Commerce secretary touts cargo hub in visit here
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 25, 2010
By Tim Bryant
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke spoke encouragingly Friday about prospects for a thriving air cargo operation between St. Louis and China as well as other Asian nations.
He mentioned his department's two-year, $1.7 million grant mostly to pay for the region's Midwest China Hub Commission staff and a consultant who helped start the air cargo project in 2008.
Locke spoke with the Post-Dispatch before giving a speech in Clayton at the "growing global" luncheon sponsored by the World Trade Center of St. Louis. His theme was President Barack Obama's "national export initiative" and the administration's goal of doubling exports over the next five years.
The president is talking a lot about the Chinese currency and if it doesn't appreciate, global trade will not reach the administration's goal. What's your assessment of that?
We're very concerned about that. The U.S. position has been pretty consistent for several years. And (Treasury) Secretary (Timothy) Geithner has spoken at great length about it. Indeed, the president had, I think, a very frank and candid conversation with Premier Wen Jiabao up in New York as part of the U.N. General Assembly.
Any hope of something coming out of that in the near future?
Well, they made a commitment and made a statement that they would be evaluating the yuan. But as Secretary Geithner and others have said, the amount of progress has been too slow. And the amount of change has not been significant enough.
What does U.S. global trade policy mean for the Midwest and St. Louis specifically?
The administration is really focusing on doubling U.S. exports over the next five years, which would support several millions of new jobs. We know that already in the last four quarters, the economy, the (gross domestic product) has grown, has increased compared to when the president took office. ...
And here in the state of Missouri, your exports are up in the first half of 2010 -- 35 percent over the previous year. And that means more jobs. You have a lot of exciting things here.
You produce so many great things that are highly desired and are in great demand all over the world -- transportation equipment, electronics and, of course, machinery and, of course, agriculture. You're well positioned to really take advantage of the fact that 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside the borders of the United States. They have enormous needs -- whether it's food crops to medical equipment to transportation equipment to even consumer goods.
How does export business from the Midwest and St. Louis fit in with the big plan here for a China freight hub at Lambert airport?
Asia represents a huge growth market for the U.S. The countries throughout Asia have enormous needs, whether it's feeding their people, to medical equipment, to technology to environmental cleanup. There are so many companies in the Midwest and in Missouri and the St. Louis area that can meet those needs.
To have a direct transportation hub from St. Louis to China or even a transportation hub not just to China -- it doesn't have to be just to China. Once you have a really robust airport here, focusing on freight, you have direct shipments to Japan to Singapore to Korea to Vietnam. That will really position St. Louis as a hub of international trade.
Is the infrastructure in place to accomplish that?
You have an airport that is underutilized. We are proud to have provided an almost $2 million grant from the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration to help on the feasabilty and engineering aspects of that (hub) project.