Actual Good Economic News! Exports on Pace to Double in Five Years

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Good economic news has been as rare as snow for the White House this summer, so it's no wonder the administration wants to cheer news that we're on pace to double exports in five years -- just like Obama promised in the 2010 State of the Union.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to unveil a report Wednesday showing the U.S. is on track to double exports in the next five years ...

The report shows that in the first four months of 2010, exports were up 17% from the same period last year, according to a copy of the report.

Some folks initially mocked the promise ("I would humbly request that the president also decree that the pull of gravity be cut in half," Daniel Drezner joked). But there are at least three reasons why it's a pretty realistic goal. First, it's not as though doubling exports in nominal dollars is an otherworldy feat. As Annie Lowrey noted, we've done it before, in almost every year in the 1970s, again in 1981, and nearly again between 2003 and 2008.

Second, it's easier to double a low number. In 2009, exports fell $1.83 trillion to $1.55 trillion, the steepest drop since 1932, according to the DLC.

Third, some of our strongest trade partners, like China and Hong Kong, emerged from the recession earlier than the rest of the world. Exports to these countries are up 40 percent.

The most obvious obstacle to fulfilling the five year plan is if Europe strangles itself with a continental austerity project. The DLC reports that EU accounts for about 25 percent of American exports and 40 percent of services exports, and these are up only 1 percent this year. We need overall quarterly growth of 14.8 percent to double total exports in five years.





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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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