Taking the Initiative

March 27, 2010
Assistant Secretary Fernandez With Business Leaders in Miami

About the Author: Jose W. Fernandez serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs.

I started my tenure as Assistant Secretary for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs on December 1, 2009, eager to engage America's economic partners and promote economic security and prosperity at home and abroad. This position clearly requires wide collaboration around a number of complex issues. Nowhere is this more apparent than in promoting President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI).

On Monday, March 22 at 10 locations around the United States, senior officials helped launch the NEI with presentations, press conferences, and business roundtables. I was fortunate to go to Miami, a city that has been hard hit by the economic downturn but is home to many dynamic internationally oriented companies. My goal was to increase awareness of the initiative and to learn from the experiences of local businesses. The Miami participants did not disappoint, as they were more than willing to share their perspectives and offer suggestions to help.

The scope of the NEI is ambitious. The President has called on multiple U.S. agencies, including the Departments of State and Commerce, to forge a government-wide export-promotion strategy. We will be applying all available resources to reach the goal of getting people into jobs that provide security and prospects for increased earnings. With government and business working together, I am confident that the NEI goals are achievable. Businesses of all sectors and sizes, not only in South Florida but throughout the U.S., can fuel the engines of economic recovery through increased exports.

Companies looking for new export markets also can call 1-800-USA-TRADE for assistance. For financing opportunities through the U.S. Export-Import Bank, check out www.exim.gov. The Small Business Administration is also a great resource, www.sba.gov. It's a source of information on U.S. trade and has helpful tools to help American businesses sell their goods and services overseas tools.

I look forward to any comments you may have.



Not N.
March 30, 2010

N.N. in Canada writes:

I moved to Canada recently and understandably did not move with all my property; acquired over ten years of living in the US. I spent thousands of dollars to become a Canadian resident only to be told at the US embassy that my ties in the US were too strong and as such, I could not be granted a visa to enter the US that I had vacated 2 months prior to that.

Are your policies so inflexible that your front line associates are not permitted to make decisions on their own? If I wanted to live illegally in the States, would I really have troubled myself with the process of immigrating to Canada?

Secretary Clinton, change takes time, but the immigration policies of the United States are long overdue for an overhaul. I twice graduated from US universities and yet was unable to legally become a resident over a ten year span. It took less than 18 months to do that with Canada, and that's while I was living in the States.

Now of course the bulk of my property is being held hostage inside your borders.

Most disheartening.

April 13, 2010

B. writes:

Current inertia in US immigration policy is making US inaccessible for those who are capable and willing to do long term creative business here and grow economy in and around US. If US immigration was as easy as getting a plane ticket and flying around, then the tendency of intelligent people will be to export whatever good things they have elsewhere and try to bring it into US in order make more profit. In short, help US stay ahead of rest of the world in pretty much all areas that matters to modern civilization.

Instead, US immigration today is perceived as a costly affair. Young graduates have to spend a decade or two just to get their Legal Permanent Residence, then worry about getting a house, save something and then finally think creatively about growing new businesses and adding value to the economy. In short, its perceived as not being worth it. Now this problem is most acute for China / India (two leading competitors in areas where US was a leader not so long back). For rest of the world, it appears like immigration is slightly better with dates being current most of the time in Employment Based Green Card at least. But in those countries, there are not that many people with technical skills who wish to immigrate to US and add value. Their numbers is insignificant for large scale transformation. We may have one Steve Jobs but there are several Vinod Khosla's.

In short, the inability of skilled immigrants from India and China to come over to US and add value means they stay back and try to use their energies in their home countries. Result is that growth engine - its center of gravity - is slowly shifting away from US to rest of the world. Another 5-15 years the changes will have such a marked difference that coming long term to US could cease to be a compelling reason.

Putting all these together, its clear that US immigration has reached some sort of critical path or will reach in next few years. Once the perception in China / India changes, the flow will reduce but so will the business momentum, new research and growth opportunities. Once the key attractive things that made USA a top destination starts to happen in India / China, then other countries will be hard pressed to stay equally attractive. Look at EU. How many people feel like immigrating from developed parts of EU to US ? The numbers are hardly comparable to India / China.

Future modern power lies in size of the market and capacity of consumers to absorb - the kind of capacity shown by US in 1980s that made the revolution happen in IT sector. If US yields that position to other low cost economies with certain advantages, even a very free immigration policy will not help. Only low skilled people will flock into US in that case. The skilled ones will choose to stay back due to the same reason.


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