President Obama chose perhaps the perfect venue to deliver recent remarks focused on growing the U.S. economy by increasing exports. As the president said of the Port of New Orleans:
This is one of the busiest port complexes in the entire world. You move millions of tons of steel and chemicals and fuel and food every single year. And, in so many ways, this port is representative of what ports all around the country do. They help to keep our economy going – moving products, moving people, making sure that businesses are working.
In New Orleans, exports are growing at one of the fastest rates in the nation, powered in part by a shale gas boom that has revitalized Louisiana’s chemical industry. The state’s exports jumped 3.4 percent during the first half of 2013 to reach $29 billion. Louisiana ranks eighth among the states in dollar value of exports and No. 1 on a per-capita basis. Only a dozen metro areas, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, are on pace to reach the Obama administration’s goal of doubling exports by 2015.
Chemical exports from New Orleans, up 5.4 percent in 2012 from a year earlier, have played a major role in the port’s growth. Louisiana is the second-largest chemical-producing state, with more than $68 billion in output, according to ACC estimates.
In a statement about Obama’s remarks on exports, ACC noted:
The state’s vast shale gas reserves and robust infrastructure help generate some of the $8.3 billion in chemical products shipped every year to countries around the globe. With the right policies in place, exports from Louisiana and other states have the potential to grow even more.
As one of the nation’s leading export industries, with $188 billion in exports in 2012, ACC strongly supports the President’s push to expand U.S. exports. Of the nearly 800,000 jobs made possible by our industry, more than a quarter are export dependent, and there is opportunity to create thousands more.
Earlier this year, ACC released a series of policy and regulatory recommendations on trade, energy and other issues that would strengthen the competitive position of the U.S. chemical industry, reduce costs for domestic manufacturers and produce a significant increase in U.S. exports. These changes would add up to $58 billion in additional export growth for the chemical industry alone.
In 2012, the U.S. saw its first chemicals trade surplus since 2001 — amounting to $800 million. ACC chief economist Kevin Swift has projected the chemical industry’s trade surplus will reach $46 billion by 2020.
Such growth would be more good news for the Big Easy. As the Port of New Orleans President and CEO Gary LaGrange said, “We are truly the gateway to America and the world. And as the global and national economy continues to recover and grow, international trade will fuel that growth.”