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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske November 28, 2016

Don Beyer wrongly says U.S. has surpluses with all of its trade agreement nations

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-8th, made a pitch for free-trade agreements early on election night, a few hours before Republican Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race put those pacts in jeopardy.

Beyer was interviewed by PJ Media, a conservative online news outlet and blog. If Democrat Hillary Clinton won the presidency, he was asked, what would Democrats do to gain the support of those who voted for Trump "specifically on the trade issue?"

"First, I don’t think we can abandon our trade agenda," Beyer said. "We have trade agreements with 20 countries, and we have trade surpluses with each one of those 20."

Beyer offered a far rosier view of free-trade agreements than Trump, whose unrelenting criticism of them is credited with helping him to attract critical blue-collar votes.

Trump says the agreements have encouraged U.S. manufacturers to move plants and jobs to countries that offer cheaper labor. He’s vowed to renegotiate - and possibly pull out of - the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. And he promised not to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership that President Barack Obama negotiated with 11 Pacific Rim nations.

So we wondered whether Beyer has it right when he says the U.S. has a surplus with all of its partners in existing trade deals.

Uncle Sam, indeed, has trade agreements with 20 nations, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Mexico and Canada, as we mentioned, are part of NAFTA, which became effective in 1994.

Six nations joined the U.S. in 2004 in the Central American Free Trade Agreement: Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The U.S. has independent trade agreements with 12 nations: Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Israel, Jordan, South Korea, Morocco, Oman, Panama, Peru and Singapore.

Census Bureau records show that during the first nine months of 2016, the U.S. was running overall trade deficits with seven of its agreement partners. Here are those nations and the U.S. negative trade balance with them:

•Canada, $5.8 billion;

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•Colombia, $642 million;

•Israel, $7 billion;

•Jordan, $197 million;

•South Korea, $22.8 billion;

•Mexico, $46.8 billion; and

•Nicaragua, $1.4 billion.

When you add up the balances of all 20 nations with pacts, the U.S. was running a $54.5 billion trade deficit for the first nine months of this year.

We examined the numbers for 2015 and found a similar result. The U.S. had trade deficits with six of the countries; only Colombia fell off the list. The U.S. had a composite $64 billion trade deficit with its 20 trade-agreement nations.

All told, the U.S. ran up a $546 billion global trade deficit during the first nine months of this year and a $746 billion deficit in 2015. About half of the U.S. deficit both years came from its trade with China.

We finally should note that we made two efforts to contact Beyer’s office for this article and did not get a reply.

Our ruling

Beyer said, "We have trade agreements with 20 countries, and we have trade surpluses with each one of those 20."

Data show the U.S. is running trade deficits with seven of those trade-agreement nations through the first nine months of this year and ran deficits with six of those countries in 2015.

We rate Beyer’s statement False.

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Don Beyer wrongly says U.S. has surpluses with all of its trade agreement nations

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