Trade war between US and China lasts nearly since Trump's election. One of claimed goals was to shorten US trade deficite.

There is a hoard of different news and bright claims about trade war, but what is in total? Was deficite shortened and how much, if so?

I'm really lost in all information about this trade war, so, I wonder, is it?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Fizz, Rupert Morrish, Martin Schröder, JJJ, Federico Sep 10 at 6:31

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  • With seasonal (never mind month to month) fluctuation this is not a very good question (i.e. right now vs Trump's election). Year over year, the US trade deficit with China did increase in 2018 compared to 2017. I'm not sure what the projection for 2019 is. – Fizz Sep 9 at 17:19
  • You can find the raw monthly data here: census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5700.html (Note the same cyclical trend for both the first half of 2018 and first half of 2019). I suppose you can add the first 6 months of both years and get some kind of comparison. – Fizz Sep 9 at 17:28

The trade deficit has been increasing:

2015: $745B
2016: $735B
2017: $793B
2018: $874B
2019 (as of July): $505B or $865B if pro-rated (I just did a simple pro-rating, without taking into account seasonal trends).


The numbers for China specifically are below, but the trade deficit between two specific countries is a largely meaningless number. Targeting Chinese imports can decrease the US trade deficit with China without affecting the overall US trade deficit, or the overall Chinese trade surplus, or US' reliance on Chinese exports. If we are switching to importing goods from other countries, those goods will still be part of the global economy, and will be affected by China. And of course, the idea that trade deficits are "bad" is rather simplistic.

2015: 367
2016: 346
2017: 375
2018: 419
2019: 199 (341 pro-rated)


  • Shifting the US trade deficit from one foreign country to another might actually be a (2nd best) goal of Trump's policies. More explicitly, he may prefer to import from Vietnam rather than from China, for other non-economic, strategic reasons. He tweeted (on Aug 23) that "Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA." There is a lot of news media commentary on the US-China "decoupling" as a Trump policy target. – Fizz Sep 10 at 2:40

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