WHEN the Bush administration declared the past week World Trade
Week, it underscored a policy that counts on increased export
earnings as the way to combat recession in the United States.
"Growth in the US economy is dominated by exports," asserts
Export-Import Bank chairman John Macomber, whose federal institution
spends roughly $7 billion annually to finance American exports
abroad. Mr. Macomber joins White House economists in their forecast
that a domestic economic rebound is imminent. Exports, he says,
could account for some 80 percent of future US economic growth.
Macomber says he's busy traveling domestically to inform small-
and medium-sized firms about overseas markets, and just how to reach
them. "US exporters are experiencing an extraordinary sea-change.
The dollar is well-priced (a low dollar makes US goods abroad
cheaper) and the quality of US goods is dramatically better.
Exporters are more conscious of export markets and better poised to
take advantage of them."
Kent Hughes, president of the Washington-based Council on
Competitiveness, says he's "less sanguine about the US export
performance." There is no question that manufacturing productivity
improved dramatically in the 1980s, he says, and that "a quality
revolution is in the making." But as the dollar begins to
appreciate, the costs of American goods abroad rise, cutting into US
"As we bounce back from recession, there will be an increased
demand for imports," Mr. Hughes adds.
US Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher says he is encouraged
by recent trade statistics. February's drop in the nation's trade
deficit to $5.3 billion - from January's $7.2 billion - is part of a
longer-term improved export performance, he says.
But a senior US Treasury Department official counters that
slackened demand at home, slowed by recession and coupled with lower
oil-import bills, accounts for the sharp decline. "Eighty percent
export-driven growth doesn't necessarily measure heightened export
levels; what it does mean is a failure of other parts of the economy
to grow, such as investment and consumption," the official says.
The US exports 7 percent of its gross national product. Britain,
Canada, Germany, and Japan export roughly 19 percent of their
"We're the only industrial nation, until recently, that was not
export driven," says Macomber. "Our real leverage is with the
medium-sized companies, especially in the machinery sector.... Those
exports could increase by as much as 10 percent this year."
Macomber sees the East European marketplace as a strong prospect
for US exporters. …