WASHINGTON — Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker unveiled the second phase of President Obama’s National Export Initiative on Tuesday, a key part of the President’s Made in America campaign that has helped bolster a resurgence of the U.S. textile and apparel industry.

This story first appeared in the May 14, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The new initiative, dubbed “NEI/NEXT,” will focus on helping to link companies to customers abroad, streamline government export services to lower costs, expand access to export financing, enhance partnerships with local and state leaders, open new market opportunities through trade agreements and enforce existing trade pacts.

The Obama administration has focused on the fashion industry in the past few years as part of its initiative of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Top officials have toured several U.S. apparel and textile factories across the country, promoting the industry, and the Commerce Department has placed an emphasis on linking U.S. textile producers with foreign buyers.

The efforts appear to have made an impact. Executives attending the two major industry events in the last month said they were bullish on Made in America and the growth in exports to the Western Hemisphere this year. U.S. yarn and fabric exports to the world rose 4.3 percent to $17.9 billion in 2013 from 2012. Exports to the Western Hemisphere free-trade partner countries grew 5.5 percent to $8.2 billion during that period. Apparel exports to the world rose to $5.8 billion in 2013.

Touting overall export growth since the launch of the NEI in 2010, Pritzker said, “We hit an all-time high of $2.3 trillion last year — up $700 billion from 2009.”

President Obama made increasing exports a top priority of his economic agenda in 2010 when he launched the NEI. At the time, the administration set a goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014, with 2009 as the baseline. To meet his five-year goal, exports would need to grow to $3.14 trillion by the end of this year from $1.57 trillion in 2009.

“As our economy keeps improving, we will continue working to make sure our businesses can compete on a level playing field, create more good jobs here at home and sell more Made in America products around the world,” Obama said Tuesday.

Pritzker said nearly one-third of the country’s growth since mid-2009 has been driven by exports, noting that the economy has added 1.6 million export-oriented jobs, bringing the total to 11.3 million, “the highest in 20 years,” she said.

She added that nearly 30,000 businesses have started exporting for the first time, “yet still too many American firms remain focused on domestic markets,” Pritzker said. “Less than 5 percent of our companies export and more than half of those sell to only one market. Clearly, for all the progress we have made, we have more work to do.”

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