Fact checking the trade deficit

Fact checkers, eager to show balance after a debate that Trump tried to bully and insult his way through, are zeroing in on a claim made by Biden that the US-China trade deficit is up. What’s the real story? Thread

Here is the US goods and services deficit. While it is true that the 2019 numbers (-$307.8 b) were slightly smaller than the last three years of Obama (318, 336, 310), they were larger than the majority of Obama’s years in office.

Moreover, the 2018 numbers broke all-time record

A similar pattern holds if you take out services and just look at the goods deficit. 2019 slightly exceeded last three years of Obama (344.2 v. 344.9, 367, 347), but 2018 broke records (418).

But taking a more holistic look at the overall record of each administration, it’s clear that the average annual US trade deficit is up relative to past administrations.

The deficit in Trump’s first three years broke Obama’s record by tens of billions on average in goods,service

And zeroing in on the goods deficit, the average annual deficit under Trump was 22 percent higher than Obama.

Pair this with the ambition of what the administration promised over the last four years + the failure of the Phase 1 deal to meet targets, seems like singling out 1 year that was better than 3/8 Obama years pretty low on factcheck priority list.

(Adapted from this thread from a week ago.)

I write about democracy, political economy, and trade. Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and Roosevelt Forward.

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