"The United States is negotiating two mega-regional comprehensive and high-standard trade agreements that potentially could affect U.S. economic and trade relations with Europe and Asia. Discussions of these and other FTAs [Free Trade Agreements] often focus on trade balances, particularly U.S. bilateral merchandise trade balances with its FTA partner countries as one way of measuring the success of the agreement. Although bilateral merchandise trade balances can provide a quick snapshot of the U.S. trade relationship with a particular country, most economists argue that such balances serve as incomplete measures of the comprehensive nature of the trade and economic relationship between the United States and its FTA partners. Indeed, current trade agreements include trade in services, provisions for investment, and trade facilitation, among others that are not reflected in bilateral merchandise trade balances. This report presents data on U.S. merchandise (goods) trade with its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partner countries. The data are presented to show bilateral trade balances for individual FTA partners and groups of countries representing such major agreements as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR) relative to total U.S. trade balances. This report also discusses the issues involved in using bilateral merchandise trade balances as a standard for measuring the economic effects of a particular FTA."
CRS Report for Congress, R44044