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特朗普的贸易逆差论背后:严重的事实偏差

更新时间:2017-4-6 19:24:43 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Behind Trump’s Trade Deficit Obsession: Deficient Analysis
特朗普的贸易逆差论背后:严重的事实偏差

In the world according to President Trump, trade deficits are among the clearest indication that Americans have become habitual chumps in the global marketplace. The United States sells fewer goods and services than it buys from the rest of the planet, and this is supposedly evidence that Americans are getting rolled.

在特朗普总统的世界里,贸易赤字是证明美国人已经习惯了在全球市场上犯傻的最明显的证据之一。美国售出的商品和服务比从世界其他国家购买的商品和服务要少,这表明美国人正在遭到打劫。

This is the central assumption behind Mr. Trump’s repeated vow to take a meat cleaver to the North American Free Trade Agreement, redrawing the terms of commerce with Mexico. This is the spirit in which he has promised to confront China over its systematic job-killing machine, beginning later this week as he greets the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

特朗普反复发誓,要把北美自由贸易协定(North American Free Trade Agreement)大卸八块,重新制定与墨西哥的贸易条款,其背后的核心假定正是这种观点。他承诺挑战中国那种令美国工作机会减少的系统性机制。这种思维,就从本周晚些时候在佛罗里达州马阿拉歌庄园会见中国国家主席习近平开始。

But Mr. Trump’s portrayal of trade deficits entails crucial departures from economic reality.

但是特朗普对贸易赤字的描述却极大地背离了经济现实。

In his accounting, international trade is a zero-sum affair, as if every country were jockeying for a share of forever limited amounts of business. An auto part made in Mexico and later included in a finished vehicle destined for a suburban driveway in California represents jobs hijacked from the Midwestern factory that should have employed American hands to build everything.

在他的盘算中,国际贸易是一种零和博弈,好像每一个国家都在不择手段,谋求一个永远有限的业务份额。墨西哥制造的汽车零部件,之后会被装进停在加利福尼亚州郊区房前车道上的成品车,这代表着从美国中西部工厂抢走了工作机会,这些工厂应该雇佣美国人手来制造一切。

Trade is not zero-sum. Expanded trade has historically tended to support economic growth, which generates more spoils to be divvied up for all.

贸易不是零和博弈。历史上,贸易扩张往往会带来经济增长,产生更多收益,供所有人分享。

American factories have increased production over the years, in part by drawing on a global supply chain to get what they need. A construction machinery plant in Illinois may buy ball bearings from China, glass displays from South Korea, computer chips from Malaysia and other parts from Mexico, some of them forged with American-made steel.

美国工厂的产量多年来一直在增加,部分原因是它们利用全球供应链来获得自己的所需。伊利诺斯州的一家建筑机械厂可能会购买中国的球轴承,韩国的玻璃陈列柜,马来西亚的电脑芯片和墨西哥的其他零件,其中一些是采用美国生产的钢铁制造的。

Obsessing over the balance of trade with any single country misses all of that. It also distracts from the force that, by many accounts, is the real threat to employment: automation. The decisive problem facing American workers is that making more products has not translated into sufficient numbers of new jobs, leaving millions of people searching for full-time work at wages high enough to pay the bills.

执着于同任何一个国家保持贸易平衡,就会失去所有这一切。这样做也会分散对自动化问题的关注,从许多方面来说,自动化才是对就业的真正威胁。美国工人面临的关键问题是,制造更多的产品,并没有转化为足够的新工作岗位,导致数百万人仍在寻找工资高到足以支付账单的全职工作。

Economists generally dismiss bilateral trade deficits as essentially meaningless, for reasons easily recognizable in the rest of everyday life. Most people surely run lopsided trade deficits with their dentists, handing these professionals their dollars without expecting them to purchase anything in return.

