Unexpectedly Intriguing!
15 June 2021

We skipped it last month, but we have an updated snapshot of how much trade has been lost between the U.S. and China as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Combined Value of U.S. Exports to China and Imports from China, January 2008 - April 2021

With January 2020's 'Phase 1' trade deal, the volume of trade between the U.S. and China should have begun recovering in February following the truce in President Trump's tariff war with the country. Instead, it plunged through March 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic starting in China before beginning to recover. In April 2021, the volume of trade is $9.7 billion higher than April 2020. The gap between the trailing year average of trade between the two nations and a 'No Coronavirus Pandemic' counterfactual shrunk to $7.5 billion in April 2021. We estimate the cumulative loss is $116.8 billion.

Speaking of which, the Biden-Harris administration has bought into the tariffs on Chinese goods, claiming they saved U.S. jobs, which means they won't be going away anytime soon.

No economists were asked if they agree with the Biden-Harris administration's assessment, though one labor union that endorsed the Biden-Harris administration supports the tariffs.

The thing to watch during the rest of 2021 is how much the gap between the trajectory of the combined value of trade between the U.S. and China and the "no coronavirus pandemic" counterfactual trajectory narrows during the year. The gap between actual and "what if" peaked at $10.6 billion in October 2020 and has narrowed in each of the months since.

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