US trade deficit rose to $43.5 billion in September

November 3, 2017

In this Oct. 24, 2016, photo, containers are unloaded from a ship at the Port of Baltimore. On Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, the Commerce Department reports on the U.S. trade gap for September. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit rose in September to $43.5 billion as imports grew faster than exports.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the September trade gap in goods and services was up from $42.8 billion in August. Exports rose 1.1 percent to $196.8 billion, the highest level since December 2014. But imports rose more: up 1.2 percent to $240.3 billion.

A trade deficit means that the United States is buying more goods and services from other countries than it is selling them. A rising trade gap reduces U.S. economic growth.

Through September, the United States has run a trade gap this year of $405.2 billion, up more than 9 percent from a year earlier. The gap has widened even though a weaker dollar has made American-made products less expensive in foreign markets and encouraged exports.

President Donald Trump views America’s massive trade deficits as a sign of economic weakness. He blames them on bad trade deals and abusive practices by China and other trade partners. Conventional economists argue that trade deficits are largely caused not by flawed trade agreements or cheating by particular countries but by a bigger economic force: Americans spend more than they produce, and imports have to fill in the gap.

Two politically sensitive trade deficits slipped in September. The U.S. trade gap with China fell 0.7 percent to $34.6 billion, and the gap with Mexico dropped 7.7 percent to $5.7 billion.

In September, the United States ran a surplus of $21.9 billion with the rest of the world in the trade of services such as banking and tourism. But that gain was overwhelmed by a $65.4 billion deficit in the trade of goods.

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