So far, the minimal tariffs that Trump has imposed on China (10% tariffs on half of their exports) has been powerless to stop a tax cut-fueled explosion in the trade deficit. On Friday, the Labor Department released the employment report for October and, once again, it was a strong one. The economy added 250,000 jobs. Unemployment held steady, and wages rose at their fastest pace in years. The economy is doing well, at least better than it has since the U.S. granted “most favored nation” status to China in the year 2000.
However, at the same time on Friday, the Commerce Department released the trade figures for the month of September – the first month that the tariffs were in full effect – and it’s clear that much of the economic stimulus provided by the tax cut that went into effect this year is ending up in the hands of China, Japan and Germany. The trade deficit in manufactured goods exploded to another new record – $71.6 billion (an annual rate of $859 billion) – blowing past the previous record set only one month earlier. Look at this chart: Manf’d Goods Balance of Trade.
This morning, I came across this commentary on CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/05/us-keeps-cutting-large-checks-to-china-japan-and-germany—commentary.html. I don’t agree with everything said here, but it’s encouraging to see that people are starting to “get it” when it comes to the trade deficit:
“Those who are sadly and incorrectly arguing that this does not matter should note that America’s trade deficits will be added to its $8.6 trillion of net foreign debt recorded at the end of the second quarter.
That large overseas transfer of American wealth is also a drag on economic growth. In the first nine months of this year, the growth of the gross domestic product was lower than the growth of domestic demand as a result of increasing U.S. trade deficits.”
Finally, someone acknowledging that the trade deficit is the driving force behind our growing national debt.
Trump is exactly right to treat the trade deficit as a national security threat and to begin imposing tariffs on that basis. So far, however, it’s been too little. The tariffs need to be extended to all imports from China. They need to be raised to 25% or more. And they need to be extended beyond China, to Germany and Japan and anyone else who attempts to prop up their economies at the expense of American workers. When that happens – when corporations stop seeing tariffs as a fleeting ploy in trade negotiations and instead see manufacturing in the U.S. as a more profitable business model than paying high tariffs – then and only then will trade become more balanced and fair and the trade deficit will begin to decline.