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Big Shifts in World Trade Positions in High-Technology Products

In the high-technology goods trade, the United States had small trade surpluses during the mid- to late 1990s; these turned into a widening deficit after 1998 that has fluctuated at about $80 billion since 2005[19] (figure O-34 ). The U.S. trade deficit in ICT goods—communications and semiconductors and computers—is larger than that. It reached a record $126 billion in 2007 before contracting marginally to $119 billion in 2008, reflecting recession-induced lowered imports.

ICT goods have been the major driver behind the overall U.S. high-technology trade deficit. The broad shift in the location of production of these goods to Asia coincided with growing U.S. demand, which in turn stimulated growing imports. Pharmaceuticals contributed a further $21 billion to the 2008 deficit. Aerospace and scientific instruments were in surplus, at $50 billion and $9 billion, respectively.

The EU had a relatively stable 1995–2008 trade deficit for all high-technology classes combined, smaller than that of the United States. However, its ICT deficit was almost identical to that of the U.S., reflecting the same dynamic of rising domestic demand and relocated production. The EU's aerospace, pharmaceuticals, and scientific instruments trade balances were in surplus.

China and the Asia-9 had substantial 2008 high-technology trade surpluses of $129 billion and $221 billion, respectively. Both showed strong increases after 2002. Japan had a surplus that fluctuated at about $50 billion for most of the period, despite its loss of market share in the production of high-technology industries.


[19] U.S. trade in advanced technology products shows a similar deficit path. These products, defined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, include computer software, advanced materials, aerospace, biotechnology, electronics, flexible manufacturing, information/communications technology, life sciences, nuclear technology, optoelectronics, and weapons. However, data categorized in this fashion are unavailable for most other countries and differ from other trade data discussed earlier that are based on OECD definitions.

Science and Engineering Indicators 2010   Arlington, VA (NSB 10-01) | January 2010