Growth in US Goods Deficit with China Accelerates
President Donald Trump’s trade policy is centered on reducing bilateral trade deficits. Whatever he’s doing, it’s not working with respect to China.
The US-China Economic Security Commission recently reported that the US trade deficit in goods with China totaled $35.4 billion in November 2017, its highest monthly level in the past two years and a 16.2 percent increase year-on-year. The same figure increased by 13.2 percent year over year in October and 6.7 percent in September. Things seem to be going in the wrong direction, at least as far as the administration’s policy is concerned.
All this is happening, despite the fact that US exports to China continued to increase. It’s just that Chinese exports to the US are increasing faster. US exports to China grew 4.9 percent year-on-year to $12.7 billion in November, but US imports from China grew 13 percent year-on-year to $48.1 billion.
Month-on-month, US exports fell 1.9 percent mostly due to a decrease in soybeans and crude oil while
US imports from China declined 0.1 percent due to a decrease in toys, games, sporting goods, and apparel.
The cumulative US goods trade deficit with China in the first 11 months of 2017 is $344.4 billion, up 7.9 percent over the same period in 2016.
US exports of consumer goods to China are a small but growing component of US exports to China. In 2016, the United States exported $7 billion worth of consumer goods to China, only six percent of total US goods exports to China. However, from 2010 to 2016, US consumer goods exports to China grew 90 percent. Consumer goods registered the second-highest growth rate of all goods exports from 2011 to 2016 after automotive exports, and are the only category of US goods exports to China that have increased every year since 2003. In the first three quarters of 2017, US consumer goods exports to China totaled $5.4 billion, an increase of three percent year-on-year.
It’s all great news for US exporters. But if you’re Donald Trump, and you look at trade balances as the measure of success or failure—a dubious assertion—these figures are less than thrilling.