Fast and Furious: Asia-Pacific Fastest Growing Market for US Exports


In his weekly address prior to his State of the Union speech in which he pledged to double exports by 2014, President Obama focused on job growth through trade. “If we’re serious about fighting for American jobs and American businesses, one of the most important things we can do is open up more markets to American goods around the world,” he began. The president went on to cite three specific steps taken to increase America’s exports abroad; each involved an Asian country.

It was not geographic favoritism that led Obama to the markets of China, India, and South Korea; these Asian partners are among the fastest growing destinations for US exports. Among our top export partners over the last decade (countries where the total ten-year value of exports exceeded $100 billion), nine out of nineteen were in the Asia-Pacific. Of these countries over the same period, India, China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore accounted for six of the top ten fastest growing export markets.

The graphic below shows the 15 largest markets in the Asia-Pacific over the past ten years, as well as the rate of growth in exports over the same period:

US Exports to Top 15 Asia-Pacific Markets, click to enlarge

According to the US Department of Commerce, exports to the Asia-Pacific region are up 89% since 2001. Increased bilateral economic engagement and investment has contributed to this increase, especially in the case of Vietnam where, after implementing the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in December 2001, US exports rose the most dramatically, increasing seven-fold. Perhaps even more significant has been the growth of sales to India and China, representing the world’s largest potential domestic markets, and high-value trade partners to the US.

The dynamism of the Asia-Pacific export market is made particularly clear when compared to our largest export partners in other regions. From 2001 to 2010, US exports to the European Union only grew 48%. Of our top five markets in the EU, while exports to the Netherlands and Belgium increased 80% and 89% respectively, the 19% increase of trade to the United Kingdom and 36% to France pale in comparison to the increase to our top export partners in Asia. The same can be said in the Western Hemisphere; while exports to the emerging South American economic powerhouse, Brazil, grew 123%, America’s primary trading partners, Canada and Mexico, only grew 52% and 61% respectively.

As a bright spot in the most recent trade reports, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis announced recently that a $2 billion increase in exports contributed to a surprise 11% reduction of the US trade deficit in April 2011. During that period the United States enjoyed a trade surplus with Hong Kong ($2.6 billion), Singapore ($1.2 billion), and Australia ($1.1 billion) While much of the news on US trade with Asia tends to focus on the growing trade deficits with a number of Asian economies, the importance of the region as an export destination going forward is significant for both the President’s export initiative, and America’s economic recovery.