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Opinion

Prioritizing Alternatives to Eliminate the Trade Deficit

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Posted: May 13, 2019 8:57 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not represent the views of Townhall.com.
Prioritizing Alternatives to Eliminate the Trade Deficit

Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

Fixing our bad international trade agreements was a cornerstone of President Trump’s campaign for the presidency in 2016. And so far, it’s a promise he’s kept. He’s renegotiated NAFTA to create a fairer agreement that helps American workers. He got rid of the terrible Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. And after years of China manipulating its currency and subsidizing its industries, President Trump is now fighting to hold China accountable so that we are operating on a level playing field.

Bad trade deals must be fixed not only because they can hurt American workers and consumers, but also because they can create trade deficits. A trade deficit essentially results when a country imports more than it exports. Here in the United States, a trade deficit has, unfortunately, become as American as apple pie. We have the world’s largest trade deficit – and have since 1975. In 2018 alone, the United States’ overall trade deficit was $621 billion, up from the previous year. More than 65% of that deficit is due to trade with China, that creates a $419 billion deficit.  

Long-term trade deficits can cause jobs to be shipped overseas and could indicate the country as a whole, as well as individual Americans, are acquiring too much debt. All of these things have the ability to really hurt our economy if left unchecked. Thankfully, President Trump is now fighting to finally hold China and other countries accountable so that we all operate on a level playing field – and hopefully eliminate our trade deficit.

But correcting bad trade deals with other countries isn’t the only way we can work to cut our trade deficit. One of the easiest ways to lower our trade deficit is to increase international travel to the United States, where we see a trade surplus. According to U.S. Travel, Americans spent about $186 billion traveling abroad in 2018 compared to the $256 billion international travelers spent here in the United States. That creates a $69 billion trade surplus – meaning the travel industry has the second highest trade surplus of any other industry.

Right now, there are organizations that are helping to promote the United States as a destination for international travelers. Brand USA, for example, which is a public-private partnership that’s funded without any taxpayer money and has a 25 to 1 return on investment, has helped create 52,000 American jobs, adding more than $45 billion to our economy. Programs like Brand USA, among others, are showing that the private sector, not just government-funded institutions, can help provide a low-cost way to lower our trade deficit while creating American jobs and bringing billions into our economy.

The travel industry isn’t the only place running a trade surplus right now. Petroleum and coal products had a $38.8 billion trade surplus in 2018, making them the third-highest industry. All those “green energy” companies that make tons of money by scaring people away from traditional forms of energy don’t want you to know this, but the United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal. The coal industry employs more than 50,000 Americans and as of last year supplied 30% of our energy needs at home. Unfortunately, environmentalists and many Democratic leaders would love to see the coal industry disappear. In fact, Hillary Clinton famously said that if she won the presidency in 2016, “we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Rather than trying to destroy successful industries that employ tens of thousands of Americans and create a trade surplus of almost $40 billion, we need leaders in Washington and across the country to promote these industries. The coal industry provides us with many great benefits – and it’s helping to offset our trade deficit, which in turn helps to protect our economy as a whole.

We must continue to do all that we can to lower our trade deficit. That includes holding our trading partners like China and the EU accountable while promoting programs and industries like the coal industry that create trade surpluses.