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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is at it again: It’s launched a public relations campaign to strengthen American support for conventional trade liberalization policies (or at least to weaken support for President Trump’s increasing resort to tariffs to overhaul these policies). Its campaign focuses on how the old trade status quo was benefiting the U.S. economy. It’s using “state-by-state analysis to argue that Trump is risking a global trade war.” And as usual, it’s pretending that national and state trade flows (and their employment effects) consist of and stem only from exports.

Also as usual – there’s an excellent reason for the Chamber to resort once again to such intellectual dishonesty. Since the nation as a whole is running a huge and rising trade deficit that has cut into the subpar economic growth generated by the current expansion, it’s practically inevitable that the great majority of the fifty states have seen worsening trade balances significantly slow their recoveries as well.

And thanks to the Commerce Department, which tracks individual states’ merchandise exports and imports, it’s easy to see just how greatly the trade losers outnumber the trade winners. (State-level data on much smaller flows of services exports and imports are not available.) 

Specifically, from the year the current recovery began (2009) through last year, 26 states have seen their merchandise trade deficits increase, two have seen such trade surpluses fall, and in five, goods surpluses have turned into deficits. So in all, trade has dragged on growth during the recovery for 33 of the 50 states.

Of the 17 states that have improved their trade performances during this period, five have seen their deficits shrink, six have generated higher surpluses, and six have turned deficits into surpluses.

These data thoroughly debunk the claim made by the Chamber’s campaign that “Trade Works. Tariffs Don’t.” So it’s clear that what this pillar of the Offshoring Lobby is actually counting on is that trade fakery works.