Can Obama really double exports in five years?

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.


Israeli supermarket parodies Dubai assassination in commercial

Continuing a recent trend of bizarre Israeli commercials, a supermarket chain has cashed in on the January assassination of Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Actors in a new television advertisement for Mahsanei Kimat Hinam are shown wearing outfits taken from the infamous CCTV footage of the al-Bustan Rotana hotel, which caught the alleged Mossad assassins on tape.

An actor wearing a tennis outfit, racket over his shoulder, and a woman with a large brimmed-hat are shown sneakily placing items in their shopping cart. The woman, when questioned, says she cannot admit to anything -- a play on Israel's use of non-comment for stories related to Mossad.

In case any did not immediately pick up the reference, part of the commercial is shown through the lens of a CCTV camera. Furthermore, the tagline of the advertisement leaves no doubt: "We offer killer prices."

Advertising executive Sefi Shaked explained the ad:

It's a funny take of this event. We were fascinated by the technique of using surveillance cameras instead of (expensive) high production commercial cameras, and the latest events in Dubai gave us a great opportunity.

Something tells me the European governments angry with Israel over its suspected use of forged E.U. passports during the operation to kill Mabhouh won't be shopping at Mahsanei Kimat Hinam anytime soon.