President Trump just used a White House meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to complain about the US–South Korean trade deficit, a perennial Trump talking point. The problem is that what he said isn't true.
Here's what Trump said while sitting across the table from Moon, who was elected in May after a scandal led to the arrest of his predecessor:
"The United States has trade deficits with many, many countries, and we cannot allow that to continue ... with South Korea right now, but we cannot allow that to continue. This is really a statement that I make about all trade: For many, many years the United States has suffered through massive trade deficits; that's why we have $20 trillion in debt."
The president's distaste for trade deficits with any country is not news, but that last sentence is striking — Trump is claiming that trade deficits are at the root of the national debt.
That is a creative explanation — and an incorrect one.
Let's step back and clarify some terms. The US trade deficit refers to the fact that the US imports more from the world than it exports. The national debt is the result of the fact that the US government spends more revenue than it collects. There's no direct relationship between the two.