The Bureau of Economic Analysis released January’s trade results on Friday – results that were consistent with reports for the past several years. The overall trade deficit was $39.1 billion – about the same as four years earlier, thanks to the increase in exports being matched by an increase in imports.
But four years ago, President Obama set a goal of doubling exports in five years. With only one year left, exports have risen by only 34%. The $48.8 billion increase in exports during that time was more than offset by a $49.8 billion increase in imports. In order to keep pace with the president’s goal, exports needed to rise by $106.3 billion by this time. The shortfall of $57.5 billion is a record.
Of course, jobs are concentrated in the category of manufactured products, and there the news is even worse. The deficit in manufactured products has worsened by 50% in the last four years. A $24 billion increase in manufactured exports has been swamped by a $37.2 billion increase (per month) in imports. Manufactured exports in January were less than in March of 2012. Here’s the chart: Manf’d exports vs. goal. And, though the balance of trade in manufactured goods improved by $3 billion over December, the overall trend is down – sharply. Here’s the chart: Manf’d Goods Balance of Trade. Manufactured exports in January fell short of the president’s goal by $40.2 billion. The result is that absolutely no progress has been made in bringing American jobs back home. Clearly, the “manufacturing renaissance” he boasts of is an illusion.
In fact, the blame for the entire trade deficit now lies squarely on President Obama’s refusal to deal with the import issue. But he seems fine with all of this. He’s done absolutely nothing to adjust trade policy, except to make matters worse. In March of 2012, he signed a new trade deal with South Korea which he hailed as a big win for American workers. The result? Our deficit with S. Korea grew by 25% in 2013 over 2012, and it’s 100% worse than the deficit only three years earlier in 2010.
Our only consolation is that “four more years” is now down to only (?) three more years.