The deficit, which is the difference between the goods and services the US buys from other countries and those it sells to them, rose to a seasonally adjusted $59.8 billion in December - an increase of nearly 19 percent.
The total trade deficit in goods and services increased by 18.8% in December to reach -$59.8bn, the Department of Commerce said, as export growth failed to keep up with that for imports.
Over the past year, even as he imposed tariffs on foreign-made solar panels, washing machines, steel, aluminum and assorted goods from China, imports roared ahead of exports.
That's certain to add pressure on Trump to close a trade deal with China to boost us exports and remove punishing tariffs against American farmers and other businesses. Those lower costs have indeed contributed to the loss of USA factories to foreign countries and devastated vast swaths of the industrial Midwest. A rising trade deficit, he believes, is a sign of trouble, of unhealthfulness, and must be addressed.
The "Tariff Man", who has described tariffs as "the greatest negotiating tool in the history of our country" and has said that "trade wars are good, and easy to win", created a benchmark for the success, or failure, of his trade policies.
"It's more substituting, a reshuffling of trade", Irwin said.
The rift between the merchandise United States companies sell to China and Chinese imports expanded to a record $419bn while the aggregate deficit in merchandize with all countries hopped to $891bn.
What's so bad about trade deficits, anyway?
Huawei sues US , claiming security law is unconstitutional
There are fears that China is using Huawei as a proxy so it can spy on rival nations and scoop up useful information. The United States makes up 20 to 25 percent of the worldwide market for computer and telecom technology.
The White House maintains that trade imbalances translate directly into thousands of job losses but while the tariffs protections help some companies, many others have struggled with higher prices and held off on investments amid the trade war. Trump is trying to reach a new trade deal with China and hopes to strike an agreement with President Xi Jinping in the coming weeks, but the stakes could not be higher.
With the trade gap growing, analysts are concerned it could slow down US growth this year. Their research also revealed that workers in many Republican-leaning counties suffered the most economically from Trump's trade disputes.
A broader measure of the nation's trade performance, which includes the services sector, showed a narrower, but still large US$621 billion deficit.
His approach was to try and discourage Americans from buying goods and services from overseas by introducing tariffs on them. With the US economy doing well while other economies are faltering, and the Federal Reserve raising rates, the dollar has strengthened, making foreign products look cheaper and making our exports more expensive (i.e., less competitive) in other countries.
Cellphone imports increased 0.6 billion US dollars. As exports from the USA to China grew, imports moving the other way fell significantly.
Trump has been less fixated on the trade deficit in recent months as it has become apparent that the number was going up.
Analysts said the US trade deficit will expand further.
Imports of goods and services increased 2.1 percent to $264.9 billion in December, likely as businesses stocked up in anticipation of further duties on Chinese imports.
"The costs of the trade war are quite large relative to optimistic estimates of any gains that are likely to be achieved", wrote the trio of economists.