Vice President Mike Pence (R) swears in Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce. Photo: Reuters, Joshua Roberts

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the US trade deficit grew 9.6% in February to US$48.49 billion, higher than any month since March 2012, reported the Wall Street Journal. This comes as China posted its first monthly trade deficit in three years, amid a pickup in demand for industrial commodities to feed awakening construction activity, as Steve Wang wrote for Asia Times. Asia Unhedged noted on Tuesday that the strong import numbers and accompanying deficit show strength of the US economy, not weakness, but the numbers pose a dilemma for a Trump administration that has identified fixing trade imbalance as a key objective. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Tuesday that Washington will use trade enforcement provisions to help achieve that goal, in a sign that they may not back down from protectionist threats.