Competitive industries

Date posted: April 13, 2011

Economists say one way to look at the competitive strength of a country is to see what kinds of products that country sells to world buyers. When we do this for the United States, what does it tell us? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“We are most competitive in … what we export to foreign countries in terms of advanced technological products, healthcare products and, what may be surprising to many people, agricultural products. For example, we export a lot of aircraft technology — and actually aircraft themselves — pharmaceuticals, engines and, as I said, things like livestock as well as crops.

“Conversely, you could look at the flip side of (the question) and say, ‘What are our leading imports which would suggest we are not as competitive there?’ Our leading imports are certainly, number one, oil — and that is simply because we don’t have enough oil to meet our needs — and smaller, more common technological products like cell phones.

“Now this means that other countries are producing these cell phones — not that we can’t produce them, but they are producing them at lower costs.

“Some of these imports and exports may shift over time. I mention that we are a leading country in terms of exporting aircraft engines. It may be that that may be gone down the road, and that’s why it is important for countries to keep rekindling themselves — renewing themselves — (by) developing new products and new ways of making money.”

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