First, US imports to three major non-oil (really non-resource) exporting regions of the world economy – Asia, Europe and North America. Ok, Canada and Mexico sell their share of oil to the US, but they also account for a large share of US non-petroleum imports and exports. I haven’t tried to strip out Mexican and Canadian energy exports to get their goods exports (US goods imports) only. It turns out that it doesn’t matter – even if you include energy imports, the NAFTA countries do not explain the recent surge in US imports. Look instead to Asia.
All data comes from the BEA, ends with q1 2006, is a rolling four quarter sum and is presented as a percentage of US GDP.
After the very strong growth in US imports from Asia in 2004 and 2005, I just don’t see how folks can still argue that rising US imports from China just reflect shifts in the location of final production in Asia.
Sure, that has happened. In early 2003, total US imports from Asia were not any higher than they had been at the peak of the tech boom. But things have changed since then!
If imports from China were substituting for imports from elsewhere in Asia, I would expect overall US imports from Asia to be flat as a share of US GDP. Or perhaps even fall, as cheap Chinese assembly replaces expensive Korea and Taiwanese assembly. Yet overall US imports from Asia (the data series excludes Asian OPEC countries) clearly are rising as a share of US GDP. That suggests some things previously made in the US are being imported from Asia – though the pace of increase seems to have moderated recently.