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Trade deficit hits highest level since 2008

Trade deficit hits highest level since 2008
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The U.S. trade deficit surged to its highest level since 2008 during President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE’s first year in office despite his vow to lower the gap and crack down on unfair competition. 

The nation's trade gap in goods and services jumped 12.1 percent to $566 billion in 2017, up $61.2 billion from 2016, the highest level since the deficit hit $708.7 billion in 2008, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

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For the year, imports surged to $2.9 trillion, easily eclipsing the $2.3 trillion in U.S. exports.

Notably, the U.S. deficit in goods soared last year to a record-high $375.2 billion with China, a nation that Trump has both demonized and praised on trade during his tenure.

Trade gaps also increased with Mexico and Canada while the two nations continue working with the United States to update the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

For December, the trade deficit increased to $53.1 billion, up from $50.4 billion in November, which was the highest level since October 2008.

Throughout his campaign and time in office, Trump has said he would wipe out deficits created by what he calls America's bad trade deals. He has vowed to remake the nation's trade policy to shift the biggest benefits to the United States.

"Right now, the same trade policy that Trump attacked ferociously and promised to speedily replace is still in place,” said Lori Wallach, head of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

“So far, the administration has not implemented the comprehensive new approach to our China trade policy that is needed," she said.

Recently, Trump levied steep tariffs on imported solar panel technology and washing machines, which immediately boosted prices for U.S. consumers. 

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said he shares Trump's "disdain for trade deficits," adding, “I can’t imagine the record goods deficit with China in 2017 is anything he’ll be crowing about." 

"But he can and certainly should do something about it," Paul said.

The president has to decide in the next couple months whether he will act on steel and aluminum case reports on his desk that argue for higher tariffs based on national security concerns, a move the U.S. has rarely used because of risks that U.S. exports could be hit with tariffs from other nations in retaliation.

Despite his fiery rhetoric against trade, the Trump administration made few inroads on trade policy outside of slapping higher tariffs on what they consider offending products coming in from nations such as China and Canada.