October Trade Data Debunks Fake News About Harmful Effects of Tariffs

December 6, 2018

Don’t take my word for it.  Read the report yourself and delve into the details.  Here’s a link to the October trade data, released this morning by the Department of Commerce:  http://www.bea.gov/system/files/2018-12/trad1018.pdf.

We’ve all heard the stories.  The trade war between the U.S. and China is dragging down the global economy.  The manufacturing sector in China is slowing.  Retaliatory tariffs by China have virtually halted soybean exports from the U.S. and soybean prices are down.  Auto exports are in decline.  Tariffs on steel and aluminum are making the U.S. uncompetitive.  The October trade data makes clear that these stories are all a bunch of B.S. – lies spread by free trade globalists in the hope of heading off more and higher tariffs.

Let’s begin with the big picture.  The total trade deficit was only $0.07 billion off from the record set one month earlier.  Here’s the chart:  Balance of Trade.  In terms of the all-important category of manufactured goods, where the jobs are, the trade deficit broke the previous month’s record for the fourth consecutive month, blowing past last month’s record by $1.6 billion to a new record of $73.3 billion.  That’s an annual rate of $880 billion.  Take a look at this chart:  Manf’d Goods Balance of Trade.  If that was a chart of your household spending, you would be in an absolute panic over the deterioration in your finances.

Now, as for those bogus stories about tariffs, let’s dig into the details of the report.  First, there’s the claim about China’s economy being dragged down.  See page 3 of the report.  The goods deficit with China rose to $38.2 billion (expressed in 2012 dollars).  That’s a new record.  If anything, the report understates just how bad the trade picture with China has gotten.  Check out the balance of trade with China in current dollars:  https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5700.html.  The goods deficit with China has absolutely exploded, setting records for the past four consecutive months.  For all the whining you hear from Chinese officials, the truth is that they’re making more of a killing than ever before at the expense of American workers.

What about soybeans?  We’ve all seen the news reports about how much the tariffs have hurt American farmers.  It’s baloney.  Go to page 20 of the October trade report.  Soybean exports, while down a little in October,  year-to-date are running far ahead of the same time last year:  $24.1 billion vs. $19.4 billion in 2017.  The stories talk about how much exports to China have declined.  They don’t mention that the decline has been more than offset by an increase in soybean exports to Europe.  (Europe turned to the U.S. for its soybeans when China shifted its soybean sourcing to Brazil, displacing Europe from their Brazilian source and forcing them to the U.S.)  Given the year-to-date volume of exports, if prices are down now, it’s likely because of a glut in soybeans.

Auto exports?  See page 21.  They were down very slightly in October from September but, year-to-date, are up to $134.1 billion vs. $130.6 billion in 2017.  By the way, as reported on Monday, domestic vehicle sales in November held steady at the very high level of 17.5 million vehicles, debunking the whining by auto manufacturers that sales are in decline.

Steel and aluminum?  Both exports and imports are up.  Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I asked my nephew who works for a steel manufacturer in Indiana how their business is doing.  He reported that they had already blown past the sales record they set in 2017 by a substantial margin.

While the tariffs implemented so far have been too few and too small to have a dramatic impact on manufacturing repatriating to the U.S., there’s some very good news that you don’t hear about.  In October, thanks to the 10% tariff on steel and aluminum and the 10% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese imports, federal revenue from these tariffs was approximately $30 billion, a significant contribution toward reducing the federal budget deficit.  If kept in place, those small tariffs alone would cut the annual budget deficit by $360 billion, or by about a third.  That’s huge, folks!  Just imagine what would happen if Trump applied the tariffs to all Chinese imports, and raises them to 25%, and also applies a 25% tariff to all auto imports.  We’d have our first balanced budget in decades, not to mention companies scrambling to build domestic manufacturing capacity!

So ignore all the doom and gloom and hand-wringing by the free trade globalists.  It’s all a bunch of baloney, meant to scare you and meant to apply political pressure to stop any further tariffs.  If everyone knew the truth, they’d be applauding the Trump administration for its trade policy and would be demanding more and higher tariffs.

 

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Trump Suckered at G20

December 3, 2018

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-g20-argentina/trump-chinas-xi-poised-for-high-stakes-summit-over-trade-war-idUSKCN1O031C

There’s just no other way to describe it.  Trump got suckered at the G20 meeting in Argentina.  As reported in the above-linked article, Trump agreed to delay any further tariffs on Chinese goods for at least 90 days in exchange for nothing more than the same vague promises China has been making for 20 years.

“China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” it said.

“China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately.”

The two leaders also agreed to immediately start talks on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfers, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture, the White House said.

Regarding that last sentence, these are exactly the same promises made by China for the past two decades.  It never happens but, every time, the Chinese win yet another delay in the U.S. taking any meaningful action to restore a balance of trade.

Then there’s the Chinese take on the agreement:

“China is willing to increase imports in accordance with the needs of its domestic market and the people’s needs, including marketable products from the United States, to gradually ease the imbalance in two-way trade.”

“The two sides agreed to mutually open their markets, and as China advances a new round of reforms, the United States’ legitimate concerns can be progressively resolved.”

The two sides would “step up negotiations” toward full elimination of all additional tariffs, Wang said.

Note the qualifiers in the first sentence:  “… in accordance with the needs of its domestic market and the people’s needs …” and “… marketable products …”  In other words, they will do what’s in their own best self-interest, which is to employ their 1.2 billion people in manufacturing for export.  What “marketable products” are they talking about?  Thanks to China, the U.S. barely manufactures anything any more.  Even American consumers can’t find anything made in the U.S.  Virtually every single product we buy is labeled “made in China.”  The ones that aren’t are labeled “made in Mexico.”  Beyond Boeing aircraft and pickup trucks (of which the latter are largely assembled from Chinese and Mexican parts), what else is there?  Are we really expected to believe that we soon may see Chinese consumers driving around in Silverados, F-150s and Ram trucks?

It’ll never happen because Chinese consumers, thanks to gross over-crowding in their country, are incapable of consuming even their own domestic output, much less any imports from America.  What will it take for American leaders to understand that?  Forty-eight years of consecutive trade deficits, including not a single year in which the U.S. had a trade surplus with China, isn’t enough evidence?

I truly don’t understand the weird infatuation that Trump seems to have with communist dictator Xi.  He seems to have an almost hypnotic effect on Trump, who gushes praise for Xi after every face-to-face meeting.  Beyond Trump, I wish the U.S. would stop attending these G20 meetings.  I challenge anyone to cite a single example of how the U.S. has ever emerged from a G20 meeting with anything that has been beneficial to American workers.  Clearly, the G20 exists for the sole purpose of devising methods of sucking more blood from the U.S. economy, like a swarm of parasites, stopping just short of killing its host altogether.

For nearly two years, Trump has talked tough about putting America first and about making America great again, and restoring a balance of trade has been the central focus of that effort.  But what is there to show for it?  America’s trade deficit in manufactured goods has actually accelerated, setting new records month after month.

It appears that Trump is caving in to pressure from farmers and global corporations who are more interested in total global sales volume than in doing what’s necessary to help American workers and to keep the U.S. from financial ruin.

Trump’s failure at the G20 is extremely disappointing and I fear that I may be losing faith.