Home > Uncategorized > Reality beats perception for exporters – The Washington Post

Reality beats perception for exporters – The Washington Post

October 13, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

The United States isn’t making things that the world wants to buy.

That is an all-too-common sentiment, a kind of fatalist view of America’s place in the modern global economy. The shred of truth in it is the fact that the nation has maintained large and persistent trade deficits with the rest of the world for the past two decades or so, with little end in sight.

The latest numbers from the Commerce Department would seem, at first glance, to confirm that gloomy assessment. The trade deficit widened in August to $44 billion, from a revised $42.5 billion in July, as imports were little changed and exports fell 1 percent. The recent trends for exports have indeed been weak. But they mask some more promising signs.

American exporters are reasonably successful on the global stage, selling overseas everything from soybeans to jet aircraft, banking services to Disneyland vacations. Last year, U.S. exports totaled $2.1 trillion, a 14 percent rise from 2010. That activity accounted for many millions of jobs and about 14 percent of the nation’s economic output.

If the world economy is going to come into better balance, with fewer vast sums of money sloshing around the globe fueling bubbles like the ones that imploded disastrously in 2008, it will be in part by getting that number up over time, and there has been progress. For the first eight months of the year as a whole, there was meaningful progress. That slowed in the summer, and the question is how lasting the downturn will be.

Looking at the inner details of the latest export numbers — what American goods and services are being bought internationally and where — gives a sense of both optimism at the nation’s often understated advantages, and reasons to worry about the near-term.

Strong growth is evident in a number of categories of exports, particularly of sophisticated, complicated manufactured goods. Civilian aircraft exports are up 38 percent in the first eight months of 2012; telecommunications equipment up 7 percent; drilling and oilfield equipment up 24 percent; agricultural equipment up 23 percent; pharmaceuticals up 7 percent. Some of the big losers among U.S. exports appear to be one-time problems tied to the drought in the American heartland: Wheat exports were down 34 percent and corn exports down 22 percent.

via Reality beats perception for exporters – The Washington Post.

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