Follow The Money – Trade Deficit With Mexico Misleading!

When you follow the money the United States huge trade deficit with Mexico becomes even more disturbing as you begin to understand where the money eventually ends up. Some people argue that a trade deficit should have virtually nothing to do with trade policy because it represents only part of the flow of investment funds into or out of the country. I beg to differ because it directly plays into the bigger issue of how much the people of a nation save and invest which is linked to incomes. Even more important is its impact on the value of our currency and our balance of payments which is the broadest accounting of a nation’s international transactions. While the link is tenuous at best it is best we should not underestimate its importance over the long run.

But Where Does The Money Go From There?

When you start thinking about all the money and jobs we shift into Mexico each year you would think by now Mexico would be rolling in cash. Interesting trade deficit data concerning Mexico reveal a fact most people miss. A bit of research quickly confirms that the money Mexico receives by way of trading with America quickly passes through its lands and flows to Asia. It could be argued that when all is said and done we are still transferring our wealth to the far east only by the scenic route. This is the reasoning behind substantially strengthening NAFTA but in a way that gives a great deal more value to the United States.

The true size of our trade deficit with Mexico is difficult to get a handle on, some figures show it as over 64 billion dollars in 2016 while a recent article claimed the number was closer to 74 billion. The numbers below are even uglier coming in around 122 billion dollars, similar numbers were reported on several websites, in this case, it is not so much a question of their authenticity or accuracy that is important but what really stands out is where Mexico sends its trade income. The following numbers show that when it comes to trade in 2016 exports of goods and services made up just over 38% of Mexico’s GDP but even with a huge trade surplus with the United States, Mexico still ran an overall trade deficit.

Total Exports (2015) $380,600,857,434
Total Imports (2015) $395,232,221,167
 Trade Balance (2015) -$14,631,363,733

Top 10 Export Partners Export Volume ($)
United States $309,213,074,619
Canada $10,544,636,884
China $4,873,149,273
Brazil $3,798,897,348
Colombia $3,668,050,539
Germany $3,507,894,389
Spain $3,350,071,944
Japan $3,017,433,575
Korea, South $2,770,047,172
France $2,126,829,759

Top 10 Import Partners Import Volume ($)
United States $187,301,416,336
China $69,987,806,696
Japan $17,368,173,343
Korea, South $14,618,851,023
Germany $13,974,715,875
Canada $9,947,931,758
Malaysia $7,463,151,583
Italy $5,061,646,994
Thailand $4,957,934,608
Brazil $4,622,107,445

The math from these numbers indicates that in addition to the United States being a huge importer of goods from China, Mexico also ran a trade deficit with them of around 64 billion dollars. Interesting, while the numbers are not nearly as bad Canada adds another 19 to 36 billion dollars to the wealth leaving the North American continent depending on whose numbers you believe. Canada is considered to be a “trading nation” in that its total trade is worth more than two-thirds of its GDP. As expected the United States accounts for the bulk of its exports of 392,260 billion dollars and 359,915 dollars of imports. This means like Mexico, Canada also runs a trade surplus with the United States but because it runs a deficit with its next three largest trading partners, Europe, China, and Mexico as a percentage it all nets out as nearly a wash.

1 United States 392,260 359,915
2 Europe 41,827 52,288
3 China 22,359 37,593
4 Mexico 8,879 18,901

When all is said and done, the fact is America is feeding the “Chinese Japanese Economic Complex” even more than is first apparent I use this terminology which may seem strange to many readers because under the surface the ties between the two countries are much stronger than many people realize.  If we add the deficit the United States has with China of 347 to Mexico’s 64 billion and Canada’s, lets say25, we come up with a whopping 436 billion. Next comes Japanese trade where the United States negative 69 billion when added to Mexico and Canada shortfalls of around 18 billion that totals another 87 billion. Together the three countries in North America are sending somewhere around 523 billion dollars a year to these two countries, over half a trillion dollars is a staggering amount of money, and much of that cash flow is enabled by the overspending of consumers here in the United States.

Once Wealth flows To Asia, It Stays There

For years the United States has carried the two countries of China and Japan on our back and enriched them through what often seems like rather lopsided trade arrangements, and during that time we have watched them grow stronger as we have weakened. Those preaching the virtues of globalism and free trade point out that American consumers pay far lower prices because of this but overlook the fact that in the long run such an unbalance will not end well. The bottom-line is that not only directly but even indirectly the United States and the whole North American continent is shipping wealth off to Asia, this means China and Japan are a far bigger issue than the imbalance with our NAFTA partners.

This article ties in with two others recently published. One delves into how China has not been fair in trading with America and how a very strong strategic dimension exists for NAFTA and a powerful regional trade bloc to compete in a changing global economy.  http://Nafta And Regional Trade Better than Buying From China.html The second explores the relationship between Japan and China and how it has grown stronger over the years. http://Japan’s Strong Economic Link To China.html  This tight relationship is apparent each time trouble surfaces in China the yen jumps in value as wealth in a stealth move flees China often through business back-channels. This should not be misinterpreted as the yen strengthening, but rather a temporary bump before the wealth moves on to an even safer place.

H/T: Bruce Wilds

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