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March 28, 2019

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US trade deficit tumbles 15% on rising exports

The US trade deficit tumbled nearly 15 percent in January as imports fell and exports rose.

Shipments of American goods to China skidded to the lowest level in more than eight years as the world’s two biggest economies remained locked in a trade dispute.

The Commerce Department said yesterday that the gap between the goods and services that the United States sells and what it buys from other countries dropped by 14.6 percent to US$51.1 billion in January from US$59.9 billion in December. Exports rose 0.9 percent to US$207.3 billion, and imports dropped 2.6 percent to US$258.5 billion.

The deficit in the trade of goods with China narrowed by 6.4 percent to US$34.5 billion. US goods exports to China dropped 22.3 percent to US$7.1 billion, lowest since September 2010; imports from China dropped 9.6 percent to US$41.6 billion.

The US also reported a sharp increase in exports of cars, trucks and auto parts in January.

President Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to reduce America’s long-standing trade deficit with the rest of the world. He sees the gap as a sign of economic weakness and as the result of bad trade deals and abusive practices by America’s trading partners.

Trump has also aggressively slapped tariffs on imported steel, aluminum, dishwashers and solar panels.

But last year, the overall trade gap hit the highest level since 2008, and the deficit in the trade of goods with China hit a record.

Mainstream economists view trade deficits as the result of an economic reality unlikely to yield to changes in trade policy: Americans buy more than they produce, and imports fill the gap. The strong US economy also encourages Americans to buy more foreign products.

US exports are also hurt by the American dollar’s role as the world’s currency. That means the dollar is persistently strong, raising prices of US products.

In January, the deficit in the trade of goods with the rest of the world dropped to US$73.3 billion from US$81.5 billion in December. But the US ran US$22.1 billion surplus in trade of services, up from US$21.6 billion in December.


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