Sometimes the best-laid plans of mice and men etc etc. So this second look by RealityChek at the final (for now) year-end 2022 official U.S. trade figures is coming out today, rather than yesterday, as I expected.
The big takeaways: First, record deficits were set practically everywhere the eye can see – and on top of sizable increases – when it comes to trade flows in manufacturing, advanced technology products (ATP), and with nearly all of America’s major trade partners (except China, which was covered Friday).
Second, and more encouragingly, regionalization of U.S. trade within the Western Hemisphere kept growing, which is (a) surely making supply chains more secure; and (b) creating more economic opportunity in countries that have long sent the United States large numbers of migrants. In other words, the Biden administration goal of “friendshoring” keeps becoming a thing.
The biggest absolute numbers were turned in by U.S. manufacturing, which saw its huge, chronic deficit rise by 13.46 percent, from $1.32544 trillion to a twelfth straight record $1.50379 trillion. (Unless otherwise specified, all figures in this post will be in pre-inflation dollars, which are the trade data most closely followed by students of the economy.)
And in context, these figures look just as bad. Although full-year, 2022 results won’t be available until late March, when the pre-inflation manufacturing output numbers come out, as of the third quarter, the manufacturing shortfall stood at 53.09 percent of its value-added production (a measure that avoids significant double counting for complex goods made up of lots of parts and components). That marks the first time this number has topped fifty percent.
Moreover, it could well climb further, since in inflation-adjusted terms, manufacturing output has weakened significantly in the fourth quarter.
The only remotely optimistic development: The growth rate of the manufacturing trade deficit last year slowed from 2021’s 18.84 percent.
The trade gap in advanced technology products widened even faster last year – by 24.58 percent, from $195.95 billion to a sixth consecutive all-time high $244.11 billion.
An even stronger goods trade deficit increase was registered by America’s partners in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This shortfall worsened by 34.12 percent, from $158.19 billion to a second straight record .$212.17 billion.
The most dramatic USMCA deficit change came in U.S-Canada goods trade. Here, the gap soared by 63.14 percent, from $50.03 billion to $81.62 billion. That new record deficit was the highest since 2005’s $78.49 billion..
The goods trade deficit with Mexico surged more slowly – by 20.73 percent. But 2022’s $130.55 billion total was a new all-time high as well, surpassing 2020’s $112.08 billion.
American trade with the European Union (EU) was an exception to the 2022 pattern. The goods shortfall fell by 6.78 percent, from $218.74 billion to $203.91 billion, largely reflecting supercharged American exports of natural gas to the continent to make up for reduced post-Ukraine war Russian supplies.
But the goods deficit with the EU’s largest economy, Germany, increased by 5.44 percent, from $69.88 billion to $73.69 billion.
Turning to U.S. goods trade with Asia, the deficit with Japan grew by 12.80 percent on year, from $60.30 billion to $68.01 billion.
The gap with South Korea jumped by 51.39 percent, from $28.98 billion to a third straight record $43.87 billion.
In swelling by 19.65 percent, from $40.23 billion to $48.13 billion, the goods shortfall with Taiwan set recorded its fourth consecutive all-time high.
And consistent with its growing role as an alternative to offshoring export-oriented production to China, the U.S. goods deficit with Vietnam ballooned by 27.77 percent, setting a thirteenth straight record in the process.
At the same time, these geographic trade statistics show that despite the emergence of Asia altenatives to China, U.S. goods trade is becoming increasingly concentrated within the Western Hemisphere.
Between 2021 and 2022, two-way U.S. goods trade with Canada and Mexico combined as a share of total U.S. goods trade rose from 28.76 percent to 29.33 percent. And in 2019, the last full-year before the pandemic’s arrival state-side, this share was just 25.71 percent.
The numbers for Dominican Republic and Central America are much smaller but the trends more dramatic. Between 2021 and 2022, their share of total U.S. goods trade improved from 5.25 percent to 5.34 percent, but since 2019, it’s way up from 1.23 percent.