businesses via the Export-Import Bank, breaking down global trade barriers, combating unfair trade practices and enforcing global trade agreements.
In March, the White House reached an agreement with China to reopen its market to American pork and pork products, and last month Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to allow American poultry to reenter Russian markets, which translates to more than $1 billion to U.S. businesses.
Obama said the council will meet every few months.