经济学家普遍认为,双边贸易赤字实质上是没有意义的,其原因在日常生活中就可以轻易看到。大多数人对他们的牙医负有极大的贸易赤字,人们要向这些专业人士付钱,而不指望这些专业人士从自己手中购买任何东西。

One may assume that successful dentists will distribute their profits throughout the economy — on marketing, accounting, laundry and streaming music services. One way or another, these dollars generate jobs and income for other people. So it is with countries.

人们可以假设成功的牙科医生会在整个经济中分配他们所得的利润——通过市场营销、会计、洗衣和流媒体音乐服务。以这样或那样的方式,这些钱会为其他人创造就业机会和收入。对于国家来说也是一样。

China’s trade surplus with the United States, which reached $347 billion last year, does in part reflect dubious Chinese practices, including lavishing state credit on favored exporters and flooding world markets with low-cost goods to keep its laborers employed.

去年,中国与美国的贸易顺差达到了3470亿美元,一定程度上的确反映了中国的一些争议性做法,包括对出口商提供慷慨的国家贷款,以低成本的货物淹没世界市场,以便保持劳动者的就业。

Yet even if China were a paragon of fair trading practices, it would almost certainly run a surplus with the United States. Despite tremendous economic advances, China remains a relatively low-income country, home to hundreds of millions of people who cannot afford the more sophisticated fruits of the American economy. Though wages have risen in recent years, China’s fundamental advantage still involves making goods cheaply.

然而,即使中国是公平贸易的典范,它几乎也肯定会对美国保持顺差。尽管取得巨大的经济进步,中国仍然是一个相对的低收入国家,它有数亿人口无力负担美国经济产出的那些更高端的产品。虽然近年来工资有所上涨,但中国的根本优势还是在于让货物更为廉价。

Trade imbalances with the world are a more complex matter, one that is subject to genuine debate among economists. But the story is different for every country, depending on its size, the maturity of its economy, the sorts of goods and services it tends to export, and the reason for the imbalance in trade at any moment in time.

与整个世界的贸易不平衡是一个更为复杂的问题,经济学家在就这个主题展开真正的辩论。但是,每个国家的情况都是不一样的,这取决于国家的规模,经济的成熟度,出口商品和服务的种类,以及任何时候贸易不平衡的各种原因。

In the case of the United States, trade deficits with the world have been a feature of economic life for more than three decades, a sweep of time that has seen economic booms, the worst downturn since the Great Depression and plenty of events in between.

就美国而言,世界范围内的贸易赤字已经是30多年来经济生活的一个特征,这期间有过数次经济繁荣,也有过大萧条以来最严重的经济衰退,以及介于两者之间的种种事件。

“Trade deficits aren’t a good barometer,” said Chad P. Bown, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“贸易逆差不是一个好指标,”华盛顿彼得森国际经济研究所(Peterson Institute for International Economics)的贸易政策专家查德·P·鲍恩(Chad P. Bown)说。

Fluctuations reflect a host of factors that have little to do with the fairness of trade terms. As the government on Tuesday reported that the American trade deficit contracted by nearly 10 percent in February, analysts noted that exports from the United States had been aided by a recent weakening in the value of the dollar, which makes American goods cheaper on world markets.

波动反映出许多因素与贸易条款的公平性几乎没什么关系。在政府于周二通报美国的贸易顺差在今年2月缩小了近10%之时,分析人士指出,美国出口增加是得益于最近的美元贬值,这令美国的商品在全球市场上变得更便宜。

The only thing one can say with certainty is that the deficit reflects how Americans have consumed more than they have been willing to save, purchasing from foreigners who have in turn invested in the United States. To the degree that this is a problem — and opinions vary — most economists suggest that it is best addressed with tax policies and incentives to save, rather than by impeding trade.

唯一可以确定的是,贸易逆差反映出美国人的消费意愿大于存储意愿,他们从外国人那里购买商品,而后者又反过来在美国进行投资。就算这是个问题——对此大家观点不一——大多数经济学家也建议,解决它的最佳办法是调整税收政策和刺激储蓄,而非阻碍贸易。

The American trade deficit with the world contracted sharply in 2008 and 2009, but this was not the result of a sudden resumption of old-school saving. It reflected a cratering of consumer spending in the midst of the Great Recession. Calling that progress would be like applauding a nation gripped by famine for limiting its intake of saturated fats.

美国与世界各国的贸易逆差曾在2008年和2009年大幅缩小,但这不是老派的储蓄习惯突然恢复的结果。它背后反映的是大衰退(Great Recession)之下消费支出的减少。称它为进步,就好像称赞一个陷入饥荒的国家限制饱和脂肪的摄入量。

But if trade deficits do not lend themselves to certain conclusions in the realm of economic policy, they have served as highly useful political fodder. Politicians use trade deficits — money departing the nation! — as a handy, if flawed, explanation for why paychecks are inadequate.

但如果贸易逆差在经济政策领域无法达成某种结论,它们就会变成十分有用的政治素材。政客们会把贸易逆差——资金在从这个国家流失!——当作方便的借口,解释为何大家的工资不够花,尽管这种说法并不完全准确。

Back in the 1980s, it was Japan that played the boogeyman in the American political conversation, the goliath believed to be gobbling up American prosperity with every Sony Walkman it sent toward American shores. More recently, China has assumed that role.

回想上世纪80年代,是日本在扮演美国政治谈话中的假想怪物,认为它是通过送往美国的每台索尼随身听吞噬美国繁荣的巨人。最近,这个角色落到了中国的头上。

Now, with Mr. Trump in the White House, much of human civilization has seemingly been cast as the predator class — Germany, Mexico, China, willfully fleecing Americans through a series of trade deals extended by a Washington elite too clueless to fight them.

现在随着特朗普入主白宫,整个人类文明的一大部分似乎都被塑造成通过一系列贸易协议蓄意薅美国羊毛的掠夺者——德国、墨西哥、中国——这些协议则是由太过愚蠢而没能反抗这种剥削的华盛顿精英所推进。

Liberalized trade has proved punishing for lower-skilled factory laborers clustered in the American South and Midwest. Entire industrial communities have been upended by joblessness, mass foreclosure and attendant ills like substance abuse, domestic violence and depression.

事实已经证明,自由化的贸易会给集中在美国南部和中西部的技术水平较低的工厂工人带来沉重打击。整个工业界都被失业、抵押品赎回权大规模丧失,以及随之而来的药物滥用、家庭暴力和抑郁症等问题搅得天翻地覆。

But trade has proved a boon to bankers, executives and multinational corporations that harness low-wage labor in distant lands to make their products. Much of Walmart’s business model was built on a reliance on Chinese factories. American consumers have grown accustomed to low prices for clothing, shoes and other goods.

但贸易已被证明对银行高级职员、高管和跨国企业十分有益,他们利用遥远土地上的低薪劳动力来为自己制造产品。沃尔玛的商业模式在很大程度上就建基于对中国工厂的依赖。美国消费者已经习惯于用不高的价格买到衣物、鞋和其他商品。

None of this action gets captured in narrow obsessions over trade deficits.

在有关贸易逆差的狭隘执念中,所有这些都被忽略了。

“Trump hugely mis-frames it,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who is a persistent critic of trade deals. “We have U.S. companies that are hugely profiting by having access to low-cost labor in China. Portraying that China won and we lost is 180 degrees wrong. Factory laborers are the losers.”

“特朗普极大地扭曲了对它的理解,”华盛顿经济与政策研究中心(Center for Economic and Policy Research)联席主任、贸易协议的持续批判者迪安·贝克(Dean Baker)说。“我们也有美国企业通过使用中国的低成本劳动力获利巨丰。将情况描述成中国赢了、我们输了,完全是错误的。工厂工人才是其中的受害者。”

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