Thursday, November 09, 2006

Trade Developments

The U.S. trade gap fell in September, just as I expected although the decline was greater than I expected. The main reason for this was a lower cost of oil imports, which fell by more than $4 billion from the previous month. This seemed to reflect not only lower prices but also lower volumes. In addition, there was a small decline in the non-oil deficit.

The decline in oil prices are helping to generally improve trade balances of oil importers like America, Japan and China. Meanwhile, the previous soaring surpluses of oil exporters like Canada and Norway have started to stabilize or turn down.

Nevertheless, the still massive U.S. deficit risks being used by the newly elected Congress with its increasing number of protectionists. The increasingly protectionist nature of the new Congress is discussed by Stuart Andersson points out in today's NRO.

An example of the increasing protectionist leanings of the new Congress is the newly elected Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. He has written an whole book attacking free trade, called "Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed".

Also: Greg Mankiw points to to a Slate article by Jacob Weisberg about how the newly elected Democrats are largely what one might call "Lou Dobbs Democrats". Quote:

"Many of the Democrats who recaptured seats held by Republicans have been described as moderates or social conservatives, who will be out of synch with Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi. The better term, with props to Fareed Zakaria, is probably illiberal Democrats. Most of those who reclaimed Republican seats ran hard against free trade, globalization, and any sort of moderate immigration policy. That these Democrats won makes it likely that others will take up their reactionary call. Some of the newcomers may even be foolish enough to try to govern on the basis of their misguided theory."


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