Salt Lake City conference calls exporting called good investment for Utah’s economy
May 22, 2009
That was the message of the Zions Bank eighth-annual International Trade and Business Conference at the Downtown Marriott on Wednesday.
Held in conjunction with World Trade Week, the event highlights the importance of global business in the state’s economy and promotes exporting of Utah’s goods and services.
Last year, Utah exported over $10.2 billion in goods and services. That was a 32 percent increase over 2007, according to Zions Bank president and CEO Scott Anderson. It was a 118 percent increase over 2004, according to Rick Wade, senior advisor and deputy chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Commerce.
That’s good, but more is better, an assortment of speakers asserted.
The Department of Commerce is committed to helping businesses expand into foreign markets, Wade said. It can be a daunting task for small businesses and most in Utah are small but there are a plethora of public and private organizations standing ready to help.
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Salt Lake City has an "export assistance center" among other resources to guide businesses through every step in the export process, Wade said.
"U.S. companies still lead the world in technology, innovations and entrepreneurship," he said. "It’s important to take advantage of every opportunity to increase export-driven growth."
He estimated that about 37,000 Utah jobs are supported through foreign investments.
Wade said the Obama administration is committed to furthering world trade. Top priorities now are establishing free trade agreements with Panama, Columbia and Korea.
Establishing those agreements is a "no brainer" said Douglas Goudie, director of international trade policy for the National Association of Manufacturers.
Goudie said there’s a lot of false information disseminated about the status of American manufacturing industries. Contrary to claims that foreign imports are killing manufacturers, 23 percent of goods and services consumed in the world are built in America.
It accounts for 13 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and funds the majority of the world’s research and development, he said. In fact, American manufacturing recently hit an all-time high.
Global trade isn’t hurting the industry, it is actually helping, he said. One in six manufacturing jobs rely on the export of the product. With the 16 nations that we have trade agreements with, there’s actually a total trade surplus, not a trade deficit.
The proposed free trade agreements with Panama, Columbia and Korea could be worth $250 million to Utah companies, he said.
"No U.S. company is going to be threatened by imports from Panama," he said.
Yet despite leading the world in technological innovations, as Wade said, America is falling behind other industrialized nations in exports. The nation’s production-to-export ratio puts it at dead last of all major manufacturing countries, Goudie said.
If that ratio improves to just the average of the other nations, it would erase the country’s trade deficit.
This is tough information for many Americans to digest because they see factories closing and people losing their jobs on the news all the time. As real as that is, there are many more jobs and companies created every year because of free trade.
"But they’re too diffused to do a television special," he said.
Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. accepted the award for "Internationalist of the Year" at the conference.
He said his administration has worked to promote innovation with "laser-like focus," to build a framework supporting a marketplace accommodating to entrepreneurs and to make exporting an market penetration understandable to small businesses.
"It’s about creating jobs, not losing in a world marketplace," he said. "This is a state that is capable of achieving preeminence in nearly every category."
He said he’s proud of the teacher exchanges and trade missions that have taken place with Mexico, Canada, India and China.