Washington, Feb 6 (AFP/APP): President Donald Trump’s first year in office saw the US trade gap leap to its highest level in seven years due to record imports, the government reported Tuesday.
The annual trade deficit rose 12.1 percent from 2016 to $566 billion, driven higher by rising crude imports and a ballooning goods deficit with China, which hit its highest level on record at $375.2 billion, the Commerce Department reported.
Trump has made the trade the signature issue of his presidency, threatening to cancel trade agreements, making aggressive use of retaliatory measures against trading partners like China and ratcheting up the protectionist rhetoric.
But the broadening trade gap could weigh on growth. The trade deficit grew in the final month of the year, adding 5.3 percent to reach $53.1 billion in December, the highest since October 2008, and overshooting an analyst forecast by $800 million.
Total exports of goods and services in 2017 rose 5.5 percent to $2.3 trillion, their second highest on record. And services exports hit a record $777.9 billion.
But imports rose faster, rising 6.7 percent for the year to reach $2.9 trillion, the highest level ever, according to the Commerce Department.
With crude oil prices recovering in the latter part of the year, imports rose 30.6 percent, while imported industrial supplies gained 14.5 percent.
Within the numbers, however, were signs of robust cross-border commercial activity last year.
The US posted all-time record goods exports to 29 countries, with $243 billion exported to Mexico, $130 billion to China and $56.3 billion to the United Kingdom.