A boom in exports from the US led the overall trade deficit to fall further than expected in February, boosting US President Donald Trump in his efforts to rebalance US trade.
Exports grew to $192.9bn (£155.1bn) in February, an $11bn increase compared with the same month in 2016 to reach a two-year high, the US Department of Commerce reported.
The overall trade deficit fell to $43.6bn for the month, with imports falling to $236.4bn, a dip of more than $4bn.
China remained the country with by far the biggest trade surplus with the US, accounting for $31.7bn of the imbalance. Imports from China have outstripped exports in every month since 1986.
Meanwhile Mexico’s surplus was the next-biggest, at $6.2bn, followed by Germany’s, at $5.4bn. Both countries have also been the target of criticism in the past from members of the White House team.
Moving the US to a trade surplus, in which it exports more than it imports, was a key plank of Trump’s election campaign platform and is likely to be a central focus of a crucial summit between the President and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, beginning on Thursday.
Trump’s administration welcomed the fall in the trade deficit.
Wilbur Ross, secretary of commerce, said: “While we’ve seen an improvement in the trade figures between January and February, we continue to be very focused on eliminating our nation’s trade imbalance.”
He added: “This administration is determined to achieve free and fair trade, to protect hard working Americans, and to grow our economy.”
Trump’s administration contends the longstanding trade deficit has resulted in other countries “stealing” jobs from the US, as products which are consumed in America are made in other countries.
Last week the President issued executive orders to review trade deficits and to make the collection of import duties stricter.