Imports of Asian and Mexican auto parts are pushing the U.S. automotive trade imbalance deeper into the red.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that the United States bought $92.15 billion worth of imported auto parts from countries around the world in 2005, while exporting just $55.05 billion of parts -- a trade deficit of $37.10 billion.
That imbalance is up 20 percent from the U.S. auto parts trade imbalance a year earlier.
Rising Japanese imports are a chief factor.
For most of this decade, imports of Japanese parts had been essentially flat, in the range of $13 billion to $14 billion. But in the past two years volumes have risen sharply, to $15.49 billion in 2004 and $16.49 billion last year.
Those numbers reflect a rise in the production of Japanese-brand vehicles in the United States. Since 2003, Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. have added more than 650,000 units of capacity at three U.S. factories.
"There is not really a cause for optimism when it comes to Japanese imports and exports," observes Brian Duggan, director of trade and commercial policy in the Washington office of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association. "You do have reason to be optimistic about the growing level of business between U.S. parts companies and Japanese OEMs that build autos in the United States. But then, those figures don't show up in the trade data."