A federal committee responsible for coordinating U.S. exports failed to report and compile crucial information, according to a report released Wednesday from the Government Accountability Office.
This comes about three years after President Obama launched the National Export Initiative aimed at doubling U.S. exports over five years. The Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee assesses resources, needs and plans for federal exports.
“The interagency [TPCC] neither reports nor compiles information on how federal export promotion resources align with government-wide priorities,” said the GAO report.
“As a result, decision makers lack a clear understanding of the total resources dedicated across the country and around the world by TPCC member agencies to priority areas, such as increasing exports by small- and medium-sized businesses.”
Obama’s 2010 initiative prioritized small and medium-sized businesses that faced challenges in selling their products and services abroad, including a lack of information and difficulty obtaining financing.
Still, exports are on the rise.
Last week the Department of Commerce said U.S. exports grew to $191 billion in June, up from $187 in May. In the first six months of 2013 exports totaled $1.12 trillion, while imports to the U.S. fell by $13.1 billion during the same period.
The GAO report said that while the TPCC issued reports that outlined government-wide priorities and progress, they failed to discuss how resources are allocated. The last time the committee publicly reported a summary budget was in 2008.
“Despite the current emphasis on export promotion as a high-priority goal, recent strategies have provided less information on budget resources than have previous strategies,” the report said.
The report also said the TPCC had a difficult time identifying duplicative federal programs because the committee didn’t completely understand the costs of implementing them and the activities they support.
The TPCC said that while it generally agrees with the recommendations, the committee has little authority over budget reporting and resource distribution for the agencies it oversees. It cited the U.S. Agency for International Development’s decision to omit itself from the TPCC process as an example.
“This GAO report is further verification that federal trade agencies need better collaboration between our export programs so that small businesses can pursue new markets internationally,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Small Business Committee. “Many of the federal assistance trade programs overlap and offer duplicative services, including mirroring the same efforts as many individual state trade offices.”
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