Economic recovery, at home, in Europe, across the globe, seems to be on everyone's minds these days. In the United States, the engine to power our economic recovery is fueled by human and physical resources right here in our own hemisphere. No one knows this better than the Council of the Americas. Since its founding in 1965, the Council's approximately 200 members account for a large percentage of U.S. investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. Their investment is linked by a shared belief that free markets and private enterprise, coupled with strong democratic governance, offer the most effective means to achieve regional economic growth and prosperity.
Yesterday, when we addressed the Council at their annual conference, Deputy Secretary Bill Burns and I took the opportunity to emphasize that the United States' road to recovery lies right here in our region. Secretary Clinton has described it as "the power of proximity," and I'd like to share a few facts with you that speak to the vital interest we have in investing in our partnerships with our neighbors, and what further steps our Administration is taking to ensure that our shared hemispheric future is safe and prosperous.
In the last 15 years, 56 million Latin American and Caribbean households joined the middle class. Projections indicate that by the year 2030, 72 percent of Latin America and the Caribbean will be in the middle class. In the next five years alone, the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean are estimated to grow by more than 30 percent on average. That's a lot of consumers of U.S. made goods and services. And a lot of folks who will be producing goods and services we in the United States want and need.
Did you know that 42 percent of U.S. global exports stay right here in our own region? Since 2009, those exports have increased by more than $200 billion, to nearly $650 billion, a 46 percent increase in three years. Those exports represent more than four million U.S. jobs. Here's one no one ever guesses right on: we export three times as much to Latin America as we do to China.
NAFTA is the largest free trade area in the world, producing more than $18 trillion in goods and services. With the passage of free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia last fall, we are now set to have trade partnerships with 12 countries from the Arctic to the Straits of Magellan.
Half of our U.S. oil and petroleum imports come from right here in our hemisphere. Only 16 percent of our crude oil and petroleum product imports came from the Persian Gulf in 2011. Our region accounts for one-quarter of the world's crude oil production, one-third of the world's coal production, one-third of the world's natural gas production, and one-third of the world's electricity production.
These numbers all speak to the economic importance of our neighbors for our own national economic well-being. But we must work together to develop even further our partnerships in the region. President Obama asked leaders at the CEO Summit prior to the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena last month, "How do we make sure that this integration is benefiting a broad base of people...and giving businesses opportunities to thrive and create new products and services?"
That is the question of the moment. How do we grow business and bring new households into the global economy? In Cartagena, we announced programs that aim to provide the people in our hemisphere with the energy, education, connectivity, and access to the economic engines of growth, and bring the other half into the middle class.
Connect 2022 is a regional initiative to provide universal access to electricity in our hemisphere by 2022. 100,000 Strong in the Americas is a goal to increase educational exchange in our hemisphere so that 100,000 students in Latin America and the Caribbean are studying in the United States, and 100,000 of our students are studying there, furthering personal, educational, linguistic, research, and business ties. The Broadband Partnership of the Americas will increase broadband and internet access throughout the hemisphere, bolstering a key driver of economic growth in today's wired economy. The Small Business Network of the Americas will support success and job creation in small- and medium-sized enterprises, and encourage greater trade among these businesses throughout the Western Hemisphere. The WEAmericas initiative will work with women entrepreneurs, who are significant accelerators of economic growth, to leverage public-private partnerships to increase women's economic participation and address key barriers women confront when starting and growing businesses.
With these initiatives, we are building a base from which our shared regional prosperity can continue to grow. We are on the road to recovery, and it starts right here in the Western Hemisphere.