It’s Official! Manufacturing Trade Surplus with Free Trade Agreement Partners

By August 31, 2011Economy, Trade

The Commerce Department, on its excellent website on Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), now lists exports, imports, and trade balances with our FTA partners.  Their FTA trade tables show that, contrary to anti-trade allegations, the United States has a manufactured goods trade surplus with our FTA partners.

The FTA trade tables show both total trade and trade in manufactured goods.  While total trade with FTA partners is in deficit, manufactured goods (shown on page two of the FTA Trade Tables) are in surplus.  Oil imports from NAFTA are the reason why total trade is in deficit – but oil imports don’t affect U.S. jobs negatively.  The United States needs more oil from friendly sources right next door, and NAFTA is our largest supplier of oil.

When anti-trade elements attack FTAs as costing U.S. manufacturing jobs, they are implying that the United States has a large and growing deficit in manufactured goods trade with FTAs.  This alleged deficit implies that imports from FTA partners grew faster than exports, hurting job opportunities.

But that is absolutely false, as the International Trade Administration’s FTA Trade Tables show.  The truth is that when it comes to manufactured goods, the United States has had a trade surplus with FTA partners for several years: $27 billion in 2009, $23 billion in 2010, and $21 billion for the first half of this year – implying a $42 billion annual rate of surplus for 2011.

The data show that manufactured goods exports to FTA partners have been growing faster than imports from them, which makes sense since our trade agreements have cut their trade barriers to us much more than we have cut our trade barriers to them.

The FTA Trade Tables show that we have a manufactured goods surplus with NAFTA so far this year amounting to $4.1 billion – a $8.2 billion annual rate; and a manufactured goods surplus with CAFTA of $2 billion – a $4 billion annual rate.

These are the official figures, published by the Commerce Department statisticians and economists who are responsible for collecting and distributing U.S. trade statistics.

It is time for the AFL-CIO and other trade agreement opponents to admit they were wrong – trade agreements have had a positive, not a negative,  effect on manufacturing in the U.S. and jobs.  They need to get past their false ideology on trade agreements and join in addressing manufacturing’s real problems – excessively high corporate taxes, over-regulation, high energy costs, and the like.

Frank Vargo is vice president for international economic affairs, National Association of Manufacturers.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Edwin Shoemaker says:

    If manufactured exports increased because of supposed free trade agreements why have 40,000 manufacturing plants in the United states closed? Devalueing the US dollars buying power contributes to inflation.

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