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Report: Kentucky Lost Nearly 47,000 Jobs from U.S.-China Trade Deficit

Last year, China bought nearly 264,000 tons of soybeans from farmers in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Adobe Stock)
Last year, China bought nearly 264,000 tons of soybeans from farmers in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Adobe Stock)
February 13, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky lost nearly 47,000 jobs between 2001 and 2018 because of the ongoing trade deficit with China, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute.

Over the past two decades, the United States has steadily imported more goods from China than it exports -- and that trade deficit has topped more than $150 billion since the Great Recession.

Economist Rob Scott with the institute says that's a major reason manufacturing employment hasn't fully recovered along with the rest of the economy.

"China trade is responsible for most of the loss of manufacturing jobs in the economy in the last 20 years," he states. "We've lost about a little less than 5 million jobs overall in that period.

"It's devastated manufacturing communities around the country. And I think China trade is responsible for a large portion of those losses."

The report found 3.7 million U.S. jobs have disappeared in the past two decades, and says job losses continued to grow during the first two years of the Trump administration.

Last month, President Donald Trump signed a new trade deal with China. But Scott says it remains to be seen whether China will hold up its end of the bargain.

"China has promised to spend $200 billion overall, including $40 billion for ag products over the next two years, on U.S. exports," he relates. "China has a history of failing to follow through on those promises. And I think that's the biggest concern about this phase one trade deal."

Amid the ongoing trade battle, China has reduced its purchases of U.S. soybeans. Despite the lost income, Scott doesn't think Trump's new trade deal will significantly affect demand for U.S. farm products.

"It has increased purchases from elsewhere in the world," he points out. "In the same way, the U.S. has started to export more soybeans to other countries. So, I think what's going on in part is that China has simply been buying its U.S. soybeans through other ports."

Kentucky farmers grow soybeans on around 1.3 million acres of land, generating nearly $300 million in annual income.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY