Remarkably this fact did not appear in a Washington Post article discussing U.S. trade with China, which did find room to tell readers that:
"But U.S. exports to China, whose growing affluence has increased the appetite for American goods, are now reaching record levels."
While it is true that exports to China have reached a record high, this is true of imports as well, if we compare the same months of 2012 with the corresponding months of 2011. (In other words, we are controlling for seasonal effects.) The failure to note the record level of imports is especially surprising since our imports from China matter much more than out exports to China.
We are importing goods and services from China at the rate of more than $400 billion a year, whereas our exports are just a bit over $100 billion a year. This means that imports have close to four times the impact in reducing growth and employment as exports have in the opposite direction.
In discussing the issue of the relative value of the dollar and the Chinese currency it would have been useful to point out that important interests in the United States do not want to see China increase the value of the yuan. For example, Walmart has devoted considerable resources to developing a low-cost supply chain in China and other developing countries. This gives it an enormous advantage over its competitors.
Walmart is not anxious to have this advantage eroded by an increase in the value of the yuan relative to the dollar. The same is true of many companies that have established manufacturing operations in China for the purpose of exporting goods back to the United States and other countries.
This means that the debate over the relative value of the yuan and the dollar is not simply a debate between China and the United States. It is also a debate that pits different groups in the United States against each other.