WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit in November rose to the highest level in nine months as imports of oil and other foreign goods increased, while American exports fell for a second month.
The trade deficit jumped 6.8 percent to $45.2 billion, the largest imbalance since February, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Exports edged down 0.2 percent to $122.4 billion, reflecting lower overseas sales of American-made airplanes, autos and farm products. Imports rose 1.1 percent to $231.1 billion, led by a 7.6 percent jump in oil.
President-elect Donald Trump made America's large trade deficits a central part of his campaign. He promised to impose high tariffs on countries such as China and Mexico unless they reformed what Trump charged were unfair trading practices that have cost millions of American jobs.
A lower deficit adds to the overall economy because it means American companies are selling more to foreign countries than Americans are purchasing from abroad. The deficit is the difference between exports and imports.
For November, America's deficit with China narrowed slightly to $30.5 billion. For the first 11 months of 2016, the deficit with China totaled $319.3 billion, 5.9 percent lower than the same period in 2015 but still the largest imbalance with any single country. The deficit with Mexico dropped 6.5 percent in November to $5.8 billion and totaled $58.8 billion through the first 11 months of 2016, up 4.9 percent from 2015.
The overall deficit through November is running 1.1 percent below the pace in 2015 when the deficit in goods and services trade totaled $500.4 billion.
Trump has threatened to slap tariffs as high as 45 percent on China and Mexico unless those countries stop practices Trump believes have cost American jobs. To carry out his campaign pledges, Trump is assembling a trade team that represents a break from traditional Republican free-trade policies.
This week he announced he would nominate Robert Lighthizer, a former trade official under President Ronald Reagan, to be U.S. trade representative, the government chief's trade negotiator. As a Washington lawyer representing U.S. steel companies, Lighthizer has been a vocal proponent of imposing tariffs on steel imports.
The rise in imports reflected a 7.6 percent jump in petroleum imports, which rose to $14.3 billion.
The deficit with the European Union rose 12.4 percent in November to $14.8 billion.
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