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Deficit in Goods Trade, Surplus in Services and Intangibles

In high-technology goods trade, U.S. surpluses through the mid-1990s turned into substantial deficits after 1997 which reached almost $100 billion in 2010 (figure O-37). Major deficit drivers were communications and computer goods, whose production shift to Asia coincided with growing U.S. demand. Pharmaceuticals contributed to the deficit, while aerospace and scientific instruments counteracted it.

The EU's overall high-technology trade deficit was relatively stable, though lower than that of the United States. Its communications and computers deficit, however, was almost identical to that of the U.S., reflecting the same dynamic of rising domestic demand and relocated production.

China and the Asia-8 had substantial 2010 high-technology trade surpluses of $157 billion and $226 billion, respectively, indicating that recession-induced reductions in their previous surpluses were likely to prove only temporary.

U.S. trade in commercial knowledge-intensive services and intangible assets—business, financial, and communications services, and payments of royalties and fees—has produced a consistent and growing surplus (figure O-38). It reached a record $108 billion in 2008, sufficient to counter-balance the high-technology goods deficit, and has been flat since then, reflecting the recession's effect. The EU's surplus was sharply off, and that of the Asia-8 fell as well—reflections of the continuing effects of the global recession.