March 11 marked the second anniversary of President Obama’s Executive Order 13534 which created the National Export Initiative (NEI). The President’s goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014 is on track, with exports increasing almost 16% last year to $2.1 trillion. Although the bar seemed high at the outset, the focused efforts of the Obama Administration through the National Export Council – which includes the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce, Labor, Energy, Agriculture, Treasury, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, as well as congressional and business leaders – is delivering. At the Export-Import Bank last year, for example, financing authorizations for exports grew 34% to $32 billion, with 85% of transactions to small and medium sized enterprises.
This is good news for all Americans because with exports come jobs and a more balanced economy based not only on domestic consumption but also on sales of products and services overseas since 95% of customers are outside our shores. And it is also good news specifically for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). Minority-owned firms are twice as likely to export, and we are seeing their success in communities across the country. In New York City, Los Angeles and Houston where there are high concentrations of AAPIs, exporting is up more than 20%.
When I spoke on February 28 to the Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Hong Kong Association of Washington, I met many of their members who have led Washington to become the most export-driven State in the U.S. The audience was a slice of America – a labor leader from Boeing, exporting farmers, small businesspersons, international bankers, the President of the African Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest, state economic development officers, and attorneys, among many others. All were interested in the NEI success and eager to trade updates on Asian export markets. The sentiment was much the same at two other February meetings with the Indonesian-American Association and with the San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
As the Obama Administration observes the anniversary of the NEI, opportunities for AAPIs could not be better, whether we are working in exporting, education, diplomacy and government, or the professions that support the NEI. Since NEI’s launch in 2010, the Obama Administration has done an outstanding job leading policy as well as outreach initiatives to the AAPI community. Congratulations and thanks to all those who through NEI are building bridges not only of trade but also of friendship.
Patricia M. Loui was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Board of Directors of The Export-Import Bank of the U.S.