When you factor in goods and services, which economists say paints the fuller picture, his claim is further off.
According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the United States actually ran a surplus in the services trade with China in 2017 — to the tune of roughly $38.5 billion.
When you factor that surplus into the two countries’ overall trade balance, the United States ran a roughly $336 billion deficit with China last year — which means Trump’s figure was off by about $164 billion.
It’s possible Trump may have confused the Chinese deficit with the United States’ overall trade deficit, which was $566 billion in 2017, according to the bureau.
However, it’s also possible Trump used the $500 billion figure as a matter of habit. We rated this claim Mostly False when he said it in 2015.
In 2017, the value of Chinese goods imported to the United States exceeded U.S. goods exports to China by roughly $375 billion. Over that same period, the United States actually ran a $38.5 billion surplus on services trade with China. Overall, in terms of both goods and services, the U.S. trade deficit with China in 2017 was about $336 billion — meaning Trump was off by roughly $164 billion.
We rate this Mostly False.
“Last year we lost $500 billion on trade with China.”
— President Donald Trump during a news conference March 23