At his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama swore to double U.S. exports in five years. At the time, some pundits (including one here) scoffed at the idea. Doubling exports, of course, means convincing the world to buy twice as much of the stuff the U.S. produces. That will be no easy feat, particularly given that just about every high-income economy is looking for an export-led recovery.
But it is a feat that has been accomplished before. I used Commerce Department trade data to make the above graph. It turns out, the last time the United States had a year that doubled its trade level from five years before was 1981; the average five-year increase is around 140 percent.
Still, Obama's plan to double the number by 2015 does not seem so far-fetched. For one, trade has fallen due to the recession, meaning the United States needs to double a lower-than average number.
Obama started to detail how he plans to double exports at the annual conference of the Export-Import Bank today. First: panels. He is creating an "export promotion cabinet" including representatives from state, treasury, agriculture, commerce, and other agencies, and creating an "export council" with adivsers from the private sector. Second: trade regulation reform, to make it easier for businesses to put products and offer services on the global market. Third: better governmental promotion of small- and medium-sized businesses.