"In 2003 the United States incurred a merchandise trade deficit of $535.7 billion on a Census basis and $549.4 billion on a balance- of-payments basis (BoP). A surplus in services trade of $60 billion gave a deficit of $489.3 billion on goods and services (BoP) for the year, 17% higher than 2002. Year-to-date (January-October 2004), the trade deficit in goods and services, at $500.5 billion, is 21% higher compared to the same period in 2003. [...] Trade deficits are a concern for Congress because they may generate trade friction and pressures for the government to do more to open foreign markets, to shield U.S. producers from foreign competition, or to assist U.S. industries to become more competitive. As the deficit increases, the risk also rises of a precipitous drop in the value of the dollar and disruption in financial markets."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB96038
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