The U.S. trade deficit increased by 5.3 percent in January to an all-time high of $68.5 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Factors that lead to the increase included the country’s climbing foreign oil bill, auto imports and our taste for imported wines.
The deficit exceeded analysts’ expectations and will probably hurt President Bush’s trade policies. Critics of the president’s pursuit of global free trade agreements has exposed American workers to unfair competition from low-wage countries that has contributed to the loss of almost 3 million manufacturing jobs in recent years.
The proposed sale of operations at six U.S. ports to a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates has created a heightened unhappiness with foreign competition in recent weeks. Opponents have argued that the sale would represent a serious security threat, have moved to overturn that decision in Congress.
The U.S. trade deficit hit a record of $723.6 billion for all of 2005 and many economists believe this year’s imbalance will be even worse. The January deficit in goods and services surpassed the old monthly record of $67.8 billion from October 2005.