The Obameter

Double American exports over the next five years

"President Obama set a goal to create 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and is working to double American exports over the next five years by promoting U.S. goods and removing trade barriers, expanding access to credit, and promoting strong growth."


Updates

Exports didn't double; they are barely keeping pace with 2012

After a presidential election decided by Rust Belt voters' Republican shift, it's an opportune time to evaluate President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election promise to "double American exports over the next five years."

Barring miraculous growth before the inauguration of Donald Trump, Obama will fall short.

In 2012, U.S. exports in goods and services amounted to $2.2 trillion. That rose slightly in 2013 and 2014 before falling back a bit to $2.3 trillion in 2015. The final data for 2016 isn't in yet, but projecting based on the numbers through September, the total is on track to hit somewhere around, or slightly above, $2.2 trillion.

That's far from doubling. It's barely keeping pace with 2012 levels.

Looking instead at goods alone -- not services -- the totals actually faltered between 2012 and 2016.

Goods alone went from $1.6 trillion in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to $1.5 trillion in 2015 and possibly as low as $1.4 trillion in 2016. That's a decrease over five years.

No matter how you slice it, this is a Promise Broken.

Sources:

U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Trade in Goods and Services," June 3, 2016

U.S. Census Bureau, "Exhibit 1-U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services," accessed Nov. 14, 2016

Since he made this promise in 2012, exports aren't on a pace to double

In a 2012 campaign promise, President Barack Obama set a goal to "double American exports over the next five years."

Actually, Obama first made this promise in his Jan. 27, 2010, State of the Union address. But because Obama made the campaign promise in November 2012, we will compare 2017 exports to 2012 exports to determine how he's doing on the promise.

Data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 2012 exports were $2.2 trillion, so the magic number for Obama is $4.4 trillion in exports by 2017.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that exports rose between 2012 and 2013 by just 4.4 percent to $2.3 trillion.

Andrew Bernard, a trade economist at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business, said almost all of the recent increase in U.S. trade exports occurred between 2009 and 2011, when global trade was rebounding following the 2008 economic collapse. Since that time, he said, export growth has been weak, due mostly to poor economic performance of the United States' main trading partners, including Europe and Japan.

Although export growth has been weak over the past two years, Bernard said, he believes it is too early to conclude anything about 2017.

Until then, we rate this promise Stalled.

Sources:

PolitiFact, Obama says exports of U.S. goods at all-time high, Aug. 20, 2013

Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, Jan. 27, 2010

U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Trade in in Goods and Services- Balance of Payments (BOP) Basis- 1960 to present, Feb. 6, 2014

BarackObama.com, The President's Plan for an Economy Built to Last, Nov. 2012

Email interview with Andrew Bernard, trade economist, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Feb. 25, 2014