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Has the new post-CCP Virus trade normal finally started coming into view for the United States? One important reason for believing so came in today’s Commerce Department report on economic growth in the second quarter, and the main evidence can be summed up in these numbers: 31.81, 10.92, 8.24, and 2.69.

They represent the sequential rates of increase in the overall inflation-adjusted trade deficit starting with the third quarter of last year and ending with this year’s second quarter. And they show that even though real economic growth remained strong (albeit well below expectations) in the second quarter, the after-inflation trade gap’s size is stabilizing.

There’s no doubt that bottlenecks clogging transport systems all over the world due to the rapid recovery from CCP Virus-induced recessions deserve much of the credit. But given domestic manufacturing’s continued healthy growth despite the aforementioned supply chain and shortage issues, it’s hard to imagine that the Trump tariffs – especially on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods from China – haven’t played a big role, too.

But before diving into the gross domestic product (GDP) report’s trade highlights, it’s important to note that they reveal that the economy’s size in price-adjusted terms in the second quarter finally exceeded the scale reached in the fourth quarter of 2019 – the last fully pandemic-effect-free quarter. The nation’s total output of goods and services is only 0.81 percent greater, but it’s a start.

Also worth observing right away – the combined goods and services trade deficit of $1.2590 trillion at an annual rate was the fourth straight all-time record. That’s nearly 50 percent (48.54 percent, to be precise) higher than the fourth quarter, 2019 level of $847.6 billion, so obviously there’s a long way to go to pre-virus days by that standard. According to the more useful measure of the trade deficit’s size as a share of the GDP, the story’s only a little better. At the end of 2019, it stood at 4.41 percent, and in the second quarter of this year, it stood at 6.50 percent. So it’s up by 47.39 percent since the pandemic began significantly affecting the economy.

More progress toward normalization shows up in in the data on the impact of changes in the after-inflation trade shortfall on quarterly growth. For the second quarter of this year, the sequential growth in the real constant dollar trade deficit subtracted 0.44 percentage points from the 6.35 percent annualized expansion of the economy. In other words, had the real trade deficit not increased at all, real growth would have been 6.79 percent at annual rates, or 6.93 percent higher.

In the first quarter, the after-inflation trade deficit’s increase subtracted 1.56 percentage points from 6.14 percent real annualized growth. So that quarter’s after-inflation price-adjusted GDP rise would have been 7.70 percent at annual rates, or 25.41 percent greater. The final pre-pandemic numbers showed that a fourth quarter, 2019 inflation-adjusted trade deficit sequential decrease added 1.43 percentage points to 1.86 percent annualized growth.

Therefore, much ground needs to be made up here, too. At the same time, this particular set of data has been bouncing around a lot since former President Trump began his “trade wars” (in 2018), which led companies throughout the nation and world to adjust their production and especially import patterns dramatically in reactio not only to actual tariffs but to anticipated levies.

The new GDP release estimated that total after-inflation U.S. exports climbed by 1.47 percent sequentially during the second quarter – a reversal of the 0.73 percent quarterly decline during the previous three-month stretch. But at $2.2956 trillion annualized, they’re still 10.09 percent less than the fourth quarter, 2019 result.

Combined inflation-adjusted goods and services imports increased at a slower rate during the second quarter – 1.90 percent sequentially, versus 2.25 percent during the first quarter. But these U.S. purchases from abroad are 4.52 percent higher than just before the pandemic’s arrival. And the immediate pre-pandemic level had already been hit in the fourth quarter of last year.

Moreover, at $3.5547 trillion annualized, total real imports reached their second straight all-time quarterly high.

The constant dollar goods trade deficit level hit a new quarterly record, too – $1.4610 trillion at annual rates. Further, the all-time high was the fourth straight, and this trade gap is now 36.36 percent above the fourth quarter, 2019 pre-pandemic level.

At least this trade shortfall’s sequential growth rate has also been plummeting – from 20.40 percent in last year’s third quarter, when the economy was bursting out of the deep but short virus-and lockdown-induced recession, to 4.66 percent between the first and second quarters of this year.

The service sector continues to be a source of discouraging trade news according to the new GDP read. Its long-time after-inflation real surplus shrank by 6.20 percent between the first and second quarters, and in fact has fallen every quarter snce the second quarter of 2020. As a result, it’s currently 30.55 percent lower than it was in that final pre-CCP Virus fourth quarter of 2019.

Of course, as with the economy and life in general, U.S. trade’s return to normality still depends heavily on huge wildcards like the future of the CCP Virus Delta variant, and whether it will keep spreading fast and long enough to lead governments to reimpose shutdowns and lockdowns.  But the largely pre-Delta GDP numbers released today suggest that if this mutation stays under control, and nothing worse appears, America’s trade performance will keep approaching its pre-virus state.