June 19, 2012

“The entry into force of the U.S.-Korea trade agreement on March 15, 2012, means countless new opportunities for U.S. exporters to sell more made-in-America goods, services and agricultural products to Korean customers—and to support more good jobs here at home.”

Thus did the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative rhapsodize about the potential of our new trade treaty with South Korea.

And how has it worked out for Uncle Sam?

Well, courtesy of Martin Crutsinger of The Associated Press, the trade figures are in for April, the first full month under the trade deal with South Korea.

And, surprise! The U.S. trade deficit with Korea tripled in one month. Imports from South Korea jumped 15 percent to $5.5 billion in April, while U.S. exports to South Korea fell 12 percent to $3.7 billion. Suddenly, the U.S. trade deficit with Seoul surged to an annual rate of $22 billion.

Shades of NAFTA. When it passed in 1993, we had a $1.6 billion trade surplus with Mexico. By 2010, our trade deficit with Mexico had reached $61.6 billion.

“Free trade makes suckers and fools out of patriots.”

There is other news of interest in those trade figures for those who chronicle the industrial decline of the United States.

In 2011, America ran the largest trade deficit ever with a single nation, $295.4 billion, with China. But this year, the U.S. trade deficit with China is running 12 percent ahead of 2011.

And the U.S. trade deficit with the world is now back up over $600 billion a year.

What do these mammoth and mounting deficits mean?

A deepening dependence on foreign nations for the necessities of our national life. A steady erosion of our manufacturing base. A continued stagnation in the real wages of the middle class. And an unending redistribution of America’s wealth to foreign lands.

It is no coincidence that the real wages of U.S. workers ceased to rise in the mid-1970s, just as a century of U.S. trade surpluses was coming to an end.

In 1975, we began three decades of trade deficits that grew until, in the Bush II years, they reached 8 percent of the entire economy. These deficits helped to precipitate the Great Recession and helped to prevent our rescue from it.


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