WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States registered a record $489.4 billion trade deficit for 2003 as a rebounding U.S. economy strengthened Americans' appetites for a wide range of foreign-made goods, including cars, clothing and TVs.

The annual trade deficit reported by the Commerce Department on Friday was 17.1 percent larger than the previous record shortfall of $418 billion posted in 2002.

Import growth outpaced export growth last year, thus producing the trade imbalance.

The value of foreign goods and services sold to the United States swelled to an all-time high of $1.5 trillion in 2003, representing a 8.3 percent rise from last year.

U.S. exporters, however, made solid gains last year. Exports totaled $1 trillion _ the best showing since 2000 _ and a 4.6 percent increase from 2002.

The latest snapshot of trade activity comes amid rising tensions over global trade and concerns about the flight, or outsourcing, of U.S. jobs to other countries. President Bush's chief economist, Gregory Mankiw, struck a political nerve earlier this week when he described the loss of U.S. jobs to overseas companies as ``just a new way of doing international trade.''

Painfully slow job growth in the United States is a political sore spot for the president and an issue that Democrats, seeking to capture the White House, like to point out to voters in an election year.