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  • The gap between all American products shipped abroad and goods the US imported, known as the trade deficit, rose slightly in March.
  • The politically sensitive deficit with China decreased to a five-year low, however, as shipments picked up and imports slowed.
  • The results were released ahead of crucial trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing set to take place Thursday and Friday.
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The gap between all American products shipped abroad and goods the US imported, known as the trade deficit, rose slightly in March, while the deficit with China narrowed to its lowest level in five years.

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The Commerce Department on Thursday said the goods and services trade deficit rose by $2.1 billion, or about 1.5%, to a seasonally adjusted $50 billion. The amount the US shipped abroad climbed by 1% to $212 billion, and imports grew 1.1% to $262 billion.

The politically sensitive deficit with China, however, decreased in March to its lowest point since 2014, falling 16.2% to $28.3 billion. The results were released ahead of crucial trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing set to take place Thursday and Friday.

President Donald Trump views the trade balance as a scorecard of sorts in his economic wars. The figure is driven by many factors, however, including foreign-exchange rates, the strength of an economy, and the amount a country borrows from abroad.

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Exports to China totaled $10.5 billion in March, an increase of $1.4 billion, while the value of products the US imported from China fell by $0.5 billion, to $38.8 billion.

Civilian aircraft shipments, which led a jump in overall exports in January, fell by $0.7 billion. Economists think these shipments could fall further after Boeing suspended deliveries of its 737 Max aircraft in the wake of two deadly crashes.

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American soybean exports continued to climb in March after falling sharply last year when China retaliated against the Trump administration with a 25% tariff on the legume. Soybean shipments to China increased to $500 million.

Trade negotiations appear to be under pressure, with the Trump administration threatening to increase the tariff rate on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, a punitive measure taken after the US accused China of reneging on commitments from a draft trade deal. Beijing was swift to announce it would take countermeasures.

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