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Yesterday I took to task U.S. leaders who keep complaining about foreign countries’ practice of keeping their currencies artificially cheap to gain advantages in trade, yet who also keep opposing dealing with the problem effectively in America’s trade agreements. That’s a huge issue nowadays because Congress is poised to debate giving President Obama a blank check to negotiate big new trade deals that suffer from exactly that shortcoming – and many others.

Today I’m going to broaden the critique. Washington seems equally clueless about a related but more fundamental issue – the wisdom of juicing growth overseas by whatever means, including with new trade pacts like the above. The two big problems with the determination of the Obama administration, the Federal Reserve, and other trade cheerleaders to follow this course are that (1) they completely ignore the structural differences among the world’s major economies that ensure, all else equal, that growth fueled by trade will be grossly lopsided to America’s disadvantage; and (2) the resulting imbalances will worsen the kind of financial instability that set the stage for the last decade’s financial crisis and its bleak aftermath.

The conventional wisdom here holds that a faster growing world economy will create larger markets for U.S. exports than a slower growing economy. That’s why there’s strong support for the president’s goal of signing deals that supposedly will stimulate economic activity on both sides of the Pacific (through his Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the Atlantic (through the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union).

But it also explains why the administration and the nation’s central bankers are so far pretty blasé about the impact of the strong dollar. They’re confident that even though America’s overseas sales will take an initial hit because U.S.-made goods in particular are getting costlier, enough growth abroad will be spurred by correspondingly weaker foreign currencies to offset exchange rate damage. Indeed, it’s been reliably reported that, despite American concerns most recently expressed in a Treasury Department report last week, Washington has actually decided to permit foreign currency weakening to proceed apace.

It all sounds so perfectly reasonable – until you realize that these expectations depend on at least most of the world being structured economically like the United States, and sharing the priorities Americans attach to consumption over production, and openness to imports versus growth strategies depending on wracking up not only exports but net exports (i.e., trade surpluses). When, however, in recent decades has this been the case? And why would anyone suppose that to be so now?

The best evidence for viewing the world as highly diverse economically, and recognizing that simple, across-the-board trade liberalization will produce equally diverse – and dangerous – results, comes from America’s own trade data. They clearly show that America’s exports have a much different relationship with the country’s growth than its imports. By extension, these relationships also differ among America’s trade partners when they’re lumped together.

As is always the case when discussing trade policies’ effects on an economy’s performance, oil and services need to be removed from the picture. The former isn’t dealt with at all in trade agreements, and . Fortunately, the U.S. government’s trade statistics make that easy, at least going back to 1995.

From that year through the end of last year (the latest available figures), the U.S. economy expanded by just over 58 percent after adjusting for inflation. (The “real” growth figure is the one monitored most closely.) During this 1995-2914 period, America’s non-oil goods exports certainly grew nicely – by just over 128 percent, or more than twice as much. But the nation’s non-oil goods imports nearly tripled after inflation – increasing by some 201 percent.

These numbers by themselves don’t prove that America is significantly more import-friendly than its trade partners collectively. Maybe the United States was leading the world in growth (which would, all else equal, have boosted its imports faster than its exports)? Yet judging from this chart, based on International Monetary Fund data, that hasn’t been the case.

And if not, then the U.S.-only statistics take on even more importance. What they reveal is that, since 1995, for every amount by which the American economy has grown in real terms, its non-oil goods exports have grown 2.21 times faster. But its non-oil goods imports have increased 3.46 times faster. In other words, inflation-adjusted U.S. growth over nearly three decades is associated with 1.57 times more non-oil goods import growth than export growth.

Moreover, the gap hasn’t closed much during the current economic recovery. Between the second quarter of 2009 – when it technically began – through the end of last year, U.S. real non-oil goods imports have risen 1.36 times faster than comparable exports. But this ratio has grown steadily, and in 2014 reached 1.83 – much higher than the post-1995 norm.

Most economists would undoubtedly still point to deficient American savings as the main problem – since countries’ trade deficits equal their net savings position. Savings behavior of course can be culturally influenced, at least in part. But it’s also unquestionably shaped by government policy. Moreover, as I’ve pointed out, savings rates “explain” absolutely nothing about trade flows. The mathematical relationship between the two that’s so widely relied on is simply an identity. That is, it doesn’t tell us that A cause B (or vice versa). It simply says that A equals B.

The unmistakable lesson taught by these figures, and by bitter experience, is that the more trade between diverse economies and the more neglect of resulting deficits and global imbalances, the closer the world comes to Mega-Financial Crisis 2.0. Equally clear: By indiscriminately fueling trade, President Obama will deserve just as much blame for this disaster as his predecessors merit for the last one.

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