Trump imposed more tariffs on Chinese goods in September and while that did reduce the amount of goods that Americans imported from China, the amount of goods we export to China dropped more precipitously.
Imports from China declined by almost 5 percent in September according to the Commerce Department, but exports to China declined by 10 percent.
Merchandise imports from the Asian country fell 4.9% from the prior month to $37 billion, the lowest in more than three years, while U.S. exports to China dropped 10% to a five-month low, according to data released Tuesday by the Commerce Department. That narrowed the deficit to a seasonally adjusted $28 billion.
Trade with China has tumbled since the tariff war began in earnest in 2018. In the first nine months of 2019, merchandise imports from China are down 13.5% and exports to the country have dropped 14.6%, according to Commerce Department data.
The fact that exports are still dropping faster (twice as fast in September) than imports doesn't tell us the whole story, of course, because it doesn't tell us which companies are eating Trump's tariffs rather than cutting their imports.
Americans paid $71 billion in customs duties (tariffs) in fiscal 2019 according to the Treasury Department; a figure so high it actually prevented the federal budget deficit from crossing the trillion dollar mark. At least temporarily.
The U.S. Treasury on Friday said that the federal deficit for fiscal 2019 was $984 billion, a 26% increase from 2018 but still short of the $1 trillion mark previously forecast by the administration. [...]
The U.S. government also collected nearly $71 billion in customs duties, or tariffs, a 70% increase compared to the year-ago period. As a percentage of U.S. economic output the deficit was 4.6%, 0.8 percentage points higher than the previous year.
The Trump regime spin on these reports is that Trump's trade war and his economic agenda are "working," but nothing has fundamentally changed.
A lot of money is exchanging hands as Trump's whims drive the market and Americans pay tens of billions in tariffs, but the structure of our economy and China's economy hasn't changed at all.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping may sign "phase one" of Trump's "greatest and biggest deal ever" sometime later this month, but even if they do nothing will change for the vast majority of Americans.