Why focus on international marketing and sales? Because your president tells you to! I missed this when he actually made the speech at a Ford factory on August 5, but my ears picked up when I heard this snippet in a story on NPR about overseas demand for American milk, and then went to look up more details. Here’s what President Obama said:
And it’s going to help us reach the goal that I set in my State of the Union address, which is we are going to double America’s exports of goods and services over the next five years. We’re tired of just buying from everybody else — we want to start selling to other people, because we know we can compete.
That’s how we’re going to grow our economy. That’s how we’re going to support millions of good jobs for American workers to do what they’ve always done: build great products and sell them around the world. Our workers can compete with anybody — and America is going to compete aggressively for every job out there and every industry out there and every market out there.
I read the full quote with mixed feelings. It is great to see Obama specifically encouraging selling to international markets, but the quality of the American workforce or American-made products is only part of what will lead to an increase in international sales. I wish that Obama had not positioned it this way, as if buying an American car is a direct reflection on the value of the Americans involved in building that car. If that were true, wouldn’t the corollary be that the citizens of countries with low exports have little value? Yet one of America’s founding principles is that all people are created equal – and high or low job output does not make it otherwise. This may make for rousing speech material, but I think it strikes an overly nationalistic tone won’t help international marketing at all.
So how I would have liked to see him say it? How about:
We know our products and services can compete in world markets on the basis of quality, so now it’s up to us to focus on leveling out the playing field in tariffs and trade regulations, and learning how to sell more effectively into foreign markets. It may be difficult for us to accept that we have to keep our markets open to foreign products and services in order to grow our sales in foreign markets, but that is part of the deal. And as much as we value our own citizens, we need to appreciate the cultures and environments in other countries in order to sell effectively into their markets. As our auto industry’s comeback demonstrates, part of the path to improved economy for the US lies in greater economic development and trade throughout the world. We must become a leader in global economic development.
In any case, perhaps we should remember the famous words of an earlier president, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” So, go out and sell to the rest of the world…