US Trade Deficit Ballooned By 19.3% In November As Exports Slowed, Imports Soared

The U.S trade deficit expanded in November by over 19.3% as exports fell behind and import demand jumped, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday.

Exports in November did not decline, but rather moved at a crawl, expanding by $0.4 billion, or 0.2%, to $224.2 billion. This was largely driven by growth in service exports, which increased by $3.2 billion with growth primarily in travel and transportation services that rose by $2.2 billion and $0.6 billion respectively.

In contrast, exported goods lagged behind services. A drop in demand for capital goods as well as industrial supplies and materials drove down the export totals by $2.9 billion. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has unnerved a number of businesses from engaging in international trade, demand for foreign goods has not taken a backseat. Imports in goods and services rose by $13.4 billion, or 4.6%, in November to $304.4 billion. 

Demand for industrial supplies and materials increased by $5.9 billion, consumer goods by $3 billion, and in automotive vehicles, parts and engines by $1.2 billion. On services, the bulk of the increases were in transportation and travel services, which grew by $0.7 billion and $0.3 billion respectively. 

On the politically sensitive trade gap with China, trade in goods rose 2.9% to $32.3 billion in November and is up 12.8% for the first 11 months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. 

President Joe Biden has not significantly altered former President Donald Trump’s more hawkish approach to trade policy with China. The U.S Trade Representative Katherine Tai has held that the tariffs and restrictions imposed during the Trump years can be used as bargaining chips in negotiations with China.

But this policy has not been without its critics. A number of business groups have criticized the Biden administration for failing to lay out a China strategy, arguing that sticking to the Trump-era approach has hurt commerce and leaves a number of firms in a state of uncertainty.