To understand just how valuable imports are to US businesses - especially manufacturers - one need only look at the following chart, courtesy of Economist Mark Perry.
The chart also clearly demonstrates why improved access to imported goods (and services) must be a critical component of any national policies geared at increasing US exports. As I recently wrote, "[A] strong, positive correlation exists between import growth and export growth—a statistic that makes perfect sense when one realizes that over half of all U.S. imports are capital goods and equipment used by American manufacturers to produce globally-competitive products. Such data are helpful signals of imports’ vital role in the U.S. economy, and they undermine a [mercantilist] U.S. export policy that ignores access to foreign goods."
Unfortunately, our current export policies do just that.