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Yanking back international trade is a cornerstone of Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency. He believes other countries benefit from our trade practices, while the United States suffers.
The trade deficit is how much more goods and services the United States imports than it exports, Trump says it’s too high.
"Our trade deficit in goods reached nearly — think of this, think of this — our trade deficit is $800 billion last year alone," Trump said in July 21 remarks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. "We’re gonna fix that."
Trump’s phrasing is a little off, but he’s got the idea right.
The country’s overall trade deficit in 2015 was about $500 billion, according to Census data, but that figure includes both goods and services.
Trump mentioned the trade deficit in goods, which includes all manufactured products, oil and agriculture products. The trade deficit in 2015 for just goods was $763 billion. Not quite $800 billion, but reasonably close.
The reason the overall trade deficit is smaller than just the goods trade deficit is because the United States exports more services than it imports.
This isn’t the highest the goods trade deficit has ever been. It ranged from $782 billion in 2005 to $832 billion in 2008.
It’s possible, however, that current figures actually understate the size of the goods trade deficit because oil prices have been abnormally low, said Robert Scott, director of trade and manufacturing policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank supported in part by unions.
"It’s a large deficit," Scott said. "And it needs to be reduced."
Trump said, "Our trade deficit in goods reached nearly … $800 billion last year alone."
In 2015, the goods trade deficit was $763 billion. Trump is pretty close.
We rate Trump’s claim True.
U.S. Census, "U.S. Trade in Goods," June 3, 2016
Phone and email interview, Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute, July 21, 2016
Email interview, Peter Morici, professor of business and public policy at the University of Maryland, July 21, 2016
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