International Trade Deficit–Down This Month, Up This Year

By Bob McTeer

A graph of the U.S. international trade deficit in goods and services over the past two years by the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows no discernable change, although the surrounding commentary says that the deficit actually increase by $5 billion from June 2013 to June 2014. The latest month, however, showed a reduction of the deficit of $3.2 billion. That June change will help toward an upward revision in second quarter GDP.
That’s the way it’s been going for years now. We get monthly changes, some positive, some negative, but the changes always seem to offset so that the graph over time looks the same. By now we were supposed to be seeing some lasting improvement from our move in the direction of greater energy independence. Well, it hasn’t flowed through to the bottom line.
One reason, I assume, is that our more dynamic economy in terms of invention, innovation, and leading edge manufacturing and business practices, which should increase our net export balance is being offset by greater demand growth as our growth rate—pitiful as it is—exceeds the growth rate of many of our trading partners, especially European.
Perhaps a more fundamental reason is that exports and imports aren’t entirely independent of each other. More exports give us more money with which to import more. More imports give our trading partners more money to buy from us. Any lasting divergence would be corrected in part by internal economic adjustments and in part by small changes in the exchange rate.
It is probably a good thing that the international trade statistics go relatively unnoticed by the public lest calls to “do something about it” lead to foolish policies.

WTO Has Rejected India’s Challenges Against Steel Import Laws: US

LALIT K JHA for Outlook

According to US Trade Representative Michael Froman, the World Trade Organisation panel rejected India’s challenges to key aspects of US countervailing duty laws and regulations, and most of the hundreds of challenges brought by India against case-specific Department of Commerce determinations in a countervailing duty proceeding covering hot-rolled carbon steel flat products from the country.

“This dispute is another example of the Administration’s commitment to fight for American workers and industry by taking strong trade remedy measures against unfair subsidies and defending those actions when challenged by our trading partners,” US Trade Representative Froman said.

“The WTO panel’s findings rejecting most of India’s numerous challenges to our laws and determinations is a significant victory for the United States and for the workers and businesses making these steel products,” Froman said.

In its order, the WTO panel upheld key US countervailing duty laws and regulations regarding the application of “facts available” and the calculation of benefit.

The panel also rejected most of the challenges brought by India against the Department of Commerce’s case-specific determinations, including challenges to over 300 instances of the use of “facts available”, challenges to Commerce’s benchmark calculations and specificity determinations, findings that two Indian entities constituted “public bodies” and were thus subject to WTO subsidy disciplines and Commerce’s inclusion of new subsidy programmes in countervailing duty review proceedings, Froman said.

With respect to the findings by the panel that US measures breach WTO rules in certain respects, the United States is studying those findings and will evaluate all options to ensure that US remedies against unfair subsidies remain strong and effective, he said.

In this dispute, India alleged that several US laws and regulations governing countervailing duty investigations, as well as specific countervailing duty measures imposed on imports of certain hot-rolled carbon steel flat products from India, were inconsistent with provisions of the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measure (SCM) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994.

The WTO panel rejected most of India’s claims against US laws and regulations under the SCM Agreement, Froman said.

The WTO also rejected all of India’s challenges to US Commerce’s benchmark regulations, which the Department of Commerce uses to determine whether a subsidy has conferred a benefit, Froman said.

WTO also rejected India’s claims that the US statute and regulations allowing for the use of “facts available” in instances where responding companies fail to cooperate with an investigation violates SCM Agreement.

The panel found that the US measure allowing for “cross-cumulation” of dumped and subsidised imports when assessing injury in certain ITC determinations breaches WTO rules.

However, the panel rejected other challenges brought by India against ITC’s injury determination in the underlying investigation, Froman said.

The WTO also rejected most of India’s challenges to the determinations under the SCM Agreement including the US findings that certain entities providing subsidies were “public bodies” acting on behalf of India,” he said.

EU, U.S. to Commit to Remove All Duties on Transatlantic Trade

U.S. President Barack Obama and European Union leaders will promise to remove all tariffs on bilateral trade at a summit on March 26, an ambitious step towards the world’s largest free-trade deal, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.

The joint declaration, if delivered as laid out in the draft, seeks to overcome tensions following Washington’s offer to cut its duties by less than the Europeans had hoped for and after Brussels pledged to remove almost all of its own tariffs.

“The EU and the United States are firmly committed to concluding a comprehensive and ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” the draft statement reads, referring to U.S.-EU free-trade talks by their official name.

“Those goals include eliminating all duties on bilateral goods trade,” says the statement, which will be delivered at the end of the day-long summit in Brussels.

By Barbara Lewis and Robin Emmott, Reuters

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