Most of the rest of the world is so unfair to us (U.S.) when it comes to trade. If it were not for this unfairness, perhaps the U.S would rank higher than ninth in the world in per capita GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), according to the World Bank.
To see who the “good” and “bad” guys are in terms of U.S. trading partners, I looked through the list of the 41 countries enumerated in my Haver Analytics database that are U.S. trading partners. (This is not a complete list of individual country trading partners, just the list provided in the database I have. For a more complete list, I would have to pay up for the “premium” database.) With these 41 countries, the U.S. ran a trade deficit in goods of $746 billion in 12 months ended September 2017. The U.S. ran a goods trade surplus with only 11 of the 41 countries. That aggregate goods trade surplus was $113 billion. That means that the aggregate U.S. goods trade deficit with the other 30 countries was $859 billion. So unfair!
The 11 countries we ran a surplus with were Hong Kong (less a country than a wholly-owned subsidiary, $31.9 billion), Netherlands ($24.3 billion), Belgium ($14.9 billion), Australia ($13.7 billion), Singapore ($11.0 billion), Brazil ($6.4 billion), Argentina ($4.2 billion), Chile ($2.5 billion), Egypt ($2.3 billion), UK ($1.6 billion) and Norway (less than $0.1 billion). Goods deficits with four countries accounted for almost 66% of the $859 billion aggregate deficit with the 30 countries with which we ran trade deficits in goods – China ($363.2 billion), Mexico ($69.6 billion), Japan ($69.5 billion) and Germany ($63.0 billion). As an aside, while the put-upon U.S. ranks ninth in terms of PPP per capita GDP, as mentioned above, those trade cheaters Germany, Japan, Mexico and China rank 16th, 22nd, 61st and 70th, respectively. I guess cheaters never really win in the end.
Given our aggregate $746 billion goods trade deficit with these 41 countries, I found it curious that only 11 countries were “fair” traders with us – “fair” as it has come to mean in some circles as countries running a goods trade deficit with us. Could 73% of our trading partners really be cheaters? Then I remembered an “alternative” fact. Namely, if aggregate spending on goods and services in an economy (or household) is greater than the value of goods and services produced in that economy (or household), then, by definition, that economy (or household) must be incurring a trade deficit, in effect, must be borrowing goods and services from the rest of the world.