20100707 obama exports 18
President Barack Obama is joined by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, left, and Boeing Company Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney to announce the creation of the President's Export Council and to talk about his administration's promotion of exports in an attempt to grow the economy and support jobs in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. - 


JEREMY HOBSON: Well last year at the State of the Union, President Obama said he wanted to double U.S. exports over the next five years.

Let's check in on how that's going. Here's Marketplace's John Dimsdale in Washington.

JOHN DIMSDALE: Thanks to strong economic recoveries in developing countries, U.S. exports rose 17 percent during the first 11 months of 2010. John Murphy at the Chamber of Commerce says trade is the one bright spot for companies right now.

JOHN MURPHY: The U.S. consumer is struggling with debt and the housing crunch has also sapped demand domestically. That means you're pretty much left with foreign demand.

To encourage more exports, President Obama called on lawmakers to approve pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea. But those deals are stalled in Congress.

Clyde Prestowitz was a trade official in the Reagan administration. He says over time, Congress has grown skeptical of the economic benefits of trade agreements.

CLYDE PRESTOWITZ: In the wake of each one of these deals, the U.S. trade deficit has gotten bigger and the U.S. job creation has not been what was projected.

Plus, labor unions worry that freer trade with emerging markets will undermine salaries and working conditions in this country. And some companies resist competing with waves of cheaper imports. With opposition like that, the president may have to reach his export goal without new trade agreements.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.