As reported in the above-linked Reuters article, America’s trade deficit fell slightly to $50.8 billion in April. More importantly, the deficit in manufactured goods fell to $68 billion, it’s lowest level since June of last year. The decline was due to a drop of $5.9 billion in imports, partially offset by a $5.2 billion drop in exports.
The reporting in the article seems to be intentionally misleading to promote a pro-free trade, pro-globalism agenda. First of all, the article reports that the deficit “unexpectedly narrowed.” Why “unexpectedly?” I, and anyone who understands how tariffs work to restore a balance of trade, have been expecting it for months.
Then there’s this:
“U.S. trade with the world is slowing dramatically and the odds are rising that the economy is going to take a big hit,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.
“Globalization and expanded trade between nations benefited everyone and now the reductions in trade volumes between nations are going to subtract those benefits worldwide from everyone.”
The facts are that the economy is actually doing very well, especially in the U.S. Globalization didn’t benefit everyone. America’s manufacturing sector was devastated, turning a nation that was an industrial powerhouse into a skid row bum, economically speaking.
The politically sensitive goods trade deficit with China surged 29.7% to $26.9 billion. The gap with Mexico fell 14.1% to $8.2 billion in April.
Well, yeah, the deficit with China rose in April from March, but March was the lowest deficit with China in five years. The Reuters article failed to mention that the 3-month trailing average deficit with China, which factors out month-to-month volatility, fell to its lowest level since April of 2014. The data about Mexico is also misleading. While the gap fell with Mexico in April from March, the 3-month trailing average rose to its highest level ever as manufacturers flee China for Mexico to avoid tariffs and to reduce their high shipping costs.
The tariffs on China are working, a fact more accurately covered in this article: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-mexico-manufacturers/under-tariff-threat-mexico-less-attractive-to-companies-avoiding-china-trade-war-idUSKCN1T82HB.
Take the recent experience of outsourcing firm Tecma Group, which saw a surge in interest from companies mulling a move to Mexico as Trump raised tariffs to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
Tecma, which manages some 75 factories in Mexico, had been approached “every week” by companies selling items from furniture to ink pens seeking a pathway out of China and into Mexico, according to Alan Russell, its chief executive and chairman.
… data showing Mexico emerging as the top U.S. trading partner as China exports less to the United States, combined with anecdotal evidence, suggest a significant trend.
… “Whatever we are doing in Mexico is for our company’s long-term strategic growth … If we produce in Mexico we’ll a save a lot on freight and it will reduce the time for delivery. It’s a huge advantage,” said (Fuling Global Inc.) CFO Gilbert Lee.
… Similarly, camera maker GoPro Inc decided in early May to move most of its U.S.-bound production to Mexico from China to “insulate us against possible tariffs,” Chief Financial Officer Brian McGee told investors at the time.
… In fact, Mexico overtook both China and Canada in the first quarter of 2019 to become the U.S.’s top trading partner in goods, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
This is proof positive that the tariffs on China are working, forcing manufacturers to flee in search of a better deal. The fact that, for now, they’re finding a better deal in Mexico instead of returning immediately to domestic manufacturing in the U.S. isn’t all bad news. Mexico is a nation with only one tenth of the population of China, and with a GDP (gross domestic product) per capita that’s approximately 25% higher than China’s. That means that Mexico doesn’t have enough slack labor force to take on all of the manufacturing currently done in China. The demand for labor will quickly drive wages that are already higher in Mexico than in China even higher, to the point where manufacturing in Mexico has no advantage over the U.S.
The data shows that the tariffs are really beginning to work.