February 21, 2020

Off the Charts: In World Trade Data, Signs of a Slowdown

The accompanying charts show the change in exports and imports of goods in 12 large countries — the industrialized countries in the Group of 7, in addition to Australia and four emerging economies, China, Brazil, India and South Korea. All figures are in United States dollars.

Of the 12, only China, with an 8 percent gain, posted faster growth in exports than the United States. Canada reported a small gain, but the others showed declines. In their local currencies, South Korea and India had gains, but they were erased by the decline of those currencies against the dollar.

Import totals can provide an indication of economic woes, as declining incomes cause consumers to buy less, including fewer items from abroad. Imports fell in Germany, France and particularly Italy. This week, the European Union reported that the euro zone economy declined in the fourth quarter — the third consecutive fall. Germany’s economy, which had been growing slowly, also shrank.

In the United States, imports of goods rose just 3 percent in 2012. It was the second consecutive year, and the sixth year in the last seven, that exports grew more — or, in 2009, shrank less — than imports. Before that, imports rose faster than exports for eight consecutive years, from 1998 through 2005.

The United States runs a trade surplus in services, not shown in the chart, but the trade deficit in goods widened slightly in 2012 to $727.9 billion. That figure is still well below the deficits from 2004 through 2008, before the credit crisis and recession caused international trade to decline rapidly in 2009. The strong gains many countries experienced in 2010 and 2011 reflected a return to more normal levels.

Exports plunged in all countries during the crisis, but the trends since then have varied. German exports in 2012 were 3 percent lower than in 2008, while French exports were off almost 8 percent. Japanese and British exports were about 2 percent higher. The United States, by contrast, reported exports of goods in 2012 that were up 20 percent from 2008, and Brazilian exports were 23 percent higher.

Those gains pale next to those of developing Asian economies. South Korean exports in 2012 were 30 percent higher than in 2008, while China bolstered its shipments by 43 percent. Indian exports were 50 percent higher.

The charts also show changes in American trade with the other 11 countries listed. Exports to most of the European countries fell in 2012, but exports to France rose sharply. France has resisted austerity more than most of its neighbors, something that may have contributed to the rise.

Floyd Norris comments on finance and the economy at nytimes.com/economix.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/business/economy/in-world-trade-data-signs-of-a-slowdown.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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