The Corner

Doubling Our Exports

So we’re going to double our exports in five years, are we?

Well, let’s think about that. Two ways of counting it up:

In 2008, the total value of U.S. exports was about $1.8 trillion, and the value of our exports was growing at 12 percent per year, according to Commerce. So, left to their own devices, our exports ought to go from about $2 trillion now to about $3.5 trillion over the next five years — not quite double, but 75 percent growth. So, how many billions of dollars are we going to spend to get that last $500 billion in exports? (And that’s not $500 billion in profit, as I understand it, that’s $500 billion in sales.) 

Looked at another way: Exports were 13 percent of GDP in 2008. If that’s the metric we’re using, then they’ll need to be 26 percent of GDP in five years to hit Obama’s goal. If the rest of the economy just stood still (and hold on while the English major thinks this through) that means that exports would have to expand by the equivalent of 13 percent of today’s GDP in five years to hit Obama’s goal. In other words, our new exports — just the new ones — would have to be roughly equal in size to the entire U.S. health-care industry today. That does not seem to me especially likely to happen.

If I’m missing something here, let me know.

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