Not Much To Like In U.S. Trade Data

Frank Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C., notes that U.S. manufactured exports hit a record high of $808 billion in 2005.

But that's all that's good about the U.S. trade statistics that the U.S. Commerce Department released on Feb. 10. For example, imports of manufactured goods so swamped exports that the U.S. posted a record trade deficit in manufactured goods of $565 billion last year, "a discouraging $77 billion over the previous year," says Vargo.

"Though our economy showed strong export growth for the second straight year, that growth should have been stronger," he claims. "Advanced tech exports haven't even recovered to their level of five years ago," he laments. Citing continuing currency-value and market-access problems with China, Vargo figures that Asian nation accounted for more than $200 billion of the U.S. manufactured goods deficit in 2005.

Meanwhile, the overall U.S. trade deficit for goods and services also reached a record in 2005, Commerce reported. The deficit was $725.8 billion last year, just a little more than $108 billion higher than 2004's $617.6 billion deficit.

And the short-term future is not encouraging. "The situation is likely to become worse in the months ahead," states Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business in College Park. "Crude oil prices are rising again, and an overvalued [U.S.] dollar continues to keep imported cars and consumer goods cheap."

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