Exports Help Michigan’s Recovery

Sep 29, 2010

A year ago this month, Chamber President Tom Donohue called for a national goal to double U.S. exports within five years in a major address to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce in East Lansing.  President Obama embraced this goal in his State of the Union address in January. 

With that goal and Michigan in mind, the Democratic Leadership Council’s consistently fascinating Trade Fact of the Week observes that rising exports are delivering good news for the hard-hit Michigan economy and the U.S. auto industry:

Is the worst over for car-makers? For long-suffering Michigan? … American car exports are soaring, up from last year's $100 billion worth of cars, trucks and parts to a possible $150 billion this year, overseas car sales account for more than a fifth of America's likely $230 billion in manufacturing export growth…

The DLC draws on Commerce Department data to estimate that U.S. auto production this year will “rebound to about 9.3 million cars and trucks, and exports will jump to 2.5 million,” up from 1.9 million in 2005 and 1.7 million in 2009.

Some of this reflects reviving sales to Mexico and Canada -- but car exports to China are rising at an astonishing rate, with sales quadrupling in a single year. The jump lifts China above Germany as the 3rd-largest American automobile buyer this year (up from 10th in 2005 and 48th in 2000), the U.S.' largest trade-surplus country for vehicles (though still much more a supplier than buyer of auto parts) -- and also lifts China above Japan and Germany as Michigan's third-ranking export market.

The jump has lifted Michigan state exports by 38 percent this year -- the fastest growth among the top ten exporting states. The state has picked up about 150,000 jobs this year; its unemployment rate has dropped from 14.5 percent in January to 13.1 percent in August, and from 16 percent to 14 percent around Detroit. Far from enough -- but perhaps a sign that the worst is past.

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