Fact Check: Biden Falsely Claims the Trade Deficit with China Is Higher Now

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - OCTOBER 22: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participates in the final presidential debate against U.S. President Donald Trump at Belmont University on October 22, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the last debate between the two candidates before the election on November 3. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty …
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

CLAIM: “What I would do is make China play by the international rules, not like he has done. He has caused the deficit with China to go up not down,” Joe Biden said at the final presidential debate Thursday night.

VERDICT: FALSE.

The U.S. trade deficit in goods is on pace to be at its lowest since 2009. The deficit in the trade of goods with China fell 6.7 percent to $26.4 billion, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Census Bureau data shows that in the first six months of the year, the U.S. ran a trade deficit with China of around $132 billion. If that keeps up, and it appears that it may, that would put the deficit at $264 billion, the lowest since the year Barack Obama took office during the Great Recession.

But Biden’s comment would likely have been wrong even without the pandemic reducing trade flows. Last year, as the Trump administration raised tariffs on Chinese goods, the trade deficit fell to $345.2 billion from $418 billion the prior year. That is slightly lower than it was in the last year of the Obama-Biden administration and lower than in the first year of the Trump administration, when trade was still being conducted under the terms set by Obama-Biden.

As the global economy has begun to recover from the pandemic, the U.S. trade deficit has grown with many other countries—but not with China.

Biden made this same false claim in the first debate.

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