The U.S. Census Bureau recently released trade figures from January and February of 2019. After the volume of peak season and an added rise from front-loading shipments, post-holiday season stabilization helps set forecasts for the coming year, both in volume and popular trade partners. Generally, trade partners start the year ranked the same as they finished.
In a bit of a surprise, Mexico began 2019 as the United States’ biggest partner. Mexico accounted for 15% of total U.S. trade value. China came in third, behind Mexico and Canada.
China remains the U.S.’s biggest import partner, while Canada received the most exports to start the year.
While trade with China typically slows because of Chinese New Year, it’s uncommon to see Mexico at the top of total trade value list. Like China, Mexico is also involved in trade negotiations with the U.S., going through a restructuring of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) last year. Though a solution was agreed upon last year, the new agreement, called the U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA) has neither been approved by Congress, nor other legislative branches in Mexico and Canada, either.
Trade with China is down nearly 14% from this time last year. Though some early-year doldrums can be attributed to the holidays in China, falling to third in percent of trade value is unexpected. President’s Donald Trump and Xi Jinping have both separately expressed confidence that a redesigned trade deal between the powerhouses will get done, and will get done soon. Though deadlines have been set in the past, deadlines have been exceeded, and they seem to primarily serve as negotiation tactics. The U.S. employed similar strategies with China and Mexico over the last two years.
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