Raw Data: Exports to Japan Are Doing OK

The Los Angeles Times says that pulling out of the TPP trade deal has been bad for US exports to Japan:

One of Donald Trump’s first acts as president was to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation free-trade deal that President Obama negotiated but left unfinished. Trump derided the pact as a bad deal for America. But leaving it hasn’t turned out that well either.

The remaining 11 members proceeded anyway, slashing tariffs and leaving U.S. businesses at a significant competitive disadvantage….While Trump was busy slapping tariffs on China and other countries, Japan also concluded a pact with the European Union that lowered duties and other barriers to ease trade flows. Between the EU and Asia-Pacific, Japan is now starting to import substantially more from its free-trade partners, at America’s expense.

Let’s take a look:

Exports to Japan have actually been doing pretty well under Trump. However, it’s true that the first two months of 2019 have seen a sudden dropoff—possibly due to the EU-Japan trade agreement that went into effect on February 1. The problem is supposedly biggest among farmers, so let’s zoom in on that:

This has been a bumpier ride, but it still doesn’t look too bad. However, this includes all foodstuffs as well as live animals. What happens if we just look at crop-based exports?

It’s about the same. There’s a decline starting in September, but even at that, exports are higher now than they were when Trump took office. But wait. The article says the problem is specifically with “wheat, beef, pork, dairy, wine, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.” So, because I’m insane I’m dedicated to bringing you the whole picture, here’s the best we can do to look only at those items over the past couple of years:

Aside from pork, which is slightly below its January 2017 level, everything is up. What’s more, beef is the only category that shows a recent decline, starting around mid-2018. Everything else is either steady or increasing.

On balance, I think it was a bad idea to kill TPP. However, majorities in both parties were dead set against it, and it was effectively dead well before Trump took office. Killing it may well do long-term damage to US exports to Japan and other countries, but I have to say it’s hard to see a clear problem yet.

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