U.S. shippers still struggle to generate exports

Slowing growth means that President Obama’s ambitious plan to double outbound trade in five years will fall short, say analysts at Drewry Maritime Research in London

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Despite a promising start this year, U.S. exports are failing to gain the traction needed for sustainable long-term growth.

Slowing growth means that President Obama’s ambitious plan to double outbound trade in five years will fall short, say analysts at Drewry Maritime Research in London.

In his first State of the Union speech in January 2010, President Barack Obama set out an ambitious goal to double exports over the next five years to support 2 million new jobs.

Here’s what Drewry makes of it all:

Following an initial burst that made that target look a realistic possibility, a slowdown in 2012 means that at just past the half-way stage Obama will have to settle for considerably less than he was hoping for.

US exports of goods and services increased by 17% in 2010, but that rate fell to 14.5% in 2011 and dropped even further to 4.6% in 2012. The most recent trade data shows that after five months of 2013 the speed of growth is slowing further at just 1.9% with falling exports to the ailing EU27 the major sore point. The US exports reviewed here include all types of goods and services (including oil and energy products) and all types of transport modes (including surface transport, liquid bulk shipping, container shipping and air freight).

At the current pace, Obama’s target of $3.15 trillion exports by the end of 2014 will not be reached until 2032, an overshoot of nearly two decades.

Despite its commonly held image as the world’s great consumer of other countries’ products, America is no slouch in shifting its own stuff to the world. It is ranked by the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the world’s second largest exporter behind China, overtaking Germany in 2010.

Between 2009 and 2012 exports of US goods increased by 46% with the biggest gains coming from the automotive (79%) and industrial supplies (69%) sectors, the latter including petroleum and related products. During this time, the fastest growing markets for US goods were Brazil and Mexico (both 68%) while China (now America’s third-largest market after Canada and Mexico) grew by 59%. In contrast, export growth to Europe floundered at below 20%.

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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