Consumers who took a battering over the summer because of record high energy prices got some relief in October.
*The government says consumer prices rose just two-tenths of a percent last month, the best showing in four months. *In addition, output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities rose in October at the fastest pace in 17 months.
That's the good news. The bad news is the U.S. economy is still hampered by a massive trade deficit, which continues to grow. *Even the once healthy U.S. farm trade surplus has shrunk dramatically in recent years ... not because exports are down, but because imports are up. The farm trade surplus for fiscal year 2005 is down to $4.6 billion ... less than half the 2004 total and the smallest surplus since 1972.
President Bush arrived in South Korea this week to talk trade with 20 other leaders from Pacific Rim nations. But from Asia to Europe to his own backyard, the Bush trade agenda is ripe with challenges.
Though its final decision won't be known for two more weeks, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal sided with growers who claim the U.S. is dumping corn on the Canadian market at prices below the cost of production.
U.S. trade representative Rob Portman and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns issued a joint statement expressing disappointment with the ruling. "While Canada's corn production has increased," the statement said, "its domestic corn demand still cannot be met through domestic production alone. We believe that U.S. corn exports pose no threat to Canadian corn growers, and we will continue to argue our case with the Canadian investigative agencies and defend the interests of U.S. corn producers and exporters."
Meanwhile, preparations continue to resume U.S. beef exports to Japan. Speaking in Kyoto this week, President Bush said the two governments were making progress on the issue. But the president did not elaborate on specifics of the negotiations.
Japan banned U.S. beef imports late in 2003 after the first case of mad cow disease was confirmed in Washington State. Prior to the ban, Japan had been the most lucrative export market for U.S. beef, purchasing more than $1 billion worth in 2003.
When, and if, Japan lifts the ban, it's doubtful the volume will approach previous levels. Retail prices of Australian beef, a key competitor for Japanese market share, are about half of U.S. beef prices.