With the Trump administration seeking 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.
In its statement, USCIB said: “On the specific issue of trade deficits, particularly bilateral deficits (or surpluses) with individual countries, USCIB supports the view of most mainstream economists, who are convinced 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.”
Furthermore, the USCIB statement argued for greater attention to trade in services, not just goods, in any analysis of trade balances. “In the United States, services account for almost 80% of GDP, and services jobs account for more than 80% of private sector employment,” USCIB said. “Accordingly, a trade policy focused solely on trade deficits in manufacturing is misleading.”
The Commerce Department is expected to hold hearings on trade deficits later this week.