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U.S. Posts Record Annual Trade Deficit

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WASHINGTON—The U.S. trade deficit in goods hit a record in 2018, defying President Trump’s efforts to narrow the gap, as imports jumped and some exports, including soybeans and other farm products, got hammered by retaliation against U.S. trade policies.

The deficit in goods grew 10% last year to $891.3 billion, the widest on record, according to Commerce Department data released Wednesday. U.S. trade gaps with China and Mexico, already the nation’s largest, reached new records.

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The picture looked less dire when services including tourism, higher education and banking are counted, though this deficit still deteriorated markedly. With services included, the trade gap grew 12% last year to $621 billion, the widest since 2008.

Fast economic growth, driven in part by fiscal stimulus, led to a 7.5% increase in imports last year, marked by increased spending on consumer goods, industrial supplies and capital goods. Exports grew too, but by 6.3% and from a lower overall level.

The fact that the U.S. economy is doing very well is the main reason the trade gap has risen

said Kenneth Rogoff, a professor at Harvard University and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.

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