U.S. Trade Deficit for 2002 Largest in History

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Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The United States recorded the largest trade deficit in its history during 2002 as the American economy continued to demand foreign goods while U.S. exporters found weak overseas markets, according to figures released yesterday.

The U.S. trade deficit for goods and services reached $435.2 billion for 2002, up 21.5 percent from 2001, the U.S. Commerce Department said yesterday.

The record-breaking trade deficit reflects stronger growth in the United States than overseas.

The United States' major trade partners, with the exception of China, have seen poor economic growth. But they are still sending goods to the United States, even though they are buying less.

The U.S. trade deficit with the 15-nation European Union grew by 34 percent. And while Japan sent $5 billion less in goods to America last year, it bought $6 billion less.

U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said he would raise concerns about the lack of growth in Europe and Japan this weekend when he meets in Paris with finance ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized countries.

The Bush administration contends that trade spurs growth in overseas markets for U.S. goods and services, enhances opportunities for higher-paying American jobs, expands choices for American consumers, and promotes U.S. security interests.

Opponents of the free-trade policy contend it costs jobs.

U.S. sales of capital goods, mainly computer accessories, telecommunications equipment and semiconductors, fell by $31.1 billion from 2001. Exports of industrial supplies and consumer goods also tailed off, while those of vehicles increased.

"If you look at details, virtually all of the decline was attributable to the export of capital goods. What that could mean is the global economies are weak and business investment worldwide is soft," said said Mickey D. Levy, chief economist for Bank of America. …