The United States trade deficit hit the highest level in nine years in 2017, defying President Donald Trump's efforts to bring more balance to America's trade relationships.
The US Commerce Department said Tuesday that the trade gap in goods and services rose to US$566 billion last year, the highest level since US$708.7 billion in 2008. Imports set a record US$2.9 trillion, swamping exports of US$2.3 trillion.
The US ran a US$810 billion deficit in the trade of goods and a US$244 billion surplus in services such as banking and education.
The goods deficit with China hit a record US$375.2 billion in 2017, and the goods gap with Mexico rose to US$71.1 billion. Trump has sought to reduce the deficits with China and Mexico. His administration is weighing whether to impose trade sanctions on China for the theft of US intellectual property. It is also renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.
The overall December trade deficit in goods and services rose to US$53.1 billion, up from US$50.4 billion in November and highest since October 2008.
Countries run trade deficits when they buy more from other countries than they sell.
Trump sees trade deficits as a sign of economic weakness and largely as the result of unfair competition by America's trading partners. Most economists see them largely as the result of bigger economic forces: Americans spend more than they produce, and imports fill the gap.