The BEA released its report today on international trade for January, and what will likely get the most attention is the fact that the monthly trade deficit increased to $46.3 billion from $40.3 billion in December. There will be lots of commentary and hand-wringing today about the "bad news" that America's trade position, trade gap or trade deficit is: a) widening, b) worsening or c) deteriorating in January. What you probably won't hear much about is the good news that total U.S. trade (Exports + Imports) increased to $381 billion in January, reaching the highest level since August 2008, almost two-and-a-half years ago.
As Cato's Dan Griswold pointed out last month 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.
The good news about the January report is that imports, exports and therefore total trade are all increasing, in another positive sign that the U.S. and world economies are expanding, recovering and growing.