WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. trade official on Friday acknowledged it will be hard to reach President Barack Obama's goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014, but said it was too early to give up.
"I still think we have a shot at it, but nobody is suggesting this is going to be easy," Commerce Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez told reporters.
Obama announced the National Export Initiative in his annual State of the Union speech in early 2010, on the heels of the global financial crisis that caused world trade to plummet.
He set a goal of doubling exports to more than $3 trillion in five years, from the sharply depressed level of $1.57 trillion in 2009.
U.S. exports soared about 17 percent in 2010 as the world economy recovered and grew by close to 15 percent in 2011.
But momentum faltered in 2012, as growth in emerging markets slowed and Europe remained in a slump. U.S. exports grew only about 5 percent to $2.21 trillion last year. While that dollar figure was a record, it still left an $800 billion gap to breach in just two years.
"There's some headwinds," Sanchez admitted. "But when the president set that goal he purposely set a stretch goal. He didn't want you guys to come say, 'Well, of course you could get that number. Who couldn't reach that?'"
Sanchez said the Commerce Department maintains a busy agenda of trade missions in support of the export agenda, and has been working with more than a dozen cities to help develop their own local export promotion programs.
The administration also remains optimistic of finishing negotiations with Japan and 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific on a free trade agreement by the end of the year, Sanchez said.
That pact, plus talks on a proposed agreement with the European Union that are expected to start in July, present a huge opportunity for U.S. exports, in part by helping to set global standards and regulatory norms, he said.
But Sanchez chided France for pressing to exclude cultural industries, such as film, from the pact before negotiations have even begun.
"We haven't even sat down at the table yet," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a blank slate and we've got to see what we can do."
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Matthew Lewis)
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