Exports are those goods and services that one country produces and is able to sell to other countries. Exports are good. Particularly if a country likes to buy (imports) goods from other countries. What caught our eye recently about exports was reading that China had just become the largest exporter of goods in the world. We thought that they were number one. We also thought that the US was number two. We were wrong on both counts. Who was number one and now is number two? Japan would come to mind. But no, Japan was number four after the US. The former number one is Germany.
That got us to thinking. China is now number one but they have over a billion people. Germany is a relatively smaller country in terms of population. Maybe we should do a quick analysis of exports per capita and see the result. So, we did exactly that. Here are the results (ranked by dollar volume of exports) and there are some surprises.
First, there is only one ground rule. We are only going to analyze the top 10 exporters so we will not try to find a small country out there that exports diamonds or gold and can therefore produce a real high dollar amount per capita. These are just raw numbers presented in tabular form. Some comments from TheFundamentals follow:
Country (Billions of $$$) Population Per Capita
China $ 1,194 1,339,000,000 $ 892
Germany 1,187 82,000,000 14,476
United States 995 307,000,000 3,240
Japan 516 124,000,000 4,065
France 457 64,000,000 7,138
Netherlands 398 17,000,000 23,388
Italy 369 58,000,000 6,362
South Korea 355 49,000,000 7,247
United Kingdom 351 61,000,000 5,759
Hong Kong 327 7,000,000 46,700
Source: The World Factbook
This is an eye-opening chart. How many of us knew that Germany was the largest exporter in the world until this recent move by China? Bigger than the US; bigger than Japan. How do the Germans do it? Perhaps even more eye-opening is the terrific performance of the Netherlands. What on earth are the Dutch producing to give them a per capita performance almost double the Germans? We are going to pass on Hong Kong because we are thinking that their numbers may be skewed by products that are China produced but recorded as a Hong Kong export. We just don’t know. But look at the per capita numbers. In the above chart the US is second to the last; only exceeded by lower exports per capita by the Chinese who are relative newcomers on the export scene; still have a largely agriculture dominated economy and have four times the population of the United States. And we can reasonably predict that it is only a matter of time that the China per capita number passes the United States just as all the other more productive countries already do. Kudos to South Korea. They are way ahead of many countries that have much longer tenure as manufacturing and exporting economies.
We are flabbergasted at the results of this brief analysis. In awe of the countries that perform and disdained at the poor performance of the United States. The business of the United States is no longer business. Or, perhaps, people just buy from other countries because of price and quality? Countries that still believe in competitiveness.
Politicians talk about jobs and economic growth as if they knew of what they speak. Unfortunately, they are not engaged in either process – jobs or economic growth. All they do is place burdens on the economy. Here is a question to ask them. Are you willing to bet your paycheck on increasing the per capita exports of the United States? It is time for the United States to forget about bringing democracy to the world, lecturing others on their societal values and trends and policing the terrorists and other bad people of the world? It is time for the United States to tend to its export business? Simply put, it is time for the United States to tend to business? The French sell more than twice per citizen than the US; Italians double; Brits 75% more. Wow. You’d think we’d be focused on exports? No wonder we have so many unemployed.
Today, the Washington gang is going to get an opportunity to interview the head of one of the world's most successful companies. A huge exporter. TheFundamenals wonders if they are ready to learn about what makes a company a successful exporter? We sure hope so. Let's see what they ask Mr. Toyoda. We think he could help them understand two key economic fundamentals - price and quality. Do you think they will seize this opportunity to learn about competitiveness?