USA Completes 270 Straight Months of Merchandise Trade Deficits With Mexico

By Terence P. Jeffrey | May 19, 2017 | 10:46am EDT
Vice President Mike Pence swears into office USTR Robert Lighthizer, May 15, 2017. (Screen Capture)

( - The United States ran a $7,032,600,000 merchandise trade deficit with Mexico in March, making it the 270th straight month that the United States has run a merchandise trade deficit with its southern neighbor, according to data release this month by the Census Bureau.

The last time the United States ran a monthly merchandise trade surplus with Mexico was September 1994—in the first year under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the Trump administration officially notified Congress yesterday it will renegotiate.

In September 1994, the United States exported $4,381,200,000 in goods to Mexico and imported $4,376,500,000—running a surplus of $4,700,000.

The $7,032,600,000 merchandise trade deficit that the U.S. ran with Mexico this March was 1,496 times larger than the $4,700,000 surplus it ran in September 1994.

NAFTA was signed by President Georg H.W. Bush in December 1992—just one month before he left office. Congress approved it by simple majority votes in both houses of Congress—rather than by the two-thirds Senate majority needed to ratify a treaty—in 1993. In December 1993, President Bill Clinton signed it.

In the three years leading up to approval of NAFTA (1991, 1992, 1993), the United States ran merchandise trade surpluses with Mexico. In 1991, it ran a surplus of $2,147,600,000. In 1992, it ran a surplus of $5,381,200,000. And in 1993, it ran a surplus of $1,663,300,000.

The U.S. also ran a merchandise trade surplus with Mexico in 1994, the first full calendar year NAFTA was in effect. That year, the bilateral U.S. merchandise trade deficit with Mexico was $1,349,800,000.

But September 1994 was the last time the U.S. ran a monthly merchandise trade surplus with Mexico. In every single month since then, the U.S.  has run a trade deficit with Mexico.

On Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer--who was sworn into office on Monday--officially notified Congress that the Trump administration will be renegotiating NAFTA.

“The United States seeks to support higher-paying jobs in the United States and to grow the economy by improving U.S. opportunities under NAFTA,” Lighthizer wrote in a letter to Congress.

“We are committed to concluding these negotiations with timely and substantive results for U.S. consumers, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers consistent with U.S. priorities and the negotiating objectives established by the Congress in statute,” Lighthizer wrote.

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