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The U.S. as One of the Developed World’s Lowest-Cost Manufacturers

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The U.S. as One of the Developed World’s Lowest-Cost Manufacturers

Export manufacturing has recently become the unsung hero of the U.S. economy. Despite all the public focus on the U.S. trade deficit, little attention has been paid to the fact that the country’s exports have been growing more than seven times faster than GDP since 2005. As a share of the U.S. economy, in fact, exports are at their highest point in 50 years.

But this is likely to be just the beginning. We project that the U.S., as a result of its increasing competitiveness in manufacturing, will capture $70 billion to $115 billion in annual exports from other nations by the end of the decade. About two-thirds of these export gains could come from production shifts to the U.S. from leading European nations and Japan. By 2020, higher U.S. exports, combined with production work that will likely be “reshored” from China, could create 2.5 million to 5 million American factory and service jobs associated with increased manufacturing.

Our perspective is based on shifts in cost structures that increasingly favor U.S. manufacturing. In the first two reports in our Made in America, Again series, we explained how China’s once overwhelming production-cost advantage over the U.S. is rapidly eroding because of higher wages and other factors—and how these trends are likely to boost U.S. manufacturing in specific industries. Below, we focus on America’s increasing cost-competitiveness in manufacturing compared with leading advanced economies that are major exporters.

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