Oh woe, the trade deficit is (too high?, too low?, too just right?)

Here are excerpts from an article in “the balance.com,” that will help you come to a conclusion.

US Trade Deficit With China and Why It’s So High
The Real Reason American Jobs Are Going to China

The U.S. trade deficit with China was $419 billion in 2018. The trade deficit exists because U.S. exports to China were only $120 billion while imports from China were $540 billion.

The biggest categories of U.S. imports from China were computers and accessories, cell phones, and apparel and footwear.

A lot of these imports are from U.S. manufacturers that send raw materials to China for low-cost assembly. Once shipped back to the United States, they are considered imports.

Let’s say you market cell phones under your brand name.

You buy the phones from a Chinese manufacturer for $200 each. You apply your brand name and wholesale the phones for $300 each, after which they retail for $500 each.

This process involves a $200 per phone, U.S. trade deficit with China

If the phones had been 100% American made, they would have cost you $300, and you would have had to wholesale them in America for $450 each, after which they would have cost American consumers $750 each.

We’ll lead off with the ten questions. At the end of the article, we’ll discuss the answers.

Question #1: Is this trade deficit a good thing or a bad thing for America as a nation and for Americans as consumers?

Here is more from the article:

China’s biggest imports from America are commercial aircraft, soybeans, and autos. In 2018, China canceled its soybean imports after President Trump started a trade war. He imposed tariffs on Chinese steel exports and other goods.

Questions #2 & #3: Who pays for the tariffs on Chinese steel and other goods? Who pays for the cancelation of China’s soybean imports?

Since 2012, the U.S. trade deficit with China has increased. It was $315 billion in 2012, rose to $367.3 billion in 2015, then fell to $346.9 billion in 2015. In just two years, it’s increased to $419.2 billion.

Question #4: Who pays for a trade deficit?

China can produce many consumer goods at lower costs than other countries can. Americans, of course, want these goods for the lowest prices.

How does China keep prices so low? Most economists agree that China’s competitive pricing is a result of two factors:

–A lower standard of living, which allows companies in China to pay lower wages to workers.

–An exchange rate that is partially fixed to the dollar.

Question #5: Who pays for a lower standard of living? 

China pegs its currency to the dollar using a modified fixed exchange rate. When the dollar loses value, China buys dollars through U.S. Treasurys to support it.

Question #6: Who pays for a stronger (higher value) dollar?

China must buy so many U.S. Treasury notes that it is the largest lender to the U.S. government. Japan is the second largest.

As of April 2019, the U.S. debt to China was $1.1 trillion. That’s 27% of the total public debt owned by foreign countries.

Question #7: Why does lending to the U.S. strengthen the U.S. dollar?

Many are concerned that this gives China political leverage over U.S. fiscal policy. They worry about what would happen if China started selling its Treasury holdings.

It would also be disastrous if China merely cut back on its Treasury purchases.

Why are they so worried? By buying Treasurys, China helped keep U.S. interest rates low. If China were to stop buying Treasurys, interest rates would rise.

That could throw the United States into a recession. But this wouldn’t be in China’s best interests, as U.S. shoppers would buy fewer Chinese exports. In fact, China is buying almost as many Treasurys as ever.

Question #8: Why does China’s purchase of Treasury securities reduce interest rates?

U.S. companies that can’t compete with cheap Chinese goods must either lower their costs or go out of business.

Many businesses reduce their costs by outsourcing jobs to China or India. Outsourcing adds to U.S. unemployment. Other industries have just dried up.

U.S. manufacturing, as measured by the number of jobs, declined 34% between 1998 and 2010. As these industries declined, so has U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace.

Question #9: Why is a decline in manufacturing a concern?

President Trump promised to lower the trade deficit with China.

On March 1, 2018, he announced he would impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum. On July 6, 2018, Trump’s tariffs went into effect for $34 billion of Chinese imports. China canceled all import contracts for soybeans.

Trump’s tariffs have raised the costs of imported steel, most of which is from China. Trump’s move comes a month after he imposed tariffs and quotas on imported solar panels and washing machines.

China has become a global leader in solar panel production. The tariffs depressed the stock market when they were announced.

Trump also asked China to do more to raise its currency. He claims that China artificially undervalues the yuan by 15% to 40%.

That was true in 2000. But former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson initiated the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue in 2006. He convinced the People’s Bank of China to strengthen the yuan’s value against the dollar.

It increased by 2% to 3% annually between 2000 and 2013. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew continued the dialogue during the Obama administration. The Trump administration continued the talks until they stalled in July 2017.

The dollar strengthened 25% between 2013 and 2015. It took the Chinese yuan up with it. China had to lower costs even more to compete with Southeast Asian companies.

The PBOC tried unpegging the yuan from the dollar in 2015. The yuan immediately plummeted. That indicated that the yuan was overvalued. If the yuan were undervalued, as Trump claims, it would have risen instead.

Question #10: Is Donald Trump clueless about international trade?


Image result for ANSWERS

Question #1: Is this trade deficit beneficial or detrimental for America as a nation and for Americans as consumers?

Our “trade deficit,” as the term is used, means that America sends more dollars to foreign countries than they send to us.

One of life’s enduring mysteries is why this even exchange is known as a “deficit.” It just as well could be called a “surplus” because the foreign countries send us more goods and services than we send them.

The United States is Monetarily Sovereign. It creates dollars at will.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke: “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.”

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan: “Central banks can issue currency, a non-interest-bearing claim on the government, effectively without limit. A government cannot become insolvent with respect to obligations in its own currency.”

St. Louis Federal Reserve: “As the sole manufacturer of dollars, whose debt is denominated in dollars, the U.S. government can never become insolvent, i.e.,unable to pay its bills. In this sense, the government is not dependent on credit markets to remain operational.

But the United States has only a limited supply of goods and services.

Something you can create at will and at no cost (dollars) is not as valuable as something that is in limited supply (goods and services). To America, dollars are much less valuable than are goods and services.

Therefore, from the standpoint of America as a nation, the so-called trade “deficit” actually is a trade “surplus,” and is beneficial for America.

From the standpoint of American consumers,  the trade “deficit” means Americans have money, and are able to use that money to obtain desired goods and services from other nations. This is a good thing.

Every time you walk into a store and buy something, you run what the economists might call a “trade deficit” with the store. Yet no one suggests that running a “deficit” with a store is detrimental to a consumer.

Questions #2 & #3: Who pays for the tariffs on Chinese steel and other goods? Who pays for the cancelation of China’s soybean imports?

Tariffs are taxes levied on the buyers. The tariffs on Chines steel and other goods are paid by U.S. consumers, and these tariff dollars are sent to the U.S. Treasury, where they are destroyed. (“Does the U.S. Treasury really destroy your tax dollars?“)

Like all U.S. taxes, U.S. tariffs take growth dollars out of the American economy and therefore are recessionary. Trump’s tariffs take money from your pockets.

And China’s cancellation of soybean imports hurts American soybean farmers.

Question #4: Who pays for a trade deficit?

A trade “deficit” reflects an even exchange between dollars vs. goods and services. As discussed in #1, the so-called trade-deficit actually is a trade surplus, that is beneficial to America.

Question #5: Who pays for a lower standard of living? 

The poor. No matter how low a nation’s standard of living may be, the rich always have a high standard of living.

If, to achieve a trade “surplus,” a nation cuts wages, the working poor and the average standard of living will suffer.

Question #6: Who pays for a stronger (higher value) dollar?

Americans, who buy foreign goods, benefit from a higher value dollar. To some degree, every American buys foreign goods, much of which are part of the contents of the goods we buy.

Thus, despite the stock market’s immediate negative reaction to higher interest rates, higher rates strengthen the dollar and fight inflation by making imports cheaper in dollars.

Higher interest rates also are beneficial also because they force the federal government to pay more growth dollars into the economy, when paying interest on Treasury securities.

On balance, higher interest rates benefit the economy and consumers.

Question #8: Why does China’s purchase of Treasury securities reduce interest rates?

The common belief is that the U.S. must sell a certain amount of T-securities, and if China didn’t buy, then the government would have to raise rates in order to entice other people to buy.

In fact, being Monetarily Sovereign, the federal government has absolute control over everything related to the dollar, including interest rates.

Further, it is not forced to sell any amount of T-securities. If the government wished, it could stop accepting deposits into T-security accounts at any time.

Thus, it would not “be disastrous if China merely cut back on its Treasury purchases,” as the article’s author claimed.

Dollars were a creation of the U.S. government laws. The U.S. government is not permanently bound by the laws it alone creates.

Interest rates are what the government wishes them to be, as the Fed demonstrates every day.

Question #9: Why is a decline in manufacturing a concern?

It is a concern only to those who hold the outdated belief that the American economy relies on manufacturing.

While manufacturing employment has declined, employment in non-manufacturing industries has grown.

Today, unemployment is at historic lows, demonstrating the declining importance of the manufacturing sector.

Question #10: Is Donald Trump clueless about international trade?

Without a doubt. His pressure on the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates, and his trade wars, are ample proof of his ineptness.

He continually needs someone to blame for something — anything — to deflect any blame from himself, so he wrongly blames the Fed for less than impressive economic growth.

Business hates uncertainty.

The rapid turnover in Trump’s administration, plus his erratic flip-flopping on issues, plus his character attacks, plus his trade wars, plus his sudden and arbitrary withdrawals from international agreements, plus his nativist bigotry, all contribute to an adverse business climate.

Answer to the big question: The so-called “trade deficit” is a benefit to the United States.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereigntyFacebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell


The most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the richer and the poorer.

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.

Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

1. Eliminate FICA

2. Federally funded Medicare — parts a, b & d, plus long-term care — for everyone

3. Provide a monthly economic bonus to every man, woman and child in America (similar to social security for all)

4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone

5. Salary for attending school

6. Eliminate federal taxes on business

7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 

8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.

9. Federal ownership of all banks

10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.