WASHINGTON, D.C.-The trade figures released by the Commerce Department on October 10 showed that manufactured goods exports continued a rapid growth pace in August, up 15% from August 2007, offering “a positive counterpoint to the otherwise grim economic news from Wall Street,” says Frank Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

“For the year to date, from January through August, manufactured goods exports were up 16% during the comparable period of 2007,” says Vargo. “Year-to-date manufactured goods imports were up 5%. The more rapid growth of exports over imports has led to a decline in the manufactured goods trade deficit, which is running 16% smaller than the same period last year.

“Thus exports, and particularly manufactured goods exports, which account for 75% of total U.S. export growth, continue to be the strongest part of the U.S. economy,” says Vargo.

“The brightest spot in the trade picture continues to be U.S. trade performance with our free trade partners,” says Vargo. “While there is a widespread perception that free trade agreements are responsible for much of the U.S. trade deficit, which is clearly incorrect. In fact, U.S. manufactured goods trade with our partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central American Free Trade agreement (CAFTA), and all other U.S. free trade partners is in surplus by $10.4 billion through August. If this trend continues, manufactured goods trade with our free trade partners for the full year of 2008 will be in surplus by more than $15 billion. Manufactured goods trade with countries who are not free trade partners will be in deficit by about $450 billion.

“That is why the NAM has been pressing hard for Congress to approve the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Korea,” says Vargo. “It is abundantly clear that free trade agreements are part of the solution, not the problem.”