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Third Quarter 2019 Trade Data Due Tuesday; NAFTA Deficit Expected to Be Significantly Higher

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

Note: U.S. trade data for the first three quarters of 2019 will be released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday morning. The U.S.-NAFTA trade-in-goods deficit is likely to show a significant increase over the same period last year, continuing a trend that has made the NAFTA deficit higher during the Trump administration than during the Obama administration. (See background on data, below.) 

“The ever-increasing NAFTA deficit underscores the political liability for Trump of his year-long refusal to fix the USMCA deal he signed last year so it could become viable in Congress.

“Unless Trump finally agrees to remove the giveaways for pharmaceutical firms he added to NAFTA that would lock in high medicine prices and strengthen anti-outsourcing provisions, no revised NAFTA will get through Congress.

“Congressional Democrats have had the same message since Trump announced his revised NAFTA a year ago: They want to really fix NAFTA, which means strengthening the labor and environmental terms and their enforcement to counter NAFTA’s original sin of race-to-the-bottom job outsourcing while not adding extra monopoly rights for Big Pharma that would lock in high medicine prices.”


Background information on expected data trends: The 2018 annual NAFTA-U.S. goods deficit of $218 billion represents an 11% increase over 2017 ($197 billion) and a 19% increase over 2016, President Barack Obama’s last year. However, third quarter 2019 U.S.-world trade-in-goods deficit is likely to show a decrease relative to last year, although an increase relative to the last year of the Obama administration. The annual 2018 U.S. goods trade deficit with the world of $892 billion was larger than any year since the 2008-09 financial crisis – up 8% ($63 billion) over 2017 and up 14% ($108 billion) over 2016. The third quarter U.S.-China goods trade deficit also is likely to decrease. The U.S. goods trade deficit with China in 2018 was the largest ever recorded at $428 billion, up from $392 billion in 2017. This compares to $370 billion in 2016, Obama’s last year. These figures are adjusted for inflation to the base month of September 2019 and thus represent real changes in trade balances expressed in constant dollars. As a result, for months prior to September 2019, the nominals are different than the data unadjusted for inflation that is provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.