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The U.S. Aerospace Industry: Fueling Economic Growth

October 9, 2012

Francisco Sánchez is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade.

Photo caption: Under Secretary Sanchez helps cut the ribbon to officially open the Farnborough International Air Show in the U.K. in July.

Photo caption: Under Secretary Sanchez helps cut the ribbon to officially open the Farnborough International Air Show in the U.K. in July.

We recently celebrated National Aerospace Week, which is a time to look back and appreciate all the pioneers from this industry whose vision and determination literally helped our nation reach new heights — names like Wright, Earhart, Armstrong and Jemison.

This is also a time to enjoy the contributions this great industry makes today. Every time an aircraft is built, it benefits a wide-range of stakeholders, from the businesses that make the parts, to those who assemble and fly the planes. And it’s critical that public and private representatives partner together to maintain our global leadership in this industry by helping American aerospace companies export their products to markets all over the world.

This is important work because U.S. exports are playing a central role in our economic recovery. When a sale is made abroad, it brings back revenue to hire workers here at home. Last year, U.S. exports supported nearly 10 million jobs, an increase of 1.2 million since 2009. Exports also accounted for nearly half of our increase in GDP in 2011.

The aerospace industry played a big part in this growth; it had nearly $87 billion in export sales in 2011. Notably, it had the largest positive trade balance of any U.S. manufacturing industry: $66 billion.  It’s also played an important role in our nation’s economic recovery, which includes 31 straight months of private sector growth, resulting in roughly 5.2 million jobs.

Exporting also has a significant positive impact on wages, resulting in an average increase of 18 percent across U.S. manufacturing industries.  So increasing exports translates to stronger economic security for middle class families. We want to build on that momentum by continuing to push forward with the President’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

We need to do this in a number of ways. One is to get the word out to businesses – both small and large – that agencies like Commerce’s International Trade Administration are ready to help them seize these overseas opportunities.

Another way is to push for more federal investments in research and development and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, as well as for federal policies to ensure that U.S. industry continues to have a competitive edge in aerospace and aviation.

Finally, we must continue to raise awareness abroad, and showcase how products that are “Made in America” represent quality and value. That’s why earlier this summer I attended Farnborough Airshow in the U.K. where the U.S. pavilion showcased the best of the best of America’s aerospace industry. And in August, I met with aerospace companies in Arizona and Colorado to highlight the benefits of strengthening American manufacturing and expanding U.S. exports in order to create jobs.

When new opportunities arise, we need to make sure that this industry can compete on a level playing field. We can’t afford to leave any jobs on the table.  That’s why the Administration has continuously engaged Congress over many months, on both sides of the aisle, urging support for legislation to repeal Jackson-Vanik and extend permanent normal trade relations with Russia because it will help our economy.

Already, the American aerospace industry exports hundreds of millions of dollars in aircraft and parts to Russia each year. If Congress takes action, we’ll not only see the tariff reductions that are already on-track with Russia’s accession, but we’ll also have more tools that we currently lack to address non-tariff issues like intellectual property rights and to raise concerns if there are disputes and problems in Russia’s adherence to World Trade Organization rules.

Such actions will also reward the innovation that defines American companies – and America’s aerospace industry. It is why you see international airlines around the world flying planes built here in the United States.

This industry is part of what defines America – leadership, innovation, competitiveness and strength. Let’s build on that strength – and maintain our edge in the global economy – by continuing to support the industries that employ hard working Americans.