Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

On Tuesday, RealityChek performed its first deep dive into the U.S.-China trade figures for the first half of 2017, and how they compare with the performance of the January-to-June, 2016 period. Today. It goes dynamic, looking through that same, detailed industry-by-industry lens which sectors have seen the biggest improvements and worst deteriorations in their exports to and imports from China, and in their trade balances with the PRC.

The same technical considerations that applied to Tuesday’s static figures apply to those below. The categories presented are from the federal government’s prime system for slicing and dicing the U.S. economy: the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). And the level of detail is NAICS’ most granular – the six-digit level. It’s especially revealing because it does the best job of distinguishing between finished goods and parts and components and other inputs for these goods – which matters greatly because so much international trade is conducted in these intermediates. Because of data limitations, however, the aerospace results shown below are five-digit statistics, which combine finished goods and their parts and components.

In addition, because services trade statistics come out so much later than goods trade statistics, only the latter are presented here.

Finally, because today’s emphasis is on rates of change, I’ve confined my research to the top 50 industries for all the metrics examined below, in order to prevent the results from being distorted by big percentage increases or decreases for sectors with very low export, import, and trade balance numbers. Fortunately, because U.S. trade is so highly concentrated, the top 50 lists are highly representative of the nation’s trade as a whole.

To begin, here are the fastest growing U.S. merchandise exports to China between the first half of last year and the first half of this year:

1. Crude oil & natural gas: +3,250.25 percent

2. Wheat: +251.29 percent

3. Primary smelted non-ferrous metals: +194.76 percent

4. Cotton: +149.26 percent

5. Miscellaneous engine equipment: +72.10 percent

6. Liquid natural gas: +66.23 percent

7. Petroleum refinery products: +58.41 percent

8. Motor vehicle transmission & power train parts: +52.84

9. Plastics and rubber industry machinery: +45.41 percent

10. Pharmaceuticals: +45.25 percent

Although four of the ten items are high-value manufactures, which generate outsized benefits for the American economy in terms of high wage job creation, productivity growth, and innovation, they dominate the bottom of this list. And their growth rates are considerably lower than those for the commodities and low-value products so prominent at the top of the list.

Encouragingly, though, the China list is a higher-value list than that for U.S. merchandise exports as a whole (presented right below). And by and large, the advance manufactures sectors above are increasing their exports to China much faster than the leaders worldwide are increasing their exports globally.

1. Non-anthracite coal & petroleum gases: +180.9 percent

2. Crude oil & natural gas: +109.0 percent

3. Cotton: +89.9 percent

4. Liquid natural gas: +62.4 percent

5. Semiconductor manufacturing equipment: +58.2 percent

6. Primary smelted non-ferrous metals: +54.0 percent

7. Soybeans: +27.6 percent

8. Petroleum refinery products: +26.1 percent

9. Motor vehicle engines & engine parts: +19.2 percent

10. Corn: +18.7 percent

Now for the goods categories that performed worst in boosting their exports to China:

1. Industrial valves: -32.46 percent

2. Miscellaneous grains: -30.76 percent

3. Broadcast & wireless communications equipment: -20.89 percent

4. Electricity measuring & testing instruments: -20.48 percent

5. Telecomms equipment: -17.58 percent

7. Aerospace: -10.74 percent

8. Photo films, plates, paper & chemicals: -7.9 percent

9. Irradiation apparatus: -4.87 percent

10. Semiconductors & related devices: -2.67 percent

Worrisomely, this list is completely dominated by advanced manufactures. What about the worst performing U.S. global export sectors?  Here they are:

1. Medicinal & botanical drugs & vitamins: -25.4 percent

2. Turbines & turbine generator sets: -15.1 percent

3. Computer parts: -9.4 percent

4. Autos and light trucks: -8.3 percent

5. Telecomms equipment: -6.6 percent

6. Electricity measuring & test instruments: -5.9 percent

7. Aerospace: -4.0 percent (5-digit, due to reporting limits)

7. Surgical and medical instruments: -1.1 percent

8. Electro-medical apparatus: -0.9 percent

9. Industrial valves: -0.1 percent

9. Computers: -0.1 percent

10. Surgical appliances & supplies: +0.2 percent

10. Analytical laboratory instruments: +0.2 percent

There’s considerable overlap between this list and the China list. But whereas the China export winners generally are increasing their sales to China much faster than the best global export performers are increasing their worldwide sales, the biggest China export losers are seeing bigger sales declines than the biggest worldwide export losers.

Next let’s look at those merchandise sectors whose trade balances with China improved the most from January-June, 2016 to January-June, 2017. These trade balance figures matter decisively, of course, because standard economic theory holds that countries that trade products most successfully will become the countries that make these products most successfully. That’s how trade is supposed to create the most efficient possible global patterns of production. In this list, the industries marked with asterisks are those whose trade deficit with China decreased:

1. Semiconductors & related devices: $190 million deficit to $615 million surplus

2. Crude oil & natural gas: +3,250.38 percent

3. Non-anthracite coal & petroleum gases: 1,537.71 percent

4. Niscellaneous metal ores: +807.54 percent

5. Smelted non-ferrous metals: +519.07 percent

6. Wheat: +251.43 percent

7. Cotton: +149.26 percent

8. Treated wood products: +139.62 percent

9. Miscellaneous women & girls’ outerwear: +131.72 percent*

10. Heavy-duty trucks & chassis: +105.11 percent

Here are the goods sectors that have improved their global trade balances the most on a year-to-date basis:

1. Primary smelted non-ferrous metals: $5.00 billion deficit to $0.76 billion surplus

2. Relays and industrial controls: $1.27 billion deficit to $2.26 billion surplus

3. Semiconductors: $1.48 billion deficit to $1.01 billion surplus

4. Non-costume jewelry: +574.44 percent

5. Drawn/rolled/extruded miscellaneous non-ferrous metals: +305.69 percent

6. Miscellaneous basic inorganic chemicals: +300.00 percent

7. Non-anthracite coal and petroleum gases: +224.29 percent

8. Medicinal and botanical drugs and vitamins: +104.35 percent

9. Cotton: +91.09 percent

10. Semiconductor manufacturing equipment: +64.82 percent

Both lists are pretty evenly split between higher value and lower value sectors, which looks like a wash for America’s global competitiveness.

The list of America’s fastest growing goods imports from China features mostly manufactured products as well, but few would be characterized as cutting edge:

1. Switchgear & switchboard apparatus: +278.27 percent

2. Printed circuit assemblies: +49.98 percent

3. Aluminum sheet, plates, and foils: +39.64 percent

4. Goods returned from Canada: +28.75 percent

5. Broadcast & wireless communications equipment: +26.74 percent

6. Miscellaneous basic organic chemicals: +23.42 percent

7. Miscellaneous special classification provisions: +22.62 percent

8. Lighting equipment: +18.83 percent

9. Telecomms equipment: +18.20 percent

10. Miscellaneous manufactures: +16.85 percent

And here’s the global counterpart of this list:

1. Switchgear and switchboard apparatus: +174.3 percent

2. Crude oil and natural gas: +53.7 percent

3. Printed circuit assemblies: +44.2 percent

4. Iron and steel: +41.3 percent

5. Primary aluminum: +38.6 percent

6. Non-diagnostic biological products: +29.4 percent

7. Petroleum refinery products: +22.2 percent

8. Miscellaneous non-citrus fruits: +20.8 percent

9. Motors and generators: +13.7 percent

10. Lighting equipment: +12.7 percent

10. Surgical appliances and supplies: +12.7 percent

According to my count, both lists are comprised mainly of high-value products (six for the China imports and seven for the global imports). More important, both import lists contain more high value products than the lists of fastest-growing American exports to China and worldwide.

Interestingly, the list of sectors where imports from China have fallen fastest contains lots of low-value goods, along with electronics ranging from consumer sectors to semiconductors. Moreover, in every one of the sectors, these imports from China have fallen faster than U.S. imports worldwide (indicated inside parentheses), strongly indicating that America-based businesses have been changing their sourcing practices.:

1. Miscellaneous women & girls’ outerwear: -56.72 percent (-51.5 percent)

2. Tires & tire parts: -30.04 percent (-0.9 percent)

3. Semiconductors & related devices: -29.28 percent (-6.4 percent)

4. Computer parts: -19.17 percent (-12.3 percent)

5. Women & girls blouses & shirts: -19.02 percent (-12.1 percent)

6. Audio & video equipment: -14.95 percent (-5.3 percent)

7. Computer storage devices: -12.31 percent (-3.1 percent)

8. Miscellaneous footwear: -8.24 percent (-4.9 percent)

9. Women & girls’ dresses: -6.71 percent (-1.9 percent)

10. Men’s footwear (non-athletic): -4.45 percent (-0.5 percent)

How does this list compare with that of those U.S. global goods imports with the slowest growth rates between the first six months of last year and the first six months of this year? Here’s that list:

1. Medicinal and botanical drugs and vitamins: -39.4 percent

2. Computer parts: -12.3 percent

3. Women’s and girls’ blouses/shirts: -12.1 percent

4. Primary smelted non-ferrous metals: -8.8 percent

5. Men’s and boys non-work shirt shirts: -8.3 percent

6. Non-costume jewelry: -6.7 percent

7. Semiconductors and related devices: -6.4 percent

8. Audio and video equipment: -5.3 percent

9. Jewelers materials/lapidary work: -4.1 percent

10. Aerospace products: -3.4 percent

Both lists look like oddly mixed bags. But whereas the China list contains just one industry widely considered to be crucial to America’s economic future, along with its national security (semiconductors), the global list includes aerospace along with semiconductors.

Finally, where have America’s fastest-growing merchandise trade deficits with China been? The list below shows a highly diverse mix of industries. The asterisked sectors are those in which trade surpluses have decreased:

1. Switchgear & switchboard apparatus: +365.30 percent

2. Malt & beer: +80.29 percent*

3. Electricity measuring & testing instruments: +71.39 percent*

4. Primary smelted & refined copper: +56.71 percent*

5. Printed circuit assemblies: +49.75 percent

6. Industrial valves: +43.72 percent

7. Plastic floor coverings: +42.55 percent

8. Miscellaneous grains: +30.82 percent

9. Broadcast & wireless communications equipment: +29.14 percent

10. Goods returned from Canada: +28.75 percent

In terms of manufacturing, and advanced manufacturing, sectors versus lower-value sectors, this China list looks slightly less worrisome in competitiveness terms than the global list below:

1. Non-diagnostic biological products: +856.00 percent.

2. Switchboard and switchgear apparatus: +437.35 percent

3. Oil and gas field machinery and equipment: +130.00 percent

4. Iron and steel: +76.25 percent

5. Surgical appliances and supplies: +71.55 percent

6. Printed circuit assemblies: +47.08 percent

7. Crude oil and natural gas: +45.30 percent

8. Primary aluminum: +42.73 percent

9. Turbines and turbine generator sets: +39.46 percent

10. Copper and nickel ores: +35.96 percent

Needless to say, over longer periods of time, China has significantly closed the competitiveness gap with the United States, and has done so faster than the rest of the world. Over the last year, however, these trade data indicate that China has gained little, if any, ground, by either measure. Holding the competitiveness line, vis-a-vis China or vis-a-vis other trade competitors, is certainly a better performance than the United States generally has registered recently. But it’s doubtful whether many Americans would agree that it’s good enough.