News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


International trade growth brings money to Alabama

A report from the Alabama Development Office reminds us that people and money travel on a two-way street between nations.

Some critics focus on the problems created by open borders and policies such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. They see immigrants taking away jobs at domestic employers (though the United States' national unemployment rate is low) and other jobs disappearing to foreign factories. They don't mention that we are selling more goods and services to other countries, bringing us jobs and economic growth.

ADO says that during the first half of 2005, the value of exports from Alabama to the world increased by 10.87 percent, to $4.85 billion. This was slightly higher than the increase for the nation at large, 10.57 percent.

Among Alabama's top five export destinations, Mexico had the largest increase of 32 percent; Canada was next with 24 percent. The others are Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Transportation equipment — an industry that has grown exponentially in Alabama during the last 15 years, with several new plants manufacturing finished vehicles — is the state's leading export category. It accounted for $2.4 billion, or 26 percent, of the state's total merchandise exports in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Other top exports are chemical manufactures, computers and electronic products, paper products and machinery manufactures. Alabama's aerospace exports increased 701 percent in the first six months of this year, ADO reports.

Glance at these categories, and you'll recognize a lot of things made in the Tennessee Valley.

Census and other reports estimate that export-supported jobs account for one of every 15 jobs in Alabama's private sector, and that one-seventh of all manufacturing workers in Alabama depend on exports for their jobs.

Those who lament Alabama's growing role in the international marketplace miss the point that it contributes to our prosperity.

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