The U.S. trade deficit rose slightly in 2016 to $502.3 billion, marking the highest level in four years and underscoring the difficulty the Trump administration faces in bringing the nation’s trade outlook back into balance.
The trade gap widened last year because exports fell faster than imports, the result of a weak global economy and a stronger dollar DXY, +0.63% that made American products more expensive to foreign buyers.
The U.S. trade gap was the largest since 2012. The last time the country ran a surplus was in the mid-1970s when Gerald Ford was president.
The deficit with Mexico, the biggest target of President Donald Trump’s wrath, rose 4.2% to $63.2 billion in 2016 to mark a five-year high, according to government data.
The gap with China is by far the largest among the major U.S. trading partners. Although the deficit dropped 5.5% in 2016, it still totaled $347 billion. That’s more than three-fifths of the overall U.S. trade deficit.
In December, meanwhile, the trade deficit fell as expected. The gap in the final month of 2016 dipped 3.2% to $44.3 billion, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a $44.9 billion deficit.
Exports rose 2.7% $190.7 billion, led by higher shipments of passenger planes and parts.
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