The Red Chinese Shoes

I agree completely with President Obama’s emphasis on U. S. exports in his op-ed this morning in the New York Times:

We need to rebuild on a new, stronger foundation for economic growth. And part of that foundation involves doing what Americans have always done best: discovering, creating and building products that are sold all over the world.

We want to be known not just for what we consume, but for what we produce. And the more we export abroad, the more jobs we create in America. In fact, every $1 billion we export supports more than 5,000 jobs at home.

However, I continue to wonder whether President Obama has any feel for numbers. His stated goal is to double U. S. exports by 2015. While exporting more to Indonesia, South Korea, India, and Japan is a step in the right direction, is it possible to double our exports by doing that?

Our annual export trade is about $1.8 trillion. U. S. exports to Japan are about $51.2 billion, $12.9 billion to Indonesia, about $25 billion to South Korea, and about $17.5 billon to India. Doubling our trade to those four countries, an enormous task especially when the reality that Japan, South Korea, and India maintain a policy of holding a trade surplus with the United States is taken into account, would add less than $100 billion to our exports, not quite 10% of the target export figure. If we are to achieve that goal, we’re going to need to start thinking in terms of quadrupling exports to those countries, some of the largest economies in the world.

Conspicuously absent from the op-ed, like the ballerina at the conclusion of The Red Shoes, is China, which imports about $64.5 billion from us annually while exporting $211 billion to us. It is not that we produce nothing more that Chinese people want. China’s system of currency manipulation, subsidies, tariffs, and quotas intentionally keeps our exports to China far too low. If we could double our exports to China, we’d be getting somewhere.

That such a large proportion of our exports consists of arms is alarming but it’s a subject for another post.

4 comments… add one
  • john personna Link

    China’s system of currency manipulation, subsidies, tariffs, and quotas intentionally keeps our exports to China far too low.

    Well, that and low energy/labor costs.

    There is nothing in the world uglier than an unfiltered coal plant.

    Without doubt, China’s coal-fired power sector still has many problems, and global warming gases from the country are expected to continue increasing. China’s aim is to use the newest technologies to limit the rate of increase.

    Only half the country’s coal-fired power plants have the emissions control equipment to remove sulfur compounds that cause acid rain, and even power plants with that technology do not always use it. China has not begun regulating some of the emissions that lead to heavy smog in big cities.

  • I read a study a couple of months ago which found that Europe’s moves in reductions of emissions of greenhouse gases had actually increased world net emissions of greenhouse gases by exporting their heavy industries to China.

  • john personna Link

    I’m not surprised.

    As I mentioned somewhere I was of two minds about California’s “overturn greenhouse rules” vote. I think global warming is real, but doubt that enough countries will buy in on solutions. When most countries are free riders it’s a hard question how far a single player should lead.

    I suppose that casual observers to the argument assume that it will come out one of two ways – either in the long run we’ll figure out that global warming is a real problem and we’ll solve it, or in the long run we’ll figure out that it isn’t a problem and we’ll back off.

    I think insufficient weight is given to the worst-case outcome, that it is a real problem we won’t address.

  • sam Link

    She died in the end.

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