By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Analyze graphs of the current account balance and the merchandise trade balance
- Identify patterns in U.S. trade surpluses and deficits
- Compare the U.S. trade surpluses and deficits to other countries' trade surpluses and deficits
The history of the U.S. current account balance in recent decades is presented in several different ways. Figure 23.2 (a) shows the current account balance and the merchandise trade balance in dollar terms. Figure 23.2 (b) shows the current account balance and merchandise account balance yet again, this time presented as a share of the GDP for that year. By dividing the trade deficit in each year by GDP in that year, Figure 23.2 (b) factors out both inflation and growth in the real economy.
By either measure, the general pattern of the U.S. balance of trade is clear. From the 1960s into the 1970s, the U.S. economy had mostly small trade surpluses—that is, the graphs of Figure 23.2 show positive numbers. However, starting in the 1980s, the trade deficit increased rapidly, and after a tiny surplus in 1991, the current account trade deficit got even larger in the late 1990s and into the mid-2000s. However, the trade deficit declined in 2009 after the recession had taken hold.
Table 23.4 shows the U.S. trade picture in 2013 compared with some other economies from around the world. While the U.S. economy has consistently run trade deficits in recent years, Japan and many European nations, among them France and Germany, have consistently run trade surpluses. Some of the other countries listed include Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America; Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa; and China, India, and Korea. The first column offers one measure of the globalization of an economy: exports of goods and services as a percentage of GDP. The second column shows the trade balance. Most of the time, most countries have trade surpluses or deficits that are less than 5% of GDP. As you can see, the U.S. current account balance is –2.3% of GDP, while Germany's is 7.4% of GDP.
|Exports of Goods and Services||Current Account Balance|