United States Economic Policy and International Relations

By Raymond F. Mikesell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
America's Position in the World Economy

THE UNITED STATES emerged from World War I with an economy untouched by the ravages of war and producing large exportable surpluses of the commodities the rest of the world desperately needed to reconstruct their economies and keep their peoples from starving. Rarely, if ever, in the history of the world has a country risen so rapidly to a position of economic dominance as did the United States in the period from 1914 to 1919. The war had reduced European production to a low level, while American production had risen. Industrial production in the rest of the world recovered rapidly, so that by 1929 it was about 53 per cent above the level of 1922; American industrial production also increased by nearly the same percentage from the 1922 level.1 Thus in the period from 1925 to 1929 it is estimated that United States industrial production was 46 per cent of the world's total, and in 1929, United States national income was equal to the combined incomes of 23 of the world's most important countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, and Canada.2

The world's economic dependence upon the United States at the end of the war was reflected in the latter's huge merchandise export surplus of over $4 billion in 1919. Although there was an import surplus with the rest of the world of $440 million, America's merchandise surplus with Europe was nearly $41/2 billion. This surplus was rapidly reduced in the postwar years, but Europe never regained her prewar position as a supplier of United States imports. Before 1870, the United States was in approximate balance with Europe on merchandise account, and our imports were largely in the form of manufactures. After 1870, our export surplus with Europe rose steadily, and during the first decade of the twentieth century it averaged around a half billion dollars. Following the war, America's export surplus with Europe on merchandise account averaged over a billion dollars annually from 1920 to 1930, and

____________________
1
See The United States in the World Economy, Department of Commerce, 1943, p. 150.
2
Ibid., p. 28.

-7-

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