4 Questions with Suresh Kumar
Position: Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Director General of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service
Role: Working with the International Trade Administration in leading the National Export Initiative, a federal effort to increase exports among U.S. businesses.
What is the goal of the National Export Initiative?
Our first goal is clear-cut: to double exports within five years. In doing that, our second goal is to support 2 million good paying jobs here at home. The fact is that 95 percent of potential consumers live outside of the United States. For most European countries, 20 percent
or more of their GNP comes from their exports, while ours make up only 13 percent of the GNP. We have the products, we have the services, we have the inventiveness and we have the technology, so there is no reason we should not export more to other countries. Less than one percent
of U.S. companies export, and 58 percent of all U.S. exporters only sell to one market. American products and services are in demand worldwide; several of the best known brands are American, and consumers seek a "made in the USA" product, which has a cachet that is stronger than
ones made elsewhere. Also, with the Internet, improvement in logistics and the many export services available, exporting is more viable than ever for even the smallest companies.
How does the NEI benefit manufacturers?
We advocate for big companies, but our specialty is supporting small and medium-size companies that often have fewer resources for international business development. We have people who know how to export and know the various markets both domestically and internationally. We
do matchmaking very well, connecting small businesses to other businesses outside of the United States.
How will selling more products internationally help manufacturers' bottom lines?
You fish where the fish go and, right now, the largest source of consumers are outside the United States, not only adjacencies--markets close to us with the same cultures and laws, which provide an easy opportunity--but even beyond. The Brazils, the Chinas, and the Indias are
growing--and with that comes a growing middle class. These markets now have the buying power, and they seek out American products. Minnesota is a wonderful mix of well-known American companies and rural communities. The economy in Minnesota is also more resilient than elsewhere
around the country, so I think there is a lot going for the people of Minnesota. We want to provide the additional push. Despite the worldwide economic situation, we see some good trends. Minnesota export sales are up 20 percent in the first quarter of 2010 as compared with the same
period last year, so companies continue to see the importance of international diversification.
Where can manufacturers turn for guidance in beginning or expanding export operations?
We encourage companies to contact our U.S. Export Assistance Center in Minnesota at 612-348-1638 or by visiting www.trade.gov/cs. This office is part of our worldwide network of locations in 109 U.S. cities and more than 77 countries. We have trade specialists who know the
export domains, who know the documentation and who really understand the industries. They also have the ability to quickly assess what each company needs so they can connect each company with the right markets. Also, businesses can take advantage of our Trade Information Center in
Washington, D.C., by calling 1-800-USA-Trade.