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In the past few months the U.S. petroleum trade deficit has shrunk dramatically while the manufacturing deficit and trade gap with China have both declined modestly, according to Commerce Department statistics. But Mr. Tonelson pointed out that over the past year, the manufacturing deficit and China trade gap nevertheless are still up by 3 percent. The only area that’s seen significant improvement, he said, is advanced technology, where the trade gap has fallen by nearly 4 percent.

The Aspen Institute’s Mr. Duesterberg said the manufacturing resurgence is just beginning, but it could accelerate significantly if Washington steps up its support the shale boom and other market-enhancing policies such as improving science and math education, and working to open more foreign markets, reduce regulation and reform the corporate tax code.

For U.S. industries that are the biggest users of energy, he said, the nation’s oil and gas boom is a “huge wind at their back.”