Excess Yourself!

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Max out your credit card and save the world. The World Trade Organization Friday presented a more bad news on the international economy, but the silver lining may be high U.S. imports and consumer spending. Although the Asian contagion has sent world trade figures downward for the first time in decades, U.S. imports actually grew 10 percent in 1998. Exports, however, increased only 3 percent, which means the U.S. trade deficit continues to mushroom.

"As the economic leader of the world, we have a responsibility to maintain high imports," says TIME senior business writer Bernard Baumohl. "Our high trade deficit is actually a life raft to a world economy threatened with depression." There is, as always, a downside. "To maintain that deficit, we have to borrow money. We're already the world's largest debtor nation, and eventually we'd have to raise interest rates at home in order to borrow money abroad." For now, however, spend as if there's no tomorrow. If you don't, maybe there won't be.