Sunday, April 11, 2010

Oil, Not China, Is The Real Destroyer Of America's Trade Balance

UBS's head of Asia-Pacific economics argues that the real global trade imbalance isn't U.S.-China, it is U.S.-oil. As shown below, current account surpluses from fuel exporting-nations have been a far larger driver of total global trade imbalances coming from emerging markets. China's current account surplus (in blue) has been large in recent years, as a percentage of the global economy, but it has been dwarfed by fuel exporters (in green):



Looking at the movements from the late 1990s through 2006, when the overall U.S. deficit worsened from 2 percent of GDP to nearly 7 percent of GDP at the trough, a full three percentage points of that adjustment came from other advanced economies and from fuel imports; only two percentage points came from China and other non-fuel emerging markets. And the recent drop in the U.S. deficit had almost nothing to do with China; again, it was oil prices and developed trade that explains the entire swing over the past 18 months.



Thus the U.S. could use a little less finger-pointing at China... and a lot less driving... if it really wants to correct its global trade imbalance.
This is a huge argument against U.S. trade protectionism since protectionism would miss the largest cause of America's trade deficit while only hurting U.S. export prospects by pissing off trade partners.


Reporter Vincent Fernando writes for The Business Insider


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