From The Washington Post:
Throughout the presidential campaign, trade with China and Mexico has become one of the most contentious issues. Hillary Clinton and, to a much greater degree, Donald Trump have railed against unfair trade deals that have allowed huge numbers of American jobs to flow to these low-wage countries. Both oppose President Obama’s proposed deal to expand trade with Asia, Clinton wants to revisit the terms of the NAFTA agreement that deepened trade with Mexico, and Trump wants to tear it up.
But as new data highlight this week, these two countries aren’t alone in having an advantageous trading relationship with the United States and the rest of the world. The Munich-based Ifo economic institute predicted this week that Germany’s current account surplus — basically how much goods and services it exports, less how much it imports — will hit an all-time high of $310 billion in 2016. China’s surplus, on the other hand, is projected to shrink by $70 billion to some $260 billion this year due to weaker exports.
In this way, the country that has gained the biggest advantage in dollar terms from world trade is not China, nor any other emerging market. It’s Germany. And the reasons offer some insights into why the trade criticism in the U.S. is sometimes too simplistic — but other times spot on.
It’s often thought that a trade surplus supposedly is connected to cheap labor and thus outsourcing from richer countries. This is certainly the case made by Trump, who says free trade has damaged the U.S. economy. The U.S. does have the world’s biggest trade deficit, importing $484 billion more in 2015 than it exported. Countries like Mexico or China are, …