U.S. exports, imports in April log sharpest fall amid pandemic

©Kyodo News

The U.S. deficit in trade of goods and services widened 16.7 percent in April from the previous month to $49.41 billion, with both exports and imports logging the sharpest drop on record amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

U.S. exports fell 20.5 percent to $151.28 billion, while imports dropped 13.7 percent to $200.69 billion. Comparable data is available since 1992.

By country, the U.S. goods trade deficit with China expanded 89.8 percent in the reporting month to $22.47 billion. The goods trade deficit with Japan shrank 24.6 percent to $4.20 billion, with imports marking the lowest level since January 2016 at $9.67 billion.

Japan was the fifth-biggest deficit generator for the United States after China, Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, according to the department.

Under his "America First" mantra, President Donald Trump has pledged to reduce U.S. trade deficits with major trading partners and has reached partial trade deals with China and Japan.

But the pandemic, which was first detected in China late last year, has largely affected trade worldwide as businesses have shuttered and people have stayed at home in an effort to slow the global spread of the highly contagious virus.

The department said the declines in exports and imports were seen partly because "many businesses were operating at limited capacity or ceased operations completely, and the movement of travelers across borders was restricted."

The global trade figures are measured on a balance-of-payments basis after seasonal adjustment, and the country-by-country and regional breakdowns are based on unadjusted customs-cleared data.