The U.S. Commerce Department today reported that the country’s 2010 trade deficit was $497.8 billion, an increase of $122.9 billion from 2009.

Exports increased from $1.57 trillion to $1.83 trillion, and imports increased from $1.95 trillion to $2.33 trillion.

Increased imports are often a sign that the U.S. economy is growing. Imports typically fall during recessions and increase during economic recoveries.

Prospects for a strong economic recovery could be boosted by extending agreements like the Andean Trade Preference Act and implementing new trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The government should also reduce its budget deficit. Record U.S. budget deficits are partly financed by selling hundreds of billions of dollars in Treasury bonds to foreign buyers, soaking up money that could otherwise be used to purchase U.S.-produced goods and services.

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