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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

Category: Trade
November 5, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Wrong direction for trade

Almost lost in the election coverage was yesterday’s Commerce Department report on trade. The trade deficit in goods and services increased 7.6 percent in September to $43 billion. Overall, imports remained steady but exports declined: goods down $2.6 billion to $136.1 billion and services down $400 million to $59.5 billion. The United States typically…


Comments | More in Trade | Topics: China, Trade deficit

September 3, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Seattle exports hit record high

Merchandise exports from the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area rose 13 percent last year to record $56.7 billion, according to new data from the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. That ranked the area No. 4 nationally behind Houston, New York and Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, Houston’s big showing was heavily powered by oil…


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July 14, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Washington exports up in 2013 while Northwest flattens

Last week, I reported on how the region’s exports seem to be performing (very well) through May of this year. Now we have the official trade data for last year from the International Trade Administration of the Commerce Department. Washington clocked in $81.6 billion in exports compared with $75.7 billion in 2012. The nearly 8…


Comments | More in Pacific Northwest economy, Trade | Topics: Washington exports, Washington trade

July 10, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Washington exports soar ahead in 2014

Despite uncertainty about the economies of China, Japan and Europe, Washington exports this year are doing well based on numbers through May. They totaled more than $35.7 billion, making Washington the third largest exporting state behind much more populous Texas and California. The data come from WiserTrade of Leverett, Mass. If that velocity continued, state exports for…


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April 23, 2014 at 10:17 AM

One last push on Trans-Pacific Partnership

President Obama’s visit to Oso yesterday was made en route to Asia, where he hopes to give a decisive push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the giant, “high standards” trade deal four years in the making that would involve the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. The TPP would be the most ambitious trade…


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November 19, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Next steps for Washington trade

Monday’s Washington Trade Conference drew 300 people who heard from such speakers as Scott Price, president & CEO of  Walmart Asia; David Dollar, a senior fellow, and John L. Thornton of the China Center at the Brookings Institution; and William Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council.

With Washington as probably the most trade dependent state in the nation — by one measure, 40 percent of the state’s jobs rely on it — the agenda was full, including discussions of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TTP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), China-U.S. relations and port competitiveness.

I am out of town and wasn’t able to attend. In an email, Eric Schinfeld, president of the Washington Council on International Trade, said:

Identifying clear, tangible steps to drive action on the trade policies that matter most to Washington employers is key to our state’s success in the global economy.  By educating and energizing business, government and community leaders across the state, we can create the momentum necessary to make our state more internationally competitive and successful in the future.


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November 7, 2013 at 10:54 AM

NAFTA at 20, a mixed blessing

Twenty years ago next month, President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law. A new analysis from the Brookings Institution shows that metro Seattle ranks 19th in total North American trade, 19th in trade with Canada and 20th in trade with Mexico.

Even so, the $7.17 billion in trade with North American partners accounts for only 18.6 percent of Seattle’s total global trade, so diverse are our international connections. Our share of advanced industry trade was 58.7 percent of all exports and imports. That compares with 47 percent for the United States.

The study, which mostly uses 2010 numbers, ranks the 100 largest American metropolitan areas, along with 59 Mexican and 33 Canadian metros. It offers a useful interactive tool that shows trade flows and can be customized by metro.

It especially shows how supply chains and manufacturing networks are now trans-national and continental in scope.

“The world is emerging as a network of cities that link together through trade and learn from each other about how best to urbanize,” Bruce Katz, Brookings vice president, co-director of the Metropolitan Policy Program, and co-director of the Global Cities Initiative, said in a prepared statement. “Nowhere is that more clear than in North America, given the integrated nature of the U.S., Mexican, and Canadian economies.”


Comments | More in Trade | Topics: Canada, Mexico, NAFTA

October 18, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Vote: The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Last Sunday, I wrote about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. It would be the largest and most ambitious trade agreement in United States history, involving 12 and possibly more nations.

It is said to be based on high standards for such things as intellectual property protection, the environment and labor issues. The TPP is also critical to the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia.” While no one in power admits it, the agreement would be about offsetting China”s rising power as much as about trade.

Critics are many, It apparently doesn’t address currency manipulation. Another big controversy is that the negotiations are being conducted in extreme secrecy. What do you think?

Read on for some of the best business and economic links of the week, plus the haiku…


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September 23, 2013 at 10:51 AM

For most Americans, Korean trade deal fails to deliver

The most definitive data yet are available to answer the question as to whether the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement would increase American exports to South Korea. That, after all, is how the deal was sold by the Obama administration to fast-track it through Congress. And the answer, sadly, is no. Imports have risen, exports have declined and the trade deficit responsible for so many job losses keeps widening. According to Census data, the trade deficit with Seoul is nearly $16.6 billion compared with $13.1 billion in 2011.

The KORUS agreement went into force on March 15 of this year, so perhaps it’s too soon to tell. But since then, South Korean exports have surged while American exports have fallen. These managed-trade agreements always fail to live up to their promises. Last year, the United States had a $61.6 billion trade deficit with Mexico. In 1993, the Clinton administration said that NAFTA would create an additional 200,000 jobs here. But according to a 2011 report by the Economic Policy Institute, it had cost 693,000 American jobs.

This is highly relevant as the administration pushes for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a far-reaching trade agreement with eight other nations. While there will be winners and losers domestically, it will almost certainly fail to live up to the hype and the losers will be in the majority.


Comments | More in Korea, Trade | Topics: KORUS, South Korea, Trade

September 4, 2013 at 11:33 AM

A guide to the trade deficit

The Commerce Department reported that the trade deficit rose 13.3 percent in July. And before you yawn and flee to the sports section, it’s worth digging into this data. Officially known as the U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services report, it is invariably shortened to “the trade deficit.” We buy more from overseas than we sell. Thus, America sold $189.4 billion to the world, but we imported stuff worth $228.6 billion.

It’s hard to believe that the United States ran a trade surplus for decades. Small deficits began to show up in the 1970s as oil imports grew, inflation disrupted the economy and Japanese imports began to gain a major foothold. But the big-number trade deficits began in 1984 and have continued to grow, except during recessions.


Is this good or bad? It’s good if you believe in the world trading system created by the United States out of the ashes of World War II. The idea being that liberalized trade, with all nations lowering barriers and playing by the same rules, promoted peace. The result gave Americans a cornucopia of goods at low prices, and in many cases helped raise the standards of living in nations around the world. And American exports have grown dramatically — something especially beneficial to a state such as Washington. But as the world’s most prosperous market, we have bought more than we sold.


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