WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US trade deficit ballooned in August to its highest level in six months as exports of tariff-targeted goods fell while American consumers snapped up imported cars and mobile phones, the government reported on Friday (Oct 5).
With US imports of goods and services at their highest on record, the result pushed the goods deficits with China and Mexico to all time-highs, according to the Commerce Department report.
The total US trade deficit rose 6.4 per cent over July to US$53.2 billion (S$73.5 billion), overshooting analyst forecasts which called for a smaller five per cent increase. That was on record imports of US$262.7 billion and exports of US$209.4 billion.
The result came at a triumphant moment for President Donald Trump, who has hailed a new agreement to remodel North America's trading system and is waging a battle of tariffs with Beijing.
The August figures suggested retaliatory tariffs imposed by China continued to whipsaw American farmers, whose rural counties Trump's Republican party traditionally counts on for political support.
The numbers also reflect reports that businesses have rushed to import goods before tariffs hit on China, including importing products needed in stores for the holiday shopping season, driving up the trade gap.
The gap in goods trade with China rose to US$38.6 billion for August and hit US$8.7 billion with Mexico - both the highest monthly totals ever.
At US$31.1 billion, imports from Mexico also were the highest ever.
And soybean exports, a sector highly dependent on trade with China, plunged US$1 billion from July, when Beijing unveiled retaliatory duties in response to Mr Trump's escalating trade fight.
Meanwhile, US exports of crude oil and other petroleum products fell by a combined US$1.6 billion for the month, but was offset by US$1.6 billion jump in exports of artwork, antiques and pharmaceuticals, the Commerce Department reported.
On the other side of the ledger, imports of autos rose US$1 billion while imports of mobile phones and other household goods rose by US$900 million.