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Friday, March 12, 2010

Obama's export plan imports Europe's corporatism

I attended the annual conference of the Export-Import Bank, and what I saw wasn't pretty. My column today paints the picture:
"Germany is the model."
General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeff Immelt, opening for President Obama at the annual conference of the federal export-subsidy agency, phrased Obama's industrial policy in terms that were not quite as focus-grouped as the president's.
Immelt was at the Export-Import Bank's conference rallying the troops behind Obama's National Export Initiative, aimed at doubling U.S. exports in five years. Immelt praised Germany and Japan's policies of "government and business working as a pack."
The GE CEO lamented that "for so long, we've said, 'It just doesn't matter. Let whatever happens happen.' "
But in Germany, Immelt pointed out, Chancellor Angela Merkel huddles with corporate leaders and says, "Let's kick some rear." The Germans exhibit stronger "public will" and national "vision," Immelt says. "The companies roam as a pack. They stick together. And the government supports the companies to be exporters."...
"If we stand on the sidelines," the president said Thursday, "while they [China and Germany] go after those customers, we'll lose out on the chance to create the good jobs our workers need right here at home. That's why standing on the sidelines is not what we intend to do. ... We need to up our game."
By "up our game," Obama largely means increase government subsidies for exporters -- greater taxpayer funding for export promotion programs, new "public-private partnerships" and more aggressive government advocacy.

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