As the Trump administration seeks to reorient U.S. trade policy toward bilateral agreements, bilateral trade deficits have been put forward as a marker of the health — or lack thereof — of U.S. commercial relations with a given country. USCIB has taken up this issue in a recent statement to the Department of Commerce, as well as a public testimony that was delivered by USCIB’s Director for Investment, Trade, and Financial Services Eva Hampl on May 18 at the Department of Commerce.
In her testimony, Hampl emphasized USCIB’s view that trade deficits are a product of broader macroeconomic factors, not trade policy, and that the trade balance should not be viewed as a straightforward indicator of a country’s economic health. “While it is useful to address trade barriers that impede access for U.S. goods and services exporters to specific markets, we should not set up bilateral trade balances as the metric of successful trade policies,” she said.
Hampl concluded with 5 USCIB recommendations for the Administration:
- Examine the trade deficit within the broader set of macroeconomic factors that determine it and include all elements of trade in the analysis, instead of focusing solely on bilateral manufactured goods trade balances.
- Work with experts around the U.S. Government, international organizations, and academia to get the best data possible to guide the best policy making. We need much better measurements of real trade flows and value added, including in complex global supply chains and in services. We also need better data on FDI flows, both inward and outward.
- Move aggressively to open foreign markets, and identify and combat foreign trade barriers to increase U.S. exports and improve our trade balance. We support the use of appropriate enforcement tools including the WTO, bilateral and regional trade agreements, U.S. trade laws, and efforts to open those markets and to combat illegal foreign subsidies and dumping into the United States.
- Accelerate U.S. Government “commercial diplomacy” efforts to support U.S. companies competing to win deals overseas.
- Reform the U.S. Government’s economic policies, including tax reform, regulatory reform, and energy development, to bolster the competitiveness of our firms, allowing them to win more and bigger deals overseas.