Author: James K. Jackson, Specialist in International Trade and Finance
The U.S. merchandise trade deficit is a part of the overall U.S. balance of payments, a summary statement of all economic transactions between the residents of the United States and the rest of the world, during a given period of time. Some Members of Congress and other observers have grown concerned over the magnitude of the U.S. merchandise trade deficit and the associated increase in U.S. dollar-denominated assets owned by foreigners. International trade recovered from the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the subsequent slowdown in global economic activity that reduced global trade flows and, consequently, reduced the size of the U.S. trade deficit. Now, however, U.S. exporters face new challenges with an increase in the international exchange value of the dollar relative to other key currencies and the slow rate of economic growth in important export markets in Europe and Asia. This report provides an overview of the U.S. balance of payments, an explanation of the broader role of capital flows in the U.S. economy, an explanation of how the country finances its trade deficit or a trade surplus, and the implications for Congress and the country of the large inflows of capital from abroad.