Flunk Barry Eichengreen on World's Top Exporter

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 1/09/2011 07:17:00 PM
As a stickler for accuracy, I must bring up one of my favourite recurring threads about the United States' continuing status as the world's largest exporter. It's a bit startling to see renowned academic Barry Eichengreen making a schoolboy howler. I'm just beginning to read what appears to be a most interesting take on the US dollar's enduring position as the world's preeminent currency in his new book Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System (hackneyed title and misstatement of simple fact that's the subject of this brief post aside).
Anyway, on p.3 he writes:
But what made sense then [postwar United States having its currency dominate the international monetary system] makes less sense now, when both China and Germany export more than the United States.
Again, this is perfectly true if we're only talking about merchandise exports, AKA stuff. However, in today's increasingly service-based world economy wherein advanced countries like the US have well over half of their output accounted for by services, isn't it likely that such countries would export services as well? So, for the umpteenth time, the US remains the world's top exporter when both goods and services (alike accountancy and consultancy) are included. Sure you can say that China is on track to overhaul the US even accounting for both goods and services exports, but that hasn't happened yet. The following table is from the US Chamber of Commerce blog ChamberPost which is in turn based on data taken from the WTO's World Trade Report 2010. Let's just say CoC did its homework:

So there. It makes me wonder what the point of academia is when Joseph Stiglitz repeats anti-globalization fallacies and Barry Eichengreen doesn't know who the world's largest exporter is. (I am especially surprised that the Oxford University Press editors didn't catch the latter's error since I expect more from an academic publisher.) Having flunked them both, maybe it's time I went into another line of business. Male dancing, perhaps? I am seriously disillusioned.

Bottom line: the belief that only goods are exported (ever heard of outsourcing?) is as antiquated as that of dollar hegemony.