Amid an ongoing trade war between the world's two largest economies, reports emerged that China has offered to buy more U.S. products in the coming years to reduce the two countries' bilateral goods trade imbalance.
Such a gesture may address one of President Donald Trump's stated goals for U.S.-China trade negotiations, but experts say it's addressing a metric that doesn't matter very much.
That is, a bilateral trade balance — which measures the transactions between two countries — is an indicator that doesn't adequately reveal who's gaining or losing in a relationship, economists and trade experts said.
The arguments for and against relying on such metrics touch on multiple factors, but a frequently repeated view is that paying for goods does not automatically make the buyer a loser.
Pushan Dutt, an economics professor at business school INSEAD, put it this way: "If I pay my Pilates instructor every month for Pilates classes, then I run a 'bilateral trade' deficit. But that does not mean I am losing or that my instructor is winning in this relationship. After all, I am voluntarily paying for a service that I value."