Is Obama's Promise to Double Exports Feasible?

Among the promises made by President Oba­ma in the State of the Union address was his eye-popping commitment to doubling U.S. exports in the next five years. Certainly, that would be good for the U.S. economy, and since 1960 the feat has been accomplished a dozen times. But doing so today would be trickier. Last year, the U.S. exported roughly $1.5 trillion in goods and services. Getting to $3 trillion by 2015 would mean annual increases of 15 percent--three times the rate of global GDP growth--and most of that is out of Obama's control. Ratification of pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama would add maybe $15 billion an-nually in exports, and Washington can't very well manufacture upticks in global demand. That means the crucial variable is the U.S. dollar. As it depreciates, U.S. exports look more attractive, with every 1 percent decline in the dollar's value translating into a $20 billion increase in U.S. exports, according to C. Fred Bergsten of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. So achieving Obama's goal would have to mean either a steep dollar drop, or a big rise in a major currency that is now being artificially held down. Over to you, Mr. Hu.