Last Friday’s Comment & Analysis section of the Financial Times had a very sobering report on Germany’s export prowess. Germany’s best-kept secret: how its exporters are beating the world provided some context to an alarming fact that we here at the NAM have been aware of for some time: Germany has been the world’s largest exporter of goods, or “Exportweltmeister” every year since 2003 when it captured the title from the United States. Its trade surplus is six times that of China.
As stated in the article, “Exports have become the main driver of German growth. Today, 9m jobs depend directly on them and they generate 40 per cent of gross domestic product” in Germany. What’s behind this export surge? The article proposes that one reason behind Germany’s export success is that “Because engineering accounts for a bigger share of gross domestic product in Germany than in comparable economies, the country has benefited more from investment-driven global growth. German companies, in other words, have provided the machines and vehicles that faster-growing economies have used to build their factories, fleets and infrastructure.”
This should be a wake up call to policy makers here in Washington and around the country. U.S. manufacturers are not only competing more than ever with cheap imports backed by artificially-low currencies, the U.S. is loosing out on the export-front as well. While improving our competitiveness won’t take place over night, its essential that we get started. And there is not better place to start than education, where U.S. students rank relatively low in science and math compared to other countries. Without a solid foundation in these disciplines, where will the engineers and innovators who design and develop the products of tomorrow come from?
Some say from oversease. Maybe. But our country should not put all our eggs in that basket — the internatinoal talent competition for scientists and engineers is fierce and will only grow in coming years. Therefore, its imperative that our country get its act in order and make sure that the workers of tomorrow will have the skills to successfully compete in the global economy. Maybe then, we can reclaim the title of Exportweltmeister.