A bruised and battered U.S. consumer isn't going to drag us out of this poor economy, and no amount of federal spending or patchwork supports to keep them in homes that keep plummeting in value is going to change that. The consumers we need are overseas - where markets are growing.
"Overseas markets are ripe for American products," says Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, who likes to repeat the mantra that 95 percent of customers are abroad.
The administration has given lip service to the importance of this fact - the President says he wants to double exports. But the only three free-trade agreements now before Congress - with South Korea, Colombia and Panama - have yet to move forward, trapped in negotiations over spending more money on trade adjustment assistance. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the South Korea deal alone would result in an estimated net increase in American exports of up to $4bn in its first decade. No magic bullet, but nothing to sneeze at either.
Meanwhile, economies around the globe are forging deals with each other. As Timmons notes: "There are 120 free trade agreements being negotiated. We're party to one. We're getting our clocks cleaned."
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