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Report: Trump administration weighing change to calculating US trade deficit

CNBC.com staff

As President Donald Trump looks to promote his economic policies, his administration is looking into new ways to calculate U.S. trade deficits, according to The Wall Street Journal.

People involved in the discussions told the Journal that one methodology being tested would exclude re-exports — goods that are first imported into the U.S. and then exported unchanged to a third country. The net effect could make the trade gap appear larger, according to economists, because such goods would be counted when imported but not when exported.

"As a statistician, you generally want symmetry," Steve Landefeld, a former director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Affairs, told the newspaper.

President Trump has promised to bring jobs back to the U.S. and focus on domestic manufacturing. At least in theory, trade data calculations that make the gap appear bigger could make it easier for the president to push his vision on stricter trade deals. A larger trade deficit could give the administration leverage to renegotiate deals such as Nafta, which Trump has vowed to rework.

Representatives for the White House did not immediately reply to CNBC's request for comment.

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