CNN February 25, 2010 Thursday
SHOW: AMERICAN MORNING
ROBERTS: Welcome back to the most news in the morning. More now in our special investigation into your broken government. And our Carol Costello is looking today at trade. Last year, the United States bought more from other countries than we sold.
How much? More than $380 billion, according to the folks at the Census Department. So what's the fix? Some economic experts say adjusting free trade agreements. Carol Costello is in Baltimore this morning to find out why.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As one economist put it, it's the trade deficit, stupid, as long as imports outweigh exports, countries like China will continue to boom while the United States continues to struggle.
President Obama has a plan but is it good enough to fix what's broken?
COSTELLO: (voice-over): You want a dose of yes, we can, in a no, we can't economy, welcome to Marlin Steel.
(on camera): How, this is serious.
DREW GREENBLATT, MARLIN STEEL: We make everything here. We export all over the world.
COSTELLO (voice-over): In Baltimore, Maryland, Marlin Steel is up and running 24/7 and hiring by making and exporting what it calls the best damn wire baskets in the world.
(on camera): That's crazy, I've never heard of such a thing. Like America exporting goods to Taiwan?
GREENBLATT: That's exactly right. We ship wire baskets to Taiwan. It can't get any better than that, I love it.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Marlin Steel is the exception, just about one percent of U.S. companies export goods to foreign countries.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So tonight, we set a new goal. We will double our exports over the next five years. An increase that will support two million jobs in America.
COSTELLO: Analysts say that's possible but only if the president acts aggressively. His commerce department is trying. Marlin Steel is able to export without financial risk because if his foreign customers don't pay their bill, under a new program, Uncle Sam will.
Greenblatt says fantastic, but he wishes that Commerce Department would fix what's really broken.
GREENBLATT: Right now, there's 120 million in Korea, Panama, and in Colombia that we should be selling to and we're not because we don't have free trade agreements with them.
COSTELLO: That phrase "free trade" is loaded. Many are wary of the idea because not every country plays by the rules. Ron Kirk is America's trade ambassador.
(on camera): Want to talk about China?
RON KIRK, U.S. TRADE AMBASSADOR: I'd love nothing more.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Many economists say China keeps its currency exchange rate artificially low, which makes American exports more expensive and China's goods a whole lot cheaper.
(on camera): Is China a currency manipulator?
KIRK: You know, that's a judgment for ultimately Tim Geithner to make.
COSTELLO: But a lot of people in the country would say it's so obvious that China is manipulating its currency. It's so obvious. Why not just say it and deal with it?
KIRK: We have engaged china about the need to rebalance their economy, just as we're rebalancing ours. And I understand the American voters are angry. I understand American voters want us to throw out a lot of strong verbiage.
COSTELLO (voice-over): That's difficult when the United States is in China's debt, and depends on China to help America deal with countries like North Korea. Greenblatt is frustrated by that, but he's not giving up. 20 percent of his goods are sold overseas. And, yes, he can compete with China, even now.
(on camera): China makes things cheap. You can't possibly do that and compete?
GREENBLATT: You're right. We can't beat them in price. We beat them because we have great engineering. When an American box comes in, it comes in on time, it comes fast. And that's how we're going to beat China, because we're fast, we're great quality, and we have great engineering. And that's our secret recipe. That's our secret sauce.
COSTELLO: Greenblatt employs 30 people right now. He says for every million bucks he makes exporting goods, he'll hire eight more people. It's what the Obama administration is shooting for. But it's got one other big hurdle, there are of plenty of people in this country who blames free trade for massive job losses in America's rustbelt. Free trade to them is a dirty word. John, Kiran.
ROBERTS: Carol Costello for us this morning. Best damn wire baskets in the world.
CHETRY: There you go.
ROBERTS: American quality. There you go.