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Mayors Promote Increased Exports; Port Modernization

By Dave Gatton
January 28, 2013

Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez called on a continued partnership with the nation’s mayors and cities to help meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015. Addressing the January 19 Metro Mayors Exports and Ports Task Force at the 81st Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington (DC), Sanchez reviewed the various programs available to businesses through the International Trade Administration to expand exports. He called on mayors to help convene companies, universities, and business organizations to create regional export strategies that would expand the number and size of export markets.

Task Force Vice-Chair Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, who presided over the session, highlighted the Conference of Mayors Export-Ready Metro Challenge, launched last year by Past Conference of Mayors President Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Partnering with the Brookings Institution, the Challenge encourages mayors to develop tailored metro export strategies using a variety of tools developed by Brookings, including a “How-To” Guide on creating a metro export plan.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States

Export-Import Bank Chairman and President Fred Hochberg outlined the various achievements and new programs of the Bank, particularly for small and medium sized businesses. He told the mayors that in FY 2012, the Bank had financed over $35.7 billion of exports, a fourth straight record breaking year; supported $50 billion of export sales; and $6.1 billion in small-business authorizations. Eighty-five percent of total agency transactions benefit small businesses and the Bank achieved a 16.5 percent increase in authorizations for minority and woman-owned businesses.

Hochberg described how the bank had developed new risk and credit products to meet unique export needs. The Express Insurance program provides a five-day turnaround for first-time customers; the Supply Chain Financing increases liquidity for small companies that are suppliers to U.S. exporters; the Renewable Express program provides project financing for small'scale renewable-power projects; and the bank’s Small Business Web Portal makes it easier to understand how export finance transactions work.

He told the mayors that the bank was holding Global Access Forums across the country in cities to educate businesses on the export financing tools available to them through the bank.

Modernizing Nation’s Ports

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Director Steven Stockton reviewed the breadth and scope of the nation’s system of ports and inland waterways. He emphasized, as he did in the Task Force’s national forum in Jacksonville last year, that the widening of the Panama Canal could significantly alter global shipping patterns because ports would be required to have a depth of 50 feet to accommodate dramatically larger ships. The new canal is now scheduled to open in 2015. The Administration has funded five ports to begin their modernization to meet this challenge.

At the same time, Stockton painted a less than optimistic picture of future funding of Corps projects in all categories, compared to the overall system’s modernization needs. He said the Corps’ budget had essentially remained flat over the last few years.