Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Obama traveled to Mexico to fulfill a campaign promise to address the failings of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). The trip was a major embarrassment. Mexico sent him home with his tail between his legs and nothing but new Mexican tariffs to show for his efforts. (Since then, our trade deficit with Mexico has worsened by 42%.) In the wake of that spanking, he turned his trade focus to exports, challenging his economic advisors to make America into a Germany-like export powerhouse. In January of 2010, he vowed to double American exports within five years.
On Friday, the government released the trade figures for January, 2015, so the results are in. The president’s strategy of focusing on exports instead of imports has been a total failure. In January of 2010, total U.S. exports were $143.7 billion per month. Five years later, they have risen to only $189.4 billion – an increase of only 31.8%. The president has fallen short of his goal by almost $100 billion per month, or $1.2 trillion per year. As if to punctuate that failure, exports declined in January by $5.6 billion to the same level as December of 2012. Here’s a chart that graphically displays the extent of this failure: Obamas Goal to Double Exports.
That’s total exports. What really counts are exports of manufactured goods, since that’s where jobs are concentrated. There the news is even worse. In January of 2010, we exported $86 billion worth of manufactured goods. Five years later, that figure has risen to only $109.1 billion, an increase of only 26.9%, falling short of the goal by $62.6 billion. In fact, manufactured exports haven’t risen one bit in almost three years. Here’s the chart: Manf’d exports vs. goal.
With this trade strategy, President Obama took the easy way out, preserving his popularity around the G20 punch bowl instead of serving the best interests of American workers. This trade policy never had a chance of succeeding. Germany is an export powerhouse because it has America as its trade patsy. There is no country that would serve as a similar patsy for us. Exports are determined by foreign demand, over which we have no control whatsoever. Imports, on the other hand, are completely within our control but, as Obama found out in Mexico, that ruffles some feathers. He’s had six years to fix our broken trade policy and he’s completely whiffed on what is arguably the most critical issue facing the American economy. He deserves to go down in history as an utter failure.
Where is the media on this issue? Will no one hold his feet to the fire on this broken promise?