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Washington (AFP) – The US trade deficit narrowed in April for second the straight month on record exports and as Americans imported fewer goods from China, government data showed Wednesday.

The all-time high amount of exports were driven upwards by growing orders for American corn and soybeans as well as fuel oil and other petroleum products.

The falling trade gap comes as the major world economies gird for all-out trade war after President Donald Trump last week imposed punishing tariffs on US imports of steel and aluminum.

The total US trade deficit fell 2.1 percent for April to $46.2 billion after a downward revision for March. The result was better than analysts expected, since the consensus forecast called for a 3.4 percent increase.

Exports of goods and services rose 0.3 percent to $211.2 billion, the highest on record. Exports of goods ($141.2 billion) and services ($70 billion) also hit all-time highs.

Meanwhile, imports fell 0.2 percent to $257.4 billion.

The deficit with China in goods only, the principal driver of the overall US trade gap, fell 9.8 percent for the month as US imports from the industrial giant fell $4.7 billion to $41.9 billion.

Year-to-date, however, the US trade gap with China was still up 10.4 percent.

Deficits also narrowed with Canada and Mexico for the month.

The narrowing total trade deficit suggested trade could be less of a drag than expected on GDP growth at the start of the second quarter.

But despite the declines in March and April, the deficit for the first four months of 2018 was still nearly 12 percent higher than the same period last year.

Americans imported fewer mobile telephones and consumer goods as well as passenger cars.

Trump’s multi-front trade confrontation was due to spill over into this week’s summit of Group of Seven economies in Quebec, Canada.

Other G7 members have unanimously denounced Trump’s protectionist trade policies and vowed to retaliate against the tariffs.

The European Union on Wednesday said a package of counter-measures on US goods would be ready by July.

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