Trump promised to shrink the trade deficit. Instead it exploded.

The Commerce Department will almost certainly report Wednesday that — despite more than two years of President Trump’s “America First” policies — the United States last year posted the largest merchandise trade deficit in its 243-year history.

The nation’s trade gap with China also is likely to set a record, underscoring the stakes for the president’s bid to reach a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping as soon as this month.

The department’s final 2018 trade report, which was delayed by the government shutdown, is expected to show that the United States bought nearly $900 billion more in foreign goods than it sold to customers in other countries. That would top the 2006 record of $838.3 billion, set as the housing bubble was peaking, and would mark the third consecutive year of rising trade deficits.

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