US trade deficit surges to five-month high

Washington

The U.S. trade deficit rose to a five-month high in July, with the politically sensitive gap with China hitting a record high, which economists said could embolden the Trump administration to aggressively pursue its “America First” agenda. The administration’s protectionist trade policy has left the United States embroiled in tit-for-tat tariffs with the European Union, Canada and Mexico as well as an escalating trade war with China. President Donald Trump claims the United States is being taken advantage of by its trade partners. The deterioration in the trade deficit reported by the Commerce Department on Wednesday came a day before the end of a public comment period on a list of $200 billion worth of Chinese goods widely expected to be hit with tariffs soon. “America still isn’t getting a fair deal on trade and that can only mean one thing,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “President Trump is going unleash another $200 billion in tariffs on China imports.” The Commerce Department said the trade deficit increased 9.5 percent to $50.1 billion as exports of soybeans and civilian aircraft dropped and imports hit a record high. The trade gap has now widened for two straight months. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the trade shortfall swelling to $50.3 billion in July. Sponsored The government imposed import duties on goods including steel, aluminum, washing machines and solar panels early this year to protect American industries from what Trump says is unfair foreign competition. In addition, the United States and China have slapped retaliatory tariffs on a combined $100 billion of products since early July. Washington is also seeking to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement. The United States struck a deal with Mexico last week, but negotiations with Canada have been contentious.

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