The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) today reported that U.S. trade volume for the first six months of the year was 15.7 percent higher in 2011 than 2010. Exports and imports were both up nearly 16 percent.

Compared to the first six months of last year, exports of U.S. goods were up 18.3 percent, reflecting the growing importance of foreign markets for U.S. agricultural and manufactured products. Agricultural exports showed the biggest growth: Exports of foods, feeds, and beverages were up 26.6 percent versus the first six months of 2010.

According to the BEA, fast-growing export markets include Mexico, up 18 percent versus the first six months of 2010, and China, up 16.8 percent. So far in 2011, America’s NAFTA trading partners, Canada and Mexico, account for nearly one-third of U.S. goods exports. More than 39 percent of U.S. exports of goods have been sold to people in Canada, Mexico, or China.

Reducing U.S. trade barriers and opening foreign markets is one way the Obama Administration can combat the steady stream of bad economic news resulting from federal deficit spending and costly red tape. In the near term, that means President Obama should submit pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea to Congress for quick approval.