Dueling trade stats: Chamber of Commerce vs. Trade Watch
(Photo Credit: Sean Yong/Reuters)
By Howard Schneider
Governments may fight trade wars, but it is left to advocacy groups to fight wars over trade statistics.
The latest salvo came Wednesday when Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch released a study that it said proved that the free trade agreements the United States has signed with 17 nations have done little to help America's trade position. U.S. exports to those countries, the group contends, have grown slower than exports to non-FTA countries, and the United States stills runs a trade deficit with them.
"There are many ways to boost U.S. exports and create American jobs, but the data show that more of the same trade deals is not one of them," Trade Watch director Lori Wallach said in a statement.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce quickly fired back. The Trade Watch study was in part a response to data the chamber has touted showing that the United States runs a surplus in manufactured goods with its 17 FTA partners. The business group took aim at the methodology of the new report, which left the two groups in a typically arcane dispute over how to account for goods brought into the United States and then re-exported.
The broader issue is the battle brewing over the Obama administration's trade and export policy - a fight likely to be felt in the midterm elections. You'll find no one on either side who disagrees with the administration's goal of doubling exports in five years, and there's little dispute that the resurgence of the trade deficit is a concern.
But what to do about it? The chamber, of course, favors more free trade agreements as part of an export drive; the Trade Watch folks consider them a bad deal.
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