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Trade Gap

A container ship is docked at the Port of Miami, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, in Miami Beach, Fla. The Commerce Department reports on the U.S. trade gap for December, on Tuesday, Feb. 6. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit hit the highest level in nine years in 2017, defying President Donald Trump's efforts to bring more balance to America's trade relationships.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the trade gap in goods and services rose to $566 billion last year, the highest level since $708.7 billion in 2008. Imports set a record $2.9 trillion, swamping exports of $2.3 trillion.

The U.S. ran an $810 billion deficit in the trade of goods and a $244 billion surplus in services such as banking and education.

The goods deficit with China hit a record $375.2 billion in 2017, and the goods gap with Mexico rose to $71.1 billion. Trump has sought to reduce the deficits with China and Mexico. His administration is weighing whether to impose trade sanctions on China for the theft of U.S. intellectual property. It is also renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.

The overall December trade deficit in goods and services rose to $53.1 billion, up from $50.4 billion in November and highest since October 2008.

Countries run trade deficits when they buy more from other countries than they sell.

Trump sees trade deficits as a sign of economic weakness and largely as the result of unfair competition by America's trading partners. Most economists see them largely as the result of bigger economic forces: Americans spend more than they produce, and imports fill the gap.

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