Has the U.S. Historically Run Trade Surpluses or Deficits?

June 03, 2019

Over the past several decades, the U.S. has gone from running trade surpluses to trade deficits. However, this isn’t new territory for the country.

In this video—taken from a recent Dialogue with the Fed event—Senior Economist Paulina Restrepo-Echavarria discusses the U.S. historical trade balance, going back to 1800.

For most of the 1800s, the U.S. was a net borrower. Around 1880 is when the U.S. began regularly running trade surpluses, which continued through about the 1970s. Then, the country went back to running trade deficits.

“This is not a new situation,” Restrepo-Echavarria said of running trade deficits. “It’s something that came back. It did stop for a while, but now, we’re in a situation that is very similar to where we were in the 1800s.”

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