Under NAFTA: $2.8B U.S.-Mexico Trade Surplus Became $70.9B Deficit

By Terence P. Jeffrey | August 27, 2018 | 5:35pm EDT
President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico and President Donald Trump, July 7, 2018. (Screen Capture)

(CNSNews.com) - Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that President Bill Clinton signed in Dec. 8, 1993, the annual U.S. merchandise trade balance with Mexico has fallen from a surplus of approximately $2.8 billion to a deficit of approximately $70.9 billion, according to data published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

NAFTA--which created what the Congressional Research Service calls a “free trade area” among the United States, Canada and Mexico--took effect on Jan. 1, 1994. President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he had negotiated an new agreement with Mexico to replace NAFTA.

“We’re going to call it the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement, and we’ll get rid of the name NAFTA,” Trump said. “It has a bad connotation because the United States was hurt very badly by NAFTA for many years.”

In 1993, the last year before NAFTA came into force, the United States ran a $2,812,370,000 merchandise trade surplus with Mexico (in constant December 2017 dollars adjusted using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator).

By 2017, the last full year on record, the U.S. ran a $70,952,900,000 merchandise trade deficit with Mexico.

In the 24 years under NAFTA, the U.S. has run a merchandise trade surplus with Mexico in only one year. That was 1994—the first year under NAFTA—when the U.S. ran a $2,222,830,000 trade surplus with its southern neighbor.

In every one of the 23 years on record since then, the U.S. has run a merchandise trade deficit with Mexico.

In 1995, the second year under NAFTA, the U.S. ran a trade deficit with Mexico that was $25,388,440,000 (in constant December 2017 dollars).

In 2002, the U.S. merchandise trade deficit with Mexico topped $50 billion for the first time—hitting $50,621,090,000 in December 2017 dollars.

In 2005, it topped $60 billion for the first time—hitting $62,459,010,000 in constant December 2017 dollars.

In 2006, it topped $70 billion for the first time—hitting $78,833,200,000 in constant December 2017 dollars.

In 2007, it topped $80 billion for the first time—hitting $87,789,520,000 in constant December 2017 dollars. That was the largest merchandise trade deficit that the U.S. has run with Mexico in the 33 years (going back to 1985) that the Census Bureau has posted historical trade data on its website.

The top four products the U.S. imports from Mexico, according to the Census Bureau, are “other parts and accessories of vehicles” ($44,684,401,000); “trucks, buses, and special purpose vehicles” ($30,597,819,000); “passenger cars, new and used” ($29,727,683,000); and “computers” ($18,357,874,000).

The top four products the U.S. exports to Mexico are “other parts and accessories of vehicles” ($20,492,114,000); “electric apparatus” ($15,927,123,000); “computer accessories” ($14,612,318,000); and “semiconductors” ($8,519,645,000).

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