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The Trump administration claