Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

The goods trade deficit hit $375.2 billion in the first year of the Trump presidency.

The 2017 U.S. trade data is complete! It is in the books. The Department of Commerce has compiled and released the economy’s inputs and outputs for December, and now we have 12 months we can look at on the whole. How’d we do?

Well, uh, we broke a record – but not the kind of thing the president will tweet about, or bring up at a rally in suburban Cincinnati.

In 2017, the United States’ good trade deficit with China was $375.2 billion.

That’s approximately $8 billion higher than in 2015, the last high-water mark. Breakin’ records, all the time. So much winning.

It will take a sea change in economic policy to turn around America’s myriad trade deficits (the country’s total trade deficit, with all countries, grew by 12.5 percent last year). We’re addicted to consumption in the United States. We don’t save. We’ve promoted asymmetrical trade with our allies for decades – and too often sat on our hands when enforcement opportunities have appeared.

Revisiting U.S. trade policy was one of the reasons we elected Donald Trump, right? While it takes some time to renegotiate trade deals and ponder trade enforcement investigations, he’s now been in an office for more than a calendar year. And today’s big, ugly number shouldn’t rest easy on the mind of a chief executive who has had so much to say about trade deficits, particularly with China.

Said AAM President Scott Paul:

"While much of the economy is growing, trade-impacted sectors like steel face enormous challenges. Many American factory workers bought into the promise of the president’s trade policy reforms, but they are still waiting for results. ...

"The president should start by taking action to defend American steel and aluminum makers and workers from imports that are harming our national security. The Section 232 actions should be implemented sooner rather than later. He can follow that up by imposing penalties on China for its gargantuan intellectual property rights theft by completing the Section 301 case. He can conclude by renegotiating trade agreements in a manner that will reduce our trade deficits with NAFTA partners and South Korea in particular."