Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Trade Deficit Shows Need to Improve Exports

The Commerce Department stated on Tuesday that the trade gap increased in September 7.6% to $43.03. It is much larger than the estimated $38.1 billion. It is believed that an improving GDP will lend to improvements in exports but this not what happened. The results may be long-term or short-term but do reflect a need for the U.S. to adjust its policies to return to a higher exportation status unseen since a generation ago. Exportation is a solid reflector on internal capacities of a nation to meet market demands.

Much of the recent decline is associated with global economic factors much outside the control of the U.S. The biggest losses were a 6.5% decline in exports to the European Union, 3.2% to China, and 14.7% to Japan. The losses seem to reflect lower economic activity in all three regions of the globe and may simply be a factor of total consumption.  That doesn’t mean the country can’t improve its export capabilities.

Outside of a slower global economy are two major points that should be considered. 

Dollar Value: The dollar has an impact on the total cost of American made products to foreign buyers. When the dollar is cheaper American products become cheaper as well. Research supports the idea that the deflation of the dollar improves exports (Bahmani-Oskooee & Ardalani, 2006). The opposite is also true; a rise in value of the dollar makes imports cheaper and lends to increased trade deficits. 

Regional Export Specialization:  One of the reasons why I am an advocate of regional hubs is that specialization raises exportation but is not so much as to thwart adjustments into complementary products and services when the market shifts. According to Naude, Bosker, & Matthee (2010) and their analysis of exportation found that specializations increased local economic development.  

The dollar amount is difficult to adjust unless you artificially deflate its value while a global slowdown isn’t something in our control. However, ensuring that a greater allocation of international business is in the hands of American companies and worker pockets is important. This requires a level of hub based development focus to create efficiencies that lower the overall cost of production that make companies more competitive. 

When regional hubs are attracting investments, improving their infrastructure, developing the right skills in the local labor market, and generating market breakthroughs they naturally lower the cost of production and improve market relevance. The dollar may be worth more but the cost of production is lower to thwart its damaging effect. A higher dollar can be used to purchase raw materials and turn them into higher profit exports. 

Bahmani-Oskooee, M. & Ardalani, Z. (2006). Exchange rate sensitivity of U.S. trade flows: evidence from industry data. Southern Economic Journal, 72 (3).

Naude, W. Bosker, M. & Matthee, M. (2010). Export specialization and local economic growth. World Economy, 33 (4).

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