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Members of Congress to USTR: Stop Making False Claims on the Trade Deficit

Mar 19, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Members of Congress today refuted claims that United States Trade Representative Michael Froman is making about the trade deficit. Ambassador Froman has told Members of Congress that the U.S. has a trade surplus with its free trade agreement partners, which is in direct contradiction to U.S. International Trade Commission data showing the U.S. has a large goods trade deficit with its free trade agreement partners.

Their letter to Ambassador Froman can be viewed here. It was signed by Representatives Peter DeFazio, Rosa DeLauro, Keith Ellison, Jerrold Nadler, Alan Grayson, Tim Ryan, Mark Pocan and Marcy Kaptur. Several of the representatives held a press conference this morning outlining their concerns. Audio of that press conference is available here.

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), said: “Mr. Froman came to Capitol Hill this week with cherry-picked statistics in an attempt to sweet talk Congress into adopting yet another failed trade policy. I listened as he claimed the Korea trade deal was a good deal for the U.S. auto industry, but when you look at all the numbers-- not just half of them-- you see that yes, while the U.S. exported some 40,000 cars to Korea, it also imported more than one million cars. That is a trade deficit, pure and simple, and at the end of the day it means the loss of American jobs.”

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said: “At an unclassified briefing yesterday morning, Ambassador Froman told Members of Congress that the U.S. enjoys trade surpluses with our Free Trade Agreement Partners. That is wrong. The numbers Ambassador Froman is using to substantiate this claim are plainly misleading and count goods that merely pass through the U.S. on their way to somewhere else. You do not need a PhD in economics to know this is disingenuous at best. Calling them U.S. exports is just plain wrong.”

“Ambassador Froman needs to check his math on America’s trade agreements,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). “Even with numbers padded heavily with re-exports, our trade imbalances have ballooned with every new trade deal, especially in automotive manufacturing. Those deficits mean real jobs lost and wages cut for America’s working families. This is not the first time a bad trade deal has been sold to Congress and the American people on a failed promise of increased exports and jobs, but it needs to be the last.”

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) said: “I am dismayed that a Democratic Administration would mislead our Caucus to believe that we have a trade surplus with our Free Trade Agreement Partners. The data that was presented to us yesterday was distorted. There is a clear track-record of these trade agreements gutting the American workforce and industry, and all we ask for is accurate information during the ongoing debate.”

Congressman Mark Pocan said: “It’s time for the U.S. Trade Representative to start telling Congress the truth and stop treating us like children sitting at the kid’s table.  The misleading facts about the trade deficit Ambassador Froman presented to the Congress insults us all. Every Member has a constitutional obligation to review and approve trade agreements on behalf of our constituents and the American people deserve to hear the whole truth about trade, not the USTR’s spin on the numbers.”