The Trade Deficit Increased 9.6 Percent in January — and People Are Talking About It.

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is already using it to make the case for a trade shift.

Everybody’s talking about the trade deficit this week. Well, come sit by us, everybody!

In case you missed it, new trade figures released on Tuesday showed that the goods and services deficit rose to $48.5 billion in January, a 9.6 percent increase from December. That’s a big jump. People noticed it.

Now, the Alliance for American Manufacturing has long pointed to the trade deficit as a key indicator that all is not well for the manufacturing sector.

There always was pushback from naysayers, who liked to argue that the trade deficit isn’t really a big deal. There’s still that pushback out there, and it probably isn’t going away anytime soon.

And look, we get it. The trade deficit is a very complicated thing, and it’s only one piece of a larger economic puzzle. But it’s an important piece, and looking at the deficit over the long-term — particularly our lopsided trade relationship with China* — it is clear that trade is having a negative impact on our ability to grow manufacturing and create factory jobs.

It has been that way for quite some time, and month after month we released statements pointing this out. Said statements largely went unnoticed.

But what’s different now is that the Trump administration is all about talking about the trade deficit. Here’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in a statement he sent out Tuesday:   

“Today’s data shows there is much work to be done. President Trump has made free and fair trade a central part of his agenda, and correcting this imbalance is an important step in achieving that goal. To that end, in the coming months we will renegotiate bad trade deals and bring renewed energy to trade enforcement in defense of all hard-working Americans.”

It’s the kind of thing we never, ever heard from former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who served under former President Barack Obama. Ross’s remarks provide further evidence that the Trump trade team will indeed work to reshape America’s trade policy.

Let’s be clear — the Trump trade team is only talking about the deficit. That’s like, the easiest thing it can do. Well, maybe second easiest.

Beyond withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the administration hasn’t done much of anything about trade, at least not yet. It is time to move beyond the rhetoric and actually release some concrete policy plans.

That’s what working class voters want — actual initiatives that will bring about change. Actual, well-thought-out policy designed to create jobs and boost the manufacturing sector. Actual policy shifts that will help rebuild the communities in the industrial heartland that have been left devastated by offshoring and outsourcing.

Statements are nice. Tweets get everyone’s attention for a news cycle. But it’s time to get to work.

*Our goods deficit with China hit $30.2 billion in January, which is where it also was in December.


Reposted from AAM.