The second term: Are we on track with doubling U.S. exports?

Early in his first term, President Barack Obama announced the goal of doubling U.S. exports within five years of 2009. At that time, export growth had halted on a global level.

In the 10 years from 2000, U.S. exports grew only by about 50 percent. Doubling exports in five years indicated a task four times as large, yet its achievement can greatly improve the economy and benefit American workers.

Many U.S. businesses see only the risks of exporting rather than the opportunities of the international market. The psychological distance of foreign markets and uncertainties about international business practices are key barriers to many U.S. managers.

As a result, the United States under exports when compared to other nations. On a per capita basis, German exports in 2009 were $13,670 for every man, woman, and child. The figure for Japan was $4,063; for the United States, it was only $3,238.

Are we on track for the doubling of the 2009 export levels? The exports in 2011 on a per capita basis for Germany were $19,027, for Japan $6,195 and the United States $4,770. They each saw a gain in exports of 28%, 34% and 32% respectively, with the U.S. showing the second largest growth.

At this time, it appears unlikely that the United States will double its exports by 2014. In three years (from 2009 to 2011) export volumes increased by 32%. The future remains unpredictable.  With global economic uncertainty and ongoing rumors of a new recession, it is up to the administration to put emphasis on exports. Large increases will be tough – since no countries are willing to give up their market share, but the effort seems worthwhile given the possible effects on employment and income.

Special thanks to Charles Skuba and Kim Boeckmann

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