Statistics: Off-Balance Trade Balance

Off-Balance Trade Balance

Is the oft bemoaned American trade deficit, projected for 1991 at about $100 billion, the result of an accounting error? After studying 1987 imports and exports, a panel of economists assembled by the National Academy of Sciences announced last week that the U.S. trade deficit that year was only $64 billion -- 57% below the officially reported figure of $148 billion.

According to the NAS study, the government's old-fashioned accounting methods failed to keep tabs on such sophisticated multinational activity as "intracompany" sales, exports to a corporation's own foreign affiliates. These exports, which account for more than a quarter of all...

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