US Exports in 2003

The BEA just released their estimates of US trade in December 2003, and thus for the entire year. The trade deficit was large, but that’s not the interesting part to me; that simply reflects the fact that as a country, the US is buying much more than it is producing, which we already knew (just look at the savings rate, for example). The US will keep running massive trade deficits until Americans start saving more and borrowing less — and that goes for the US government, too.

What I find encouraging is that the data show a healthy rise in exports during the second half of 2003. Of course, imports rose by even more, and the recent rise in exports only brings us back to where we were when Bill Clinton was President… but at least exports finally appear to be headed in the right direction:

One thing that this made me curious about is exactly where our export growth is coming from. Who’s buying more US-made stuff? The following table shows the major trading partners of the US, and how much each increased their purchases of US goods (i.e. not including exports of services) between 2002 and 2003.

It’s interesting to see that by far the fastest growing export market for the US is China. Note that China has kept its currency pegged to the dollar (much to some people’s chagrin), so this data suggests that the significant fall in the dollar over the past year is not the only (or even most important) cause of our current export growth. France, for example, is one of very few countries that actually bought fewer US goods in 2003 than 2002, despite the huge drop in the euro/$ exchange rate. The “American Fries” effect in reverse?