The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released trade figures for the month of August this morning. It was little changed from July’s awful reading of $45.6 billion.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve been tracking how the U.S. has been doing in exports since President Obama’s pledge in January, 2010 to double exports within five years. I’ll get to that in a moment. Of greater importance is how the U.S. is doing in terms of its balance of trade, both overall and, more importantly, in manufactured products. Only by eliminating our trade deficit in manufactured products is there any hope of bringing millions of manufacturing jobs back home.
I was particularly struck by the following data this morning. Since making his pledge in January, 2010:
- our overall trade deficit has worsened by 21.7% Here’s the chart: Balance of Trade
- our trade deficit in manufactured products has worsened by the exact same figure – 21.7%
- our trade deficit in petroleum products has worsened by 19%.
- our trade surplus in food products has shrunk by 17%.
Our trade picture has darkened dramatically since Obama made that pledge. With that said, let’s now take a look at how we’re doing with exports. Here’s a chart of overall exports and imports since January, 2010:
Is it just me, or does anyone else find it suspicious, even downright implausible, that exports have tracked so closely to Obama’s goal to double exports? Is it possible that some category of exports is being manipulated? Here’s a stunning piece of data that I didn’t realize until I examined the data more closely this month: while our trade deficit in pretroleum products has worsened by 19% since January 2010, driven largely by a 37% increase in oil imports (most of which is due to the rising price and not an increase in demand), oil exports have risen by 226%! Oil exports! From a nation desperate to reduce its dependency on foreign oil!
In the meantime, exports of manufactured goods have fallen short of Obama’s goal by $5.1 billion per month. Here’s the chart:
Hmmm. Exports of manufactured goods are lagging Obama’s goal by about $5.1 billion at this point, only 1-2/3 years into his 5-year goal. At the same time, oil exports have risen by $5.7 billion (an increase of 126%). The end result is that overall exports fall exactly on Obama’s target line. Pure coincidence? Maybe. But it sure looks suspicious.