Washington, D.C. The U.S. trade deficit set a record for a fifth straight year, and the imbalance with China soared to an all-time high as well.
The Bush administration pledged to keep pursuing its free-trade policies, while Democrats now controlling Congress demanded a change in course.
The gap between what the U.S. sells abroad and what it imports rose to a record $763.6 billion last year, up 6.5 percent from the previous record of $716.7 billion in 2005, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.
For December, the deficit jumped a bigger-than-expected 5.3 percent to $61.2 billion.
Bush administration officials said the wider deficits were primarily a factor of faster growth in the United States and warned against pursuing policies that would erect protectionist trade barriers in this country.