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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

U.S. Government Agencies Involved in Export Promotion: Overview and Issues for Congress

Shayerah Ilias, Coordinator
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Charles E. Hanrahan
Senior Specialist in Agricultural Policy

M. Angeles Villarreal
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

This report provides an overview of the federal government agencies that participate in U.S. export promotion efforts and the issues that they raise for Congress. The recent global economic downturn has renewed congressional debate over the role of the federal government in promoting exports. This debate has been heightened with the Obama Administration’s efforts to double U.S. exports under the National Export Initiative (NEI) and policy debates about possible reorganization of federal trade-related agencies. Some Members of Congress have placed greater priority on understanding the functions, coordination, and budgets of federal agencies involved in export promotion. Such an understanding may support increased congressional oversight of export promotion policy and related legislative activity.

Federal government agencies perform a wide variety of functions that contribute to export promotion, including providing information, counseling, and export assistance services; funding feasibility studies; financing and insuring U.S. trade; conducting government-to-government advocacy; and negotiating new trade agreements and enforcing existing ones.

Approximately 20 federal government agencies are involved in supporting U.S. exports directly or indirectly. Nine key agencies with programs or activity directly related to export promotion are the Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Commerce, Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank), Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Small Business Administration (SBA), Department of State, Trade and Development Agency (TDA), Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and Department of the Treasury. The USDA has the largest level of export promotion funding, followed by Commerce. Some agencies charge fees for their services.

Coordination of export promotion activities is conducted through interagency bodies. In 1992, Congress attempted to enhance coordination of U.S. export promotion policy by creating the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), an interagency task force chaired by the Department of Commerce. The TPCC releases the National Export Strategy (NES), an annual report that serves as an effort to guide federal export promotion policy, goals, and activity. Executive Order 13534, issued in March 2010, formalized the NEI and established the Export Promotion Cabinet, a higher level coordinating body that is to work with the TPCC to make the NEI operational.

The export promotion activities of federal government agencies raise a number of issues for Congress; among the most prominent are the following:

  • The economic arguments for and against the involvement of the U.S. government in promoting exports in the context of issues such as market failures and foreign governments’ support for their national exports; 
  • The effectiveness of interagency export promotion coordination through the TPCC and the Export Promotion Cabinet; 
  • The level of U.S. government spending on export promotion; its adequacy and efficiency of use; and 
  • The extent to which the export promotion activities conducted by federal government agencies may be similar or overlapping, and could be reorganized. 

Date of Report: January 31, 2013
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R41495
Price: $29.95

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