Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Fred Hochberg Headshot

Don't Be Fooled By the Trade Deficit

Posted: Updated:

The latest trade deficit number is encouraging. But it continues to spark the usual doubts about America's ability to compete on the global stage. And such monthly hand-wringing over the deficit increases fears of imports, while ignoring the growth opportunities in exports.

U.S. companies and their workers deserve better.

The story that American businesses need to hear is that their next major customer could just as easily be in Sao Paulo or Shanghai as in San Francisco or Savannah.

Don't get me wrong -- net exports are important. But looking at the deficit alone distorts the trade picture. U.S. companies produce and export high-quality, high-technology goods such as aircraft and power plant equipment. And right now, what we have to sell is very much what the world wants to buy.

What the trade deficit doesn't tell you is that U.S. exports are increasing strongly -- up 17.9 percent in the first seven months of 2010, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is the number that policymakers, government officials, businesses and the media need to focus on. And we need to focus on the specific policies and opportunities that will continue this dramatic growth.

One billion people will join the middle class in the coming decade. That middle class will emerge from fast-growing economies such as India, China, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Vietnam -- each with a staggering demand for infrastructure, food, transportation and services. Innovative American businesses are well-positioned to capitalize on this demand.

As the largest manufacturer in the world, we sell solar cells, medical technology, farm equipment, airplanes and automobiles. This creates quality American jobs in some of the areas that have been the hardest hit by the recession. Yet still only 1% of U.S. businesses are exporting. We must get more of our companies into foreign markets -- strengthening our economy through increased sales and more jobs.

This week President Obama's National Export Initiative will outline the Administration's plans to double U.S. exports in the next five years. We are already well on our way.

For the second straight year, the authorizations of the Export-Import Bank of the United States are at an all-time high, with 80 percent of transactions going to help small and mid-sized businesses. This financing has helped support nearly 200,000 American jobs. As an independent and self-sustaining agency, the Bank's deals do not cost taxpayers a dime. In fact, our collected fees and interest add revenue to help offset the national deficit.

In the last twelve months, the Ex-Im Bank helped companies sell fire-fighting equipment in Ghana, commercial aircraft in Egypt and railroad supplies in Brazil. We are also on the cusp of dramatically increasing our business in Colombia and Turkey.

We will not measure our progress by simply looking at the monthly trade deficit.

We'll do it by providing secure jobs to unemployed steelworkers, as we did at the Gamesa plant in Langhorne, Penn., through guaranteed financing to sell their wind turbines to a Honduran farm.

We'll do it by helping small businesses get more goods to more countries, as we did when we sat down with the owner of Miami-based DemeTech and his bank to help put together a financing package to export the company's surgical equipment. Then we'll do it again. One transaction at a time.

The trade imbalance won't right itself overnight, but rapidly growing the amount of goods and services that Americans export is clearly the best way to reduce the deficit in the long run. By focusing on the progress we've made -- not the gap that remains -- we will energize U.S. businesses and ensure that our companies don't miss foreign export opportunities.