Washington Report: U.S. Aerospace trade balance soared in 2007

 - June 9, 2008, 9:26 AM

The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) said that increased exports of aerospace products in the final quarter of last year sent the aerospace industry’s positive trade balance into record territory, with a final tally of $60.4 billion.

Aerospace industry exports soared to almost $97 billion in 2007, an increase of nearly 14 percent over the $85 billion worth of aerospace products exported in 2006. Civil aircraft exports, which accounted for almost 50 percent of total aerospace exports, dominated the growth. Military-related exports accounted for almost $13 billion of the total.

Imports of aerospace products increased to $36.5 billion last year, up from $30.5 billion in 2006. One-third of that growth was related to commercial transport aircraft and increased imports of regional jets.

“The sustained growth in aerospace trade is a good sign not only for our industry, but for the U.S. economy as a whole,” said AIA president and CEO Marion Blakey. “Our industry’s track record as a major net export earner for the United States helps to offset the nation’s chronic trade deficit.”

She said airlines from around the world are stocking up on U.S. aircraft because of growing demand in emerging and established markets. “This is a hot market despite economic uncertainty,” she added.

Meanwhile, Blakey said the AIA’s foremost objectives this year are tied to the U.S. presidential and congressional elections.

“Following precedents set in 2000 and 2004, we tailored our 2008 priorities toward the campaigns to ensure that the industry’s issues are prominent when the new President and the new Congress take office next year,” she said.

According to the former FAA Administrator, the transformation of air transportation under the NextGen system is the AIA’s main focus in the civil aviation arena. “We must have adequate and consistent funding for development and implementation of the advanced satellite-based system to keep pace with ever-growing demands on air travel capacity,” she said. “The new system will not only minimize frustrating flight delays but will also improve aviation security and increase environmental protection. Civil aviation contributes more than $640 billion annually to our economy, and we simply can’t afford to neglect this priority.”

In terms of national security, the AIA emphasizes that America’s current plan for defense modernization isn’t viable. “In these dangerous times we’re facing growing pressures on the defense budget, including operations and maintenance and personnel expenditures,” Blakey explained. “There’s an acute need to reset and recapitalize equipment that’s wearing out from demanding operations. Defense modernization is overdue, and we need additional, sustained investment over the long term to ensure our military remains the best-equipped in the world.”

She said the most pressing issue in the space sector is the coming gap in manned space access after the space shuttle retires in 2010. “We must ensure that the planned five-year period before the Orion capsule begins launching doesn’t grow any wider–the best-case scenario would see the gap reduced,” Blakey said. “Now isn’t the time to shortchange our space efforts, especially with China and other nations making strides to overtake our leadership. NASA needs steady funding increases to cover all of its core missions, including science, aeronautics and space exploration.”

Other key issues for the AIA include export control modernization, research and development investment and the looming workforce crisis.