US trade deficit falls to $52.5 billion in September

John Deere Farm and Caterpillar construction equipment await shipment at the Port of Tacoma in Tacoma, Washington, on Monday. The Commerce Department reported the U.S. trade gap fell in September. Ted S. Warren/AP

U.S. trade deficit falls to $52.5 billion in September

WASHINGTON — The U.S. trade deficit fell in September to the lowest level in five months as imports dropped more sharply than exports and America ran a rare surplus in petroleum.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the September gap between what America buys from abroad and what it sells shrank by 4.7% to $52.5 billion. That was down from the August deficit of $55 billion and was the smallest imbalance since April.

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The politically sensitive deficit with China edged down 0.6% to $31.6 billion.

President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs on more than $360 billion in Chinese imports. China has retaliated with its own tariffs on American products as the world’s two largest economies have engaged in a trade war that has rattled global financial markets and slowed economic growth.

The September deficit reflected the fact that exports fell 0.9% to $206 billion but imports fell an even faster 1.7% to $258.4 billion.

EU hopes U.S. will rethink choice to pull out of Paris climate pact

BRUSSELS — The European Union has voiced regret at the U.S. government’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement and expressed hopes that one of the world’s biggest CO2 emitters will backpedal on its decision and rejoin.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Tuesday that the global deal signed in 2015 remains “the most important international agreement on climate change” and insisted that the EU will continue to “fight global climate change under this legal framework.”

Despite the U.S. departure, Andreeva added that the 28-member bloc will continue working with various U.S.-based entities and stakeholders who remain committed to the deal.

“The Paris agreement has strong foundations and is here to stay. Its doors remain open and we hope that the U.S. will decide to pass (them) again one day,” Andreeva said.

Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said the U.S. had announced its plan to withdraw from the pact two years ago and “luckily it has remained alone in doing so.”

Nearly 200 nations signed the landmark 2015 climate deal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.

Schulze said the “domino effect” some had feared after U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement didn’t occur.

Justice Department forms group to combat contracting fraudWASHINGTON — The Justice Department is forming a special group of prosecutors and watchdogs from several agencies to fight bid-rigging, price fixing and other fraud that hurts competition in federal government contracting.

Justice officials say the new effort against collusion in government procurement aims to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in contracting.

They noted that last year the federal government spent more than $550 billion, or about 40% of all non-mandated spending, on contracts for goods and services.

The task force will include prosecutors from the department’s antitrust division and 13 U.S. Attorney’s offices around the country, FBI investigators and inspectors general from the departments of Justice and Defense, the U.S. Postal Service and the General Services Administration.

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— From wire reports