Thursday, January 12, 2006


Are Imports to Blame for the Decline in U.S. Printing Shipments?

We've been asked this question quite a few times. Trade data are hard to interpret as to their real value because printing imports do not always bear the full cost to the customer. For example, they do not include the cost of delivery to the final customer, and if they were sold by a print broker, they do not have the value of that person's commissions and other factors.

Whatever the situation, it is quite clear that the shipments of imported printing are increasing. The biggest brunt of the increase may actually be Canadian printers, and not U.S. printers. It's interesting how the amount of the increase in printing from China is nearly identical to the decline in imports from Canada. Indeed, where for many years Canada had a printing trade surplus with the U.S., it now has a deficit.

Now's not the time to get into the issue of whether or not trade deficits matter (they really don't in the grander scheme), but it's more an issue of whether or not market shares are changing or whether the nature of the printing is changing. For all we've heard about being in an on-demand world, there are many print buyers willing to wait for weeks for their jobs to arrive from China.

It appears, by the way, that China's printing exports to the U.S. have doubled from the level found in 2004 to the levels indicated by the most recent 2005 data (January through November).

All in all, the U.S. trade deficit in printing is only about $180 million, or 0.2% of U.S. shipments. In effect, the U.S. balance of trade in printing is virtually zero. It's likely that will be changing in 2006.

The SFM Special Report "A Critical Look at Offshore Printing"

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