Activity 8-2
Trade Statistics, Imports and the WTO



· To learn about the status and scope of US trade
· To analyze what is imported into the United States using data charts
· To consider limits on various imports
· To analyze the role of the WTO in promoting "free trade"
· To use the internet to gather data on US trade (optional)



Three -four days


Students should be evaluated on completion of the US Trade Highlights Handout, group presentation on selected country and written response to Sea Turtle case. In all parts, students should demonstrate ability to interpret trade statistics, apply concepts of trade and analyze how trade affects our economy and quality of life.


import export, balance of trade trade deficit trade surplus

import substitution specialization capital intensive labor intensive land intensive free trade WTO protectionism tariffs quotas non tariff barriers bilateral/multilateral trade negotiations

Suggested Procedure

1. Have all students read and complete Part A of first Handout.

2. Have students complete Part B by working in small groups or pairs on the Internet at specified site. Before this activity, arrange students in equal sized groups. Assign each group to one of the following countries from where the US imports products. These groups will prepare a presentation once they gather the appropriate data from the website.

3. Debrief findings from website. Review questions from handout and get students to critically think about the statistics they have found:

- Why does the US trade the most with Canada? Mexico? Japan? others?

- Why does the US have a trade deficit with Japan? China? Mexico? others?

- Which region(s) does the US trade with the most? Why? deficits with regions?

** Other information about US trade to note: The United States economy, based on workers with high levels of education and available technology, is largely capital intensive as evidenced by its exports. The United States primary exports are in finance, entertainment, aerospace, industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals and communications. The United States is a world leader in trade. In 1997, the United States exported $937 billion and imported $1,048

billion (or $1.05 trillion) of goods and services. Canada, Japan, Mexico, China, the United Kingdom and Germany are top trading partners with US.

4. Have all students discuss why the US should and should not import products from other countries. Make it clear that trade involves exports but that this lesson mostly focuses on imports. As a class, develop a criteria for determining what would make some imports more desirable than others. Students should consider cost, quality, necessity of product, availability and potential of substitutes, distance to transport, practices of country from where import came and so on in assessing what makes certain imports more desirable than others.

5. Using import charts gathered in Part B of Handout, have students follow directions in Part C and prepare a presentation based on analyzing that data. Part C could be extended by having students research country and its government's practices to better prepare their argument on trade with that country.

* To help you answer question 2 in part C, note the following: Looking at statistics on imports into the United States from other countries (as students will do in activity 6-2), one can deduce the general resource focus of different countries in the world economy. The United States, Canada, Germany, Japan and now Mexico seem to be mostly capital intensive. One can speculate that Mexico's resource focus has become more capital intensive as more and more international companies, especially from the US and since NAFTA, have moved factories there. Chile (agriculture), South Africa (metals/minerals) and Saudi Arabia (crude oil) are more land intensive. China is a mix of labor and capital intensity while Indonesia is mostly labor intensive. These classifications oversimplify these countries economies but provide a starting point for understanding differences between what countries trade and the forces of globalization.

6. Have students present their import profiles. Have students in audience compile a list of important and less important imports from the presentations, while you act as Secretary of Commerce evaluating their advice. After the presentations, announce which import limits for the different countries will be adopted.

7. Discuss with class whether the Secretary's decisions to limit some imports and not others were good choices or not. Discuss how to limit imports, or different forms of protectionism.

8. After establishing that there can be some reasons for import limits, read the story of WTO, Free Trade and Sea Turtles to demonstrate how the WTO's goal of free trade can conflict with, even override, a nation's mandate to restrict certain imports (a protectionist measure). Have students write a response to the decision stating whether they agreed or disagreed with the decision and applying ideas from previous parts of lesson. Have students discuss their responses.


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