While China, India, Brazil and other rapidly developing countries are booming markets for exports, Canada and Mexico are still the U.S.’s strongest trade partners, said Suresh Kumar, the top official for the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service.
“Just our exports to Canada alone are two and half times our exports to China and more than our total exports to China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore combined,” said Mr. Kumar, who is director general of the commercial service and an assistant secretary of commerce.
After meeting with a venture capital group and local exporters in Atlanta, Mr. Kumar sat down with GlobalAtlanta at the offices of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Midtown.
As the trade promotion arm of the Commerce Department, the service works to help U.S. companies increase exports and enter new markets. With 109 domestic offices and 128 offices abroad, the organization provides a range of services, including helping businesses plan for international expansion and identifying potential business partners abroad.
Mr. Kumar credited the North American Free Trade Agreement, which eliminated all tariffs between Mexico, Canada and the U.S., with robust trade. It also allows manufacturers in the U.S. to easily partner with its neighboring countries.
“Sharing a common border as we do with both Mexico and with Canada also allows us to look at these markets as part of an embedded supply chain,” Mr. Kumar told GlobalAtlanta.
U.S. exports to these partners were valued at $411.5 billion in 2010, a 23.4 percent increase from 2009. Since Nafta’s implementation in 1994, the value of exports to Mexico and Canada has increased 190 percent.
“We think Nafta was the right thing to do and a step in the right direction,” said Mr. Kumar.
President Obama‘s administration is currently promoting the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement, the largest free-trade deal since Nafta, which narrowly passed in Congress in 1993.
In early December, the administration agreed to a revised trade deal with Korea. Neither this agreement nor pending deals with Colombia and Panama have been put to a vote in Congress.
“It is our hope and our intent that (Colombia and Panama agreements) will very quickly pass soon after the Korea one goes through,” said Mr. Kumar.
He added that it is in the country’s best interest for Congress to pass these trade deals and that the Korea agreement alone would add $10 billion in exports and create 70,000 jobs in the U.S.
More than a year ago, the president announced the National Export Initiative, a plan to double U.S. exports by 2014 by removing trade barriers and helping small businesses enter new markets.
Mr. Kumar said the U.S. is on its way to doubling exports, with 17 percent growth in the first 12 months. To reach the goal, exports need to increase by 15 percent each year.
“We are very pleased with the results but also conscious it’s only the first of five years and much is required to be done,” said Mr. Kumar.
For more information, visit http://trade.gov/cs/.