Does Trump Really Want to Cook the Books on American Trade? – Slate Magazine

When it comes to America’s trade deficits with specific countries, however, re-exports make a difference. Think about those hypothetical TVs again. When Walmart orders them to the States from China, they’re counted as imports, even though U.S. consumers aren’t really going to buy them. When Walmart then ships them to Mexico, they’re counted as exports, even though U.S. workers didn’t make them. As a result, our trade gap looks more severe than it should with China and less severe than it should with Mexico. Re-exports distort the picture. The U.S. International Trade Commission publishes its own version of the country’s trade data that tries to correct for that problem by filtering out goods destined for re-export. But those figures tend to exaggerate our trade deficits, because while it’s possible to exclude all those Vizio TVs from our export figures, it’s not possible, for technical and administrative reasons, to entirely exclude them from our import figures.

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