Trump’s favourite trade-war scorecard plunged in March amid a record slump in exports

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US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping (not shown) make a joint statement at the Great Hall of the People on November 9, 2017 in Beijing, China. Trump is on a 10-day trip to Asia. Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty Images
  • March exports plunged by a record 9.6% to $US187.7 billion, down $US20 billion from February, according to a Tuesday report from the Commerce Department.
  • March imports fell 6.2%, the most in 11 years, to $US232.2 billion, shedding $US15.4 billion from the previous month.
  • The goods and services deficit grew 11.6% to $US44.4 billion in March, up from $US39.8 billion in February. The median estimate was for a widening to $US44.2 billion according to Bloomberg data.
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US exports of goods and services – President Donald Trump’s favourite trade-war scorecard – sank by record amounts in March as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted global supply chains and curbed travel.

March exports plunged a record 9.6% to $US187.7 billion, down $US20 billion from February, according to a Tuesday report from the Commerce Department. March imports fell 6.2%, the most in 11 years, to $US232.2 billion, shedding $US15.4 billion from the previous month.

The goods and services deficit grew 11.6% to $US44.4 billion in March, up from $US39.8 billion in February. The median estimate was for a widening to $US44.2 billion according to Bloomberg data.

“Core goods imports have been falling for some time, thanks mostly to the trade war, but we had been expecting a gradual rebound in the spring on the back of the signing of the Phase One trade deal, and our expectation of a gradual firming in domestic demand,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics. “Now, though, that’s all gone, and the collapse in global trade flows is hitting exports too.”


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The impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be seen in the details of the report. A major slump in international travel weighed on imports and exports as airlines cancelled flights and consumers stayed home.

Travel exports fell 45% from the prior month, while imports tanked 64% in the same period. Transport exports fell $US2.6 billion in March, while imports fell $US2.9 billion.

Exports of goods decreased $US9.2 billion to $US128.1 billion from February, the report showed, due to low oil prices and decreases in automotive parts and civilian aircraft. Imports of goods fell $US4.7 billion to $US193.7 billion, as fewer shipments of cell phones and automotive vehicles and parts came in during the month.