The economy came back with a roar in 2014, and America’s exports help explain why. Nationally, exports hit a record level of $2.35 trillion for the calendar year and accounted for gains in the labor market, as well: 1.6 million more jobs are supported by the export economy now than in 2009, according to figures released by the White House.

Hawaii is part of the resurgence, with an export sector that hit a record $1.5 billion in 2014 and supported some 3,000 jobs across the state. From a White House news release:

“According to data released by the Department of Commerce, Hawaii’s goods exports in 2014 were led by a number of sectors, including transportation equipment ($479 million); petroleum and coal products ($426 million); and chemicals ($153 million).”

matson interisland container shipping

A Matson container ship leaves Honolulu Harbor as surfers ride waves last September.

Cory Lum/Civl Beat

The White House is using the good news, in part, to stoke enthusiasm for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement talks, which are set to continue in Hawaii this month. The TPP would include 12 countries, among them, some of Hawaii’s top export markets: Australia, Singapore, Canada and New Zealand. 

TPP markets already constitute more than 60 percent of Hawaii’s export economy, and the tariffs that might be lifted by individual nations as part of TPP, including Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, could provide a significant boost to Hawaii exporters.

TPP is not without controversy, though. In a blistering op/ed in the Washington Post recently, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren took aim at a provision in the secretive agreement draft – currently available to the public only on WikiLeaks.  The “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” Warren charges, “would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws – and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers – without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court.” 

Warren and other skeptics will be watching closely as to whether negotiators make good on their promise to include improved language that protects U.S. interests. If the week-long negotiations bear fruit, Hawaii will be the first to know, and given the opportunities noted above, perhaps among the first to benefit. 

About the Author