Total U.S. Trade Sets New Record High in March
Other highlights include:
1. Total international trade increased in March 2012 by about 8% compared to March 2011 ($394 billion), and was 53% above the recession-related cyclical low of $277.5 billion in April 2009. Adjusted for inflation, the increases were 5.2% vs. March 2011 and 42% vs. April 2009.
2. Compared to the previous cyclical highs in July 2008, total trade for the U.S. last month was above that previous peak by 7% in nominal terms and by 2.3% adjusted for inflation (see chart).
3. Foreign consumers and businesses set a new monthly record by purchasing $187 billion of consumer and industrial products that were "Made in the USA" in March, which was an increase of 7.4% from purchases in March 2011 and 50% above the recession-related cyclical low in 2009.
4. U.S. consumers and businesses purchased a new record high volume of $238.6 billion worth of consumer products, raw materials and inputs from the rest of the world, which was an increase of 8.4% from last year, and 58% more than the cyclical low in 2009.
Bottom Line: What is already getting the most media attention about today's trade report is the "bad news" that the "trade deficit" widened/rose/jumped in March.
What won't receive much (any?) media attention is the good news that total U.S. international trade activity (Exports + Imports) set a record high in March and is now well above pre-recession levels in both nominal and real terms. Foreign consumers and producers purchased a record volume of "Made in the USA" exports in March, and American consumers and producers purchased a record volume of "Made Outside the USA" imports, which is a positive sign of worldwide economic strength and vibrancy.
As former Cato trade analyst Dan Griswold pointed out last year on his blog:
"Politicians and commentators love to focus on the deficit, as though it were a scorecard of who is winning in global trade, but the real measure is the total volume of trade. As economies expand, so does trade, both imports and exports. Exports help us reach new markets and expand economies of scale, while imports bless consumers with lower prices and more choices, while stoking competition, innovation, and efficiency gains among producers."
Related: See "Made on Earth: How Global Economic Integration Renders Trade Policy Obsolete," by Cato's Dan Ikenson, and also Don Boudreaux's post "Made on Earth."