From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Sep 07 2006 - 14:43:28 EDT
Of course one of the problems with import-export data for goods *in price terms* is that they do not give much of an idea of the actual quantities of *physical use-values* involved. The latter are estimated only for a small range of goods (e.g. oil products, or cars etc.). The lack of systematic data on physical quantities of goods produced and traded ("material flows accounts" such as were compiled in the USSR and China) I think signify a major lacuna in our understanding of economics and ecology. Typically raw materials (or foodstuffs) have a lower price per physical quantity of product, than finished manufactured goods, and the dollar value of imported goods may also signify a lot more money, in terms of the local buying power of the currency of the exporting country. As writers like Harry Magdoff and Richard J. Barnet already noted long ago, US industry consumes, and is heavily reliant on, imports of large quantities of e.g. bauxite, chromium, manganese, cobalt, columbium, nickel, tin, tungsten, zinc etc. in addition to oil and petroleum products (to a large extent from developing countries). We could als mention certain semi-finished products, e.g. semiconductor materials. Although the finished products manufactured in the US may contain only small amounts of these imported materials, either by value or in physical quantity, without them the US manufactured products could not be produced at all. Hence also the numerous US policy statements about the implications of "strategic raw materials" for national security. In that sense, imports do make a rather critical contribution to US material wealth and capital accumulation, even although the actual capital value involved may be comparatively small, as a proportion of the total US physical capital stock. J.
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