By:Leocadia l. Zak Issue: Collaborative Women Section:Jewel Of Collaboration
Though there are encouraging signs that the U.S. economy is on the rebound, many challenges remain to achieving full recovery. To address those challenges, President Obama has put forth an ambitious agenda for stimulating economic development and job growth. One of its important components is the National Export Initiative, which the President launched in his State of the Union Address in January. This initiative has the challenging goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years, which when achieved, will support as many as 2 million jobs for Americans.
With traditional drivers of economic growth, such as consumer and business spending, still weak we must look to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers located abroad for increased sales and export opportunities. To coordinate and support this effort the President created the Export Promotion Cabinet. This body is working to see that U.S. companies have more and better information about opportunities abroad, is devising ways to directly connect businesses with foreign customers, and is forcefully advocating their interests abroad to insure that American companies have free and fair access to foreign markets. There are also plans to provide greater access to credit through the Export-Import Bank of the United States, particularly to small and medium-sized exporters.
We must look to the 95 percent of the world's consumers located abroad for increased sales and export opportunities. As part of the effort to increase exports, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) recently launched the International Business Partnership Program, which directly addresses the President’s goal of connecting U.S. companies with new customers abroad. Under the program, USTDA will host over 30 reverse trade missions to the United States in 2010. These visits will connect foreign buyers with U.S. companies, allowing them to witness firsthand U.S. technology and innovation. They are specifically designed to create the conditions for collaboration and develop the relationships that are key to generating significantly increased exports to emerging economies. Using this approach, USTDA has achieved such notable results as opening the Brazilian market for U.S.-manufactured rail engines, facilitating the deployment of broadband internet access to much of east Africa, and providing India greater access to U.S. clean technology. These activities alone led to over $400 million in U.S. exports of goods and services to these countries and supported hundreds of jobs for Americans.
When I was in Denver recently, I met with industry representatives from throughout the state. Their energy and engagement impressed me, as did the Colorado state government’s support for efforts to expand exports. Toward that end, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade is working actively with federal agencies, such as the U.S. Export Assistance Center and the Small Business Administration, to find ways to support companies in their search for export opportunities.
USTDA hopes to make a significant contribution to these efforts through its International Business Partnership Program. In the coming year, the agency will bring a number of delegations from Latin America and the Caribbean to Colorado for meetings with officials from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and with the region’s companies that are expert in clean energy development. The goal of these visits is to give the delegates firsthand exposure to the latest technology and how it can be deployed to provide efficient and clean power generation in their countries. The anticipated result is that the visits will provide decision makers in these countries with the information they need to effectively pursue their energy development goals. In the process, relationships will be formed with Colorado firms which will position them to compete favorably for the sale of goods and services when power projects are implemented in these countries.
Perhaps of particular interest to small and medium-sized companies is the aspect of the National Export Initiative that addresses financing. Because commercial banks are sometimes unable to meet the credit needs of smaller firms, the President has called on the Export-Import Bank to increase financing for export-related activities available to these businesses by $2 billion over the next year. This should enable this important sector of the business community to compete more successfully for export opportunities and to make greater contributions to export generation.
Overarching the various components of the National Export Initiative is the Administration’s commitment to vigorously pursue free and fair trade through policies and agreements that eliminate trade barriers; enforce standards, such as those related to labor and environmental issues; and secure reciprocal benefits from our trading partners. President Obama recently said that it’s time for the United States to “go to bat for businesses and our workers.” The National Export Initiative is designed to achieve that mission and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency will, as a part of that initiative, continue to devise programs that open markets and create high-paying export-related jobs.
Ms. Zak received her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law.
Leocadia I. Zak serves as the Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency where she leads an agency dedicated to encouraging economic growth in emerging markets and the export of U.S. goods and services to those markets. After being nominated by President Obama in November 2009, Ms. Zak was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 10, 2010. She had served as Acting Director of the agency since January 20, 2009 and before that was the General Counsel (2000 – 2006) and Deputy Director (2006 – 2009) of USTDA.
Prior to joining USTDA, Ms. Zak was a partner in the Washington, D.C. and Boston offices of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. practicing in the areas of corporate, municipal and international finance. She served as counsel in connection with a variety of project finance transactions for energy, transportation, health care, telecommunications and tourism projects.
Ms. Zak was also an Adjunct Professor of Law and has taught “International Project Finance” at the Boston University School of Law, Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law Studies and at the Georgetown University Law Center.