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Between 2001 and 2011, the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced more than 2.7 million U.S. jobs, with more than 2.1 million (77%) of those lost in manufacturing. Those figures from a newly released Economic Policy Institute briefing paper, entitled, "The China Toll", which attempts to gauge the impact of the trade explosion with China following that country's 2001 entrance into the World Trade Organization (WTO).

PlasticsToday Staff

August 23, 2012

2 Min Read
China’s first decade in WTO exacts heavy toll on U.S. manufacturing

Between 2001 and 2011, the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced more than 2.7 million U.S. jobs, with more than 2.1 million (77%) of those lost in manufacturing. Those figures from a newly released Economic Policy Institute briefing paper, entitled, "The China Toll", which attempts to gauge the impact of the trade explosion with China following that country's 2001 entrance into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The report states that the manufacturing jobs lost to China over that decade account for more than half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost or displaced over that time period.China_jobs_table.jpg

EPI table, Jobs displaced by China trade deficit

The report found that the trade deficit with China has cost jobs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as in each congressional district. By industry, the trade deficit hit the computer and electronic products industry the hardest, with 1,064,800 jobs displaced, 38.8% of the 2001-2011 total. Because of that, many of the hardest-hit congressional districts were in California, Texas, Oregon, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Minnesota, where companies like Dell and Hewlett-Packard once maintained manufacturing.

Other industrial sectors affected by trade deficits with China over that decade include:

  • apparel and accessories (211,200 jobs)

  • textile mills and textile product mills (106,200)

  • fabricated metal products (120,600)

  • furniture and fixtures (80,700)

  • plastics and rubber products (57,600)

  • motor vehicles and parts (19,800)

  • miscellaneous manufactured goods (111,800)

From 2001-2011, imports of plastics and rubber products from China grew by $9.2 billion, while exports to China of the same only rose by $1 billion, creating an $8 billion trade deficit. According to the report, the only broader U.S. economic sectors with a positive trade balance with China over that time period were agriculture, mining, information, and scrap and second-hand goods. Within manufacturing, which as a whole ran a trade deficit of $243.9 billion, only beverage and tobacco products ($400,000); petroleum and coal ($1 billion); chemicals ($300,000); transportation equipment ($900,000); and aerospace products and parts ($3.2 billion) ran surpluses with China from 2001-2011.

SPI data paints similar picture
According to the Society of the Plastics Industry's (SPI) 2011 Global Trends Report, the U.S. plastics industry saw its global trade surplus rise 27.3% to $16.2 billion in 2010 from $12.7 billion in 2009, due in large part to resin exports. Over that time, exports rose by 24.2%, while imports climbed by 23%.

The industry did have its largest trade deficit with China, however, some $5 billion in 2010 ($8 billion in plastic products). The report found that the U.S.'s deficit in plastics products, which had been shrinking, jumped up by 11.9% to $3.6 billion in 2010, despite export growth (19.9%) outpacing import growth (18.6%).

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