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Amid an ongoing tariff battle with its global partners, the U.S. saw its trade deficit continue to widen as soybean exports plunged by $1 billion in August.
The imbalance increased $3.2 billion in August to $53.2 billion, a 6.4 percent increase and part of an ongoing trend in 2018, according to the figures released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census.
For the calendar year, the trade deficit is up $31 billion or 8.6 percent from a year ago.
The increase continues the White House's unsuccessful efforts to narrow the balance between imports and exports, a major priority for President Donald Trump. The U.S. has slapped China with $200 billion worth of tariffs on multiple goods, which has triggered retaliation. The U.S. has a $261.1 billion deficit with China year to date, $38.6 billion of which came in August.
In addition, the U.S. has instituted steel and aluminum tariffs across the board and is in negotiations with the European Union, India and other major trading partners.
One particular contributor to the August imbalance was soybeans, a hotly contested point of the trade war. Soybean exports fell $1 billion for the month.
Overall, industrial supplies and materials exports fell $2.4 billion, food, feeds and beverages declined $1.2 billion, while consumer goods rose $1.6 billion. On the import side, auto vehicles, parts and engines rose $1 billion while consumer goods increased $900 million.
August's rise came amid an increase in the goods deficit of $3.6 billion and the services surplus of $400 million. For the year, exports have increased $129.6 billion while imports are up $160.6 billion, both reflecting 8.4 percent gains.