Going Global (Editorial)

This week's issue of Arkansas Business, examining the import/export trade in the state, discloses some interesting and important trends.

Among them: The $5.3 billion in total Arkansas exports in 2009 was 66 percent higher than it was in 2004. And though the first nine months have seen a decline in this year's exports compared with 2009, that decrease is small (1.25 percent) and linked in large measure to the aircraft sector, which has taken a huge hit during the recession. If the fourth quarter proves robust, the state's international trade in 2010 may catch up to last year's.

In addition, figures from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission indicate how the global economic slowdown started to affect the state's exports in 2009, as the total fell to that $5.3 billion compared with $5.8 billion for all of 2008.

Many years ago, the state's boosters liked to brag that Arkansas basically could be self-sufficient. It was Charles Hillman Brough, the state's 25th governor (1917-21) who popularized the "wall around Arkansas" metaphor. (Thanks to the indispensable "Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture" for help in finding the source.)

Although, as the encyclopedia notes, Brough was considered a progressive, this insular thinking provoked derision.

Arkansas is not an island unto itself. It never was, nor should it ever be. Economically, a global outlook benefits the state's businesses and industries, as the AEDC numbers demonstrate. Various state officials and agencies have recognized this, encouraging Arkansas to engage economically with the world.

President Barack Obama, in creating the National Export Initiative, benefited exporters. The initiative seeks to double exports during the next five years by removing trade barriers. And as Dan Hendrix, president and CEO of the Arkansas World Trade Center, said, "As the U.S. government continues to find ways to double exports in the next five years, then that will certainly impact Arkansas companies and agriculture."

Congressman John Boozman (despite being anti-matter to Obama's matter, or vice versa) also understands the importance of promoting exports of Arkansas goods. Hendrix credits Boozman, now senator-elect, with being the visionary behind the World Trade Center, which helps state companies connect with international markets.

Sometimes, an idea - economic development through the cultivation of international markets - is so good, even matter and anti-matter can understand the benefits without mutual annihilation.