EXPORT trade is the avenue through which the European war directly affects the American economy. Many observers regard the war as a providential opportunity to increase American exports. Belligerents, they point out, need vast supplies of airplanes, munitions, and other war supplies which American firms are able and eager to provide. In addition, they tell us, American exporters will find new opportunities in neutral markets. "So far as the Old World is concerned," writes one enthusiast, "United States manufacturers and producers now have practically no competitors in markets worth two billion dollars a year." In his wide grasp, this speaker seized for our benefit markets in the four corners of the earth formerly supplied by German, French and British producers. But, for the most part, the boosters of American exports have lavished their attention on the possibilities of increased sales in the Latin American market. Much as the prospects of selling to hundreds of millions of Chinese stirred an earlier generation, potential sales in the millions of square miles south of the Rio Grande stir the imagination of American traders of today. They find support for their hopes in the commercial statistics of 1914-1920.
After a ten percent decline in 1915, United States exports to the other American republics rose sharply in 1916, reaching in 1917 a total value equal to more than twice the prewar level. This was only the beginning. After a year of hesitation, the advance was renewed in 1919, carrying the export figures in 1920 to the amazing sum of $1,483,323,550, five times the 1910-14 average. Our share in the total purchases of the Latin American republics from all countries rose from 23 percent at the beginning of the war to 49 percent in 1920. To repeat this performance on perhaps an even larger scale is the "golden opportunity" which now floats before the eyes of American exporters.
A European war, the condition which gave the initial impetus to our trade expansion in 1915-20, is again present. The principal belligerents -- England, France and Germany --
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