December 2, 2009 / 9:42 PM / 9 years ago

Group urges Obama set goal of doubling exports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States should set a goal of doubling exports over the next five years, a U.S. business group urged President Barack Obama ahead of a White House jobs forum Thursday.

“Ninety-five percent of the potential consumers of American goods and services live outside the United States,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in an open letter to Obama.

“We can create millions of good American jobs by pursuing the achievable goal of doubling our exports to those consumers in five years, and then doing it again,” the group said.

The United States is on track to export about $1.5 trillion worth of goods and services this year, down sharply from a record $1.83 trillion in 2008 as a result of the global financial crisis which caused a collapse in trade.

On a monthly basis, exports have rebounded from a low of $121 billion in April to $132 billion in September.

But that’s well below the record of $164 billion set in July 2008 under former President George W. Bush, whom Democrats frequently accused of disastrous trade policies because the U.S. trade deficit expanded hugely during his tenure.

Obama and other top administration officials have stressed the need for the United States to export more to put it on a path to more sustainable economic growth.

But “they haven’t embraced any goals ... We’re going to continue making the case for a specific goal because we think it has a galvanizing effect,” John Murphy, a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Reuters.

The jobs forum with CEOs, labor leaders, small business owners and others will include a session on how the United States can “continue to take advantage of the rebound in global trade and how to change the tide from consumption driven to export driven growth,” the White House said.

In a separate letter Wednesday, Senator Charles Grassley urged Obama to make approval of free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama negotiated by the Bush administration part of his agenda.

Those agreements have languished at the White House because of opposition from many congressional Democrats.

With Americans now saving more U.S. business rely more on exports to sustain and grow sales, Grassley said.

The Iowa Republican noted that exports account for less than 10 percent of U.S. economic output, but are a “double digit percentage of GDP for Canada, South Korea, Mexico, China, Russia, Japan and the European Union.”

“The point is, we have room for improvement, and that starts with seizing the opportunities at hand,” he said.

Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Alan Elsner

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