The US trade gap with the rest of the world jumped to a 10-year high of $621bn ($NZ916bn) last year, dealing a blow to President Donald Trump's deficit reduction plan.
The trade deficit is the difference between how much goods and services the US imports from other countries and how much it exports.
Reducing the gap is a key plank of Mr Trump's policies.
But in 2018, the US exported fewer goods compared with how much it bought.
Mr Trump claims that the US is being "ripped off" by other nations and wants countries to lower their tariffs on US goods and buy more of them.
However, official data shows that while exports of US goods and services rose by $148.9bn last year, imports jumped by $217.7bn.
It means that the gap is the widest since 2008, when the global financial crisis hit and the US fell into recession.
The US is currently locked in a trade battle with China over what it claims are unfair trade practices, resulting in tit-for-tat tariff increases on each others' goods.
....I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power. We are right now taking in $billions in Tariffs. MAKE AMERICA RICH AGAIN— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2018
Both nations are in discussions and there is speculation they could reach an agreement by the end of March.
New data shows that the trade gap between the US and China widened last year by $43.6bn to $419.2bn as exports of American products and services fell, but imports from China rose.
Mr Trump warned in December that if the two countries failed to reach an agreement on trade, he would take action, dubbing himself "a Tariff Man".
The deficit between the US and the European Union also increased in 2018, up by $17.9bn to $169.3bn.
Following the same trend as with China, US export growth to the EU was eclipsed by imports of European goods and services to America, which last year rose to $487.9bn.
Following a spat between the US and the EU when America lifted tariffs on steel and aluminium, Mr Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last year reached a truce.
However, Mr Trump may choose to lift tariffs on European cars and parts after the US Commerce Department produced a report examining whether the imports threaten national security.
Meanwhile, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom are meeting on Wednesday in Washington, where the issue of allowing America's agriculture industry access to Europe is expected to be discussed.