WASHINGTON (CN) - President Obama signed an executive order aimed at narrowing the nation's multibillion-dollar trade deficit, calling on U.S. businesses to "up our game" on exports. "Ninety-five percent of the world's customers and the world's fastest-growing markets are outside our borders," he said.
"The fact is other countries haven't always played by the same set of rules," Obama said at a conference of the Export-Import Bank of the United States on Thursday. "America hasn't always enforced our trade rights, or made sure that the benefits of trade are broadly shared."
The United States is the largest exporter in the world, despite posting a nearly $700 billion trade deficit in 2008 and a $380 billion deficit in 2009. But as other nations grow more competitive, Obama told the audience of more than 1,000 business leaders: "We need to up our game."
In an effort to make good on his pledge to double U.S. exports over the next five years, Obama signed an executive order forming a trade panel and said his administration seeks to remove trade barriers and to lend to small- and medium-sized businesses expanding into foreign markets.
"Some of the biggest factors limiting a firm's decisions to export are the high upfront costs of establishing a foothold in a new market," he said.
The Export-Import Bank, which authorized $21 billion in loans to American companies last year, will expand its financing, having already promised $10 billion in loans this year.
The executive order forms an Export Promotion Cabinet consisting of heads of the departments of State, Treasury, Agriculture, Labor and Commerce.
The panel is charged with implementing pro-export policies and is scheduled to convene for the first time next month.
The White House says doubling exports would create 2 million American jobs, recuperating a portion of the more than 8 million jobs lost since the beginning of the recession.
Unemployment currently sits at 9.7 percent.
"We can't slide back into an economy where we borrow too much and put off tough challenges," the president said. "We have to rebuild our economy on a new, stronger, more balanced foundation for the future."
Obama is planning a trip to Indonesia and Australia next week, where he says he will highlight the benefits of open trade.
"If we combine our creativity, our innovation, and our eternal optimism, if we come together in common cause, as we have so many times before, we will succeed," Obama said. "We will define our destiny once again. And we will make this century another American century."
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