In his speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, Trump said that “Our trade deficit in goods reached, think of this – nearly $800 billion in a single year.” This statement is not entirely untrue, but definitely cherry picks facts to make it look like the US trade deficit is doing worse than it actually is. In an earlier version of the speech, the transcript released early to news outlets, Trump made the additional claim that “our manufacturing trade deficit has reached an all-time high think of this, think of this, our trade deficit is nearly $800 billion,” to get the maximum gloom out of the numbers. Make no mistake, the US trade deficit is large, and a problem that needs to be addressed, but it is certainly not at “an all-time high” and leaves out some important context.
The manufacturing trade deficit was only $681 billion in 2015, not “nearly $800 billion,” up from a previous high of $619 billion in 2007. The trade deficit last year for all goods was $763 billion. I wouldn’t necessarily call $37 billion dollars short “nearly” but it’s close enough for a Trump statistic. This includes manufacturing as Trump said, but also agricultural and most importantly petroleum products. So, the manufacturing deficit is at an all time high, as Trump said, but he said the manufacturing deficit is nearly $800 billion, which it is not.
Though the manufacturing deficit is at “an all-time high,” the total goods deficit is not, and Trump left out some of the bright spots in these numbers. The highest the deficit has ever been was in 2008, when the goods deficit reached $832 billion dollars. Trump did clean up these numbers a bit in the actually speech, though the transcript released was more inaccurate, and he has made these type of claims in the past.
Trump left out that the US has a trade surplus in services. The US exported a surplus of $227 billion dollars in services last year. If you include that number with the actual goods number of $763 billion, the real total trade deficit number is $536 billion dollars.