U.S. trade deficit rises to highest level since January

Containers wait to be unloaded from a ship at the Port of Baltimore on Oct. 24, 2016.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

The U.S. trade deficit rose in April to its highest level since January. The politically sensitive trade gap with China registered a sharp increase.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the U.S. trade gap in goods and services climbed 5.2% to $47.6 billion in April from March. Exports dropped 0.3% to $191 billion, pulled down by a drop in automotive exports. Imports rose 0.8% to $238.6 billion as Americans bought more foreign-made cellphones and other consumer goods.

A widening trade deficit is a drag on economic growth. President Trump made the trade gap — the difference between exports and imports — a centerpiece of his campaign for the White House. His administration has vowed to reduce the deficit, blaming it on abusive practices by America’s trading partners.


The deficit in goods with China rose by 12.4% to $27.6 billion in April.

So far this year, the trade deficit is up 13.4% from a year earlier, to $186.6 billion. Exports are up 6.1% to $765.6 billion this year, but imports are up more — 7.5% to $952.2 billion. So far in 2017, the United States is running a $268.7-billion deficit in goods and an $82.1-billion surplus in services such as banking and tourism.

Trump recently has singled out Germany for criticism, saying it is unfairly benefiting from a weak euro. When a country’s currency is weak, its products enjoy a price advantage in foreign markets. The trade deficit with Germany rose 4.3% in April, to $5.5 billion.