Trump govt mulls changes to trade deficit calculations
WASHINGTON US President Donald Trump's administration is mulling changes to how it calculates US trade deficits in a way that would likely help bolster political arguments to renegotiate key trade deals, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, citing people involved in the discussions.
The main idea being discussed is whether to exclude "re-exports" from the calculation of US exports, sources told the newspaper. Re-exports refer to goods that are imported into the United States, then transferred to another country.
Trump has been highly critical of trade deals including the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. By using a metric that widens the trade deficit, it could give him political leverage to make sweeping changes, the paper reported.
If the government adopted the new method, the deficit with Mexico would be nearly twice as high.
The Journal reported that career government employees at the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) objected to a request to prepare data using the new methodology.
Although they eventually complied with the request, the newspaper reported, the staffers explained why they disagreed with the approach.
In a statement to the newspaper, the USTR's deputy chief of staff, Payne Griffin, said officials there are not close to a decision yet on whether to adopt a new approach.
He was quoted as saying: "We had a meeting with the Commerce Department and we said, 'Would it be possible to collect those other statistics?'."