New markets remain key to a thriving tech sector

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High-tech industry exports totaled $223 billion nationally during 2008, an increase of 1 percent compared to 2007.

While long-term analysis shows an increase of 38 percent since 2002, high-tech exports have decreased in four subsectors: computers and peripheral equipment, consumer electronics, semiconductors and industrial electronics.

Those decreases, however, have been partially mitigated by increases in communications equipment, electronic components, electro-medical equipment and photonics. The largest gain has been in communications equipment, which increased by $2.5 billion last year.

High-tech represents the largest merchandise export in the United States, accounting for 17 percent of total exports. Nationally, more than 1.1 million people are employed in high-tech manufacturing.

The sector accounts for 37 percent of Colorado’s $7.7 billion in exports, and supports 17,300 jobs throughout the state.

Semiconductor manufacturing is the largest component of the sector, accounting for $59 billion in exports, despite a decline of $1.6 billion since 2007.

“Opening new markets to trade and expanding existing markets is critical to American competitiveness in the global marketplace,” said Christopher W. Hansen, president of the TechAmerica Foundation. “In tough economic times, the temptation exists to raise protectionist barriers to trade. This would have profoundly adverse consequences for the U.S. economy.”

Opening new international markets is a key to bolster the high-tech industry and the overall U.S. economy, he said. Currently, three bilateral free trade agreements — with Colombia, Panama and South Korea — are awaiting Congressional approval.

“TechAmerica Foundation hopes to provide a comprehensive picture of the importance of trade to the U.S. and global economy,” Hansen said. “Trade contributes greatly to economic growth and prosperity both domestically and worldwide.”