LOS ANGELES - US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke on Tuesday encouraged small and medium-sized businesses to increase their exports to Asia and to China in particular.
In his keynote speech delivered at the Asia and Pacific Business Outlook (APBO) conference held at the University of Southern California, Locke said great efforts should be made to increase exports by US companies.
He said President Barack Obama had set a goal of doubling US exports in five years, and it was important for the US to win the future.
He said the more American companies exported, the more they produced. And the more they produced, the more American jobs would be created.
Locke said exports now supported 10 million jobs in America, including 700,000 in California. One in three manufacturing jobs and one in five agricultural jobs were tied directly to exports.
In addition, exports were a key driver of economic recovery in the past two years, accounting for nearly half US economic growth since 2009, he said.
Locke said more than 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the US, yet many small companies shied away from potentially lucrative overseas markets because they lacked capital, confidence or both.
He also said only 1 percent of small businesses in the US sold their products overseas. Of those that were exporting, more than half sold only to one market, with the focus on Canada and Mexico.
In fact, Asia and Europe had big markets and, if small and medium-sized companies in the country made efforts to export their products, more Americans would get well-paid jobs, he said.
Locke said US exports to Asia exceeded those to Europe for the first time last year, adding that the Asian economy was increasing dramatically and there was a huge potential market for US companies.
He said American companies were reluctant to export their products for a number of reasons. They had trouble getting financing, or were worried about how to get paid from overseas. They might not be familiar with the customs and ways to deal with foreign companies.
Locke said the Commerce Department could assist them with some of these issues and would provide all kinds of help for them to export their products.
"One thing is clear: for the American economy to produce millions of new jobs in the years ahead, small and medium sized businesses like yours must lead the way. And when you succeed, the entire American economy succeeds, all of the American people succeed," he said.
Locke is the first Chinese American to hold the position of US Secretary of Commerce. He is also the first Chinese American to be nominated US ambassador to China.
Asked which position is more challenging for him, Locke cautioned the nomination for US ambassador to China had not been approved by the US Senate yet, but he said both positions were challenging and exciting for him.