The Commerce Department’s release of full-year 2010 trade data today showed U.S. exports of manufactured goods rose 20 percent over 2009.  Manufactured goods exports outpaced other sectors, and accounted for fully 70 percent of the overall increase in total U.S. exports of goods and services. 

The huge increase in exports was welcome news to manufacturers struggling to recover from the recent recession.  Manufacturers’ sales in 2010 were up 9 percent in 2010, with exports accounting for over 40 percent of that increase.  Sales for the domestic market were up only 6 percent.  Manufacturers will need continued export growth in order to boost factory jobs in the coming years.

Imports of manufactured goods rose more rapidly than exports in 2010, up 23 percent; pushing the manufactured goods deficit up from $326 billion in 2009 to nearly $416 billion in 2010. 

Manufactured goods trade with U.S. Free Trade (FTA) partners bucked the trend, and turned in a surplus for the third straight year.  Counter to widely-held views that trade agreements are bad for manufacturing, over the past three years the United States has sold about $70 billion more manufactured goods to FTA partners than we imported from them.

Frank Vargo is the NAM vice president for international economic affairs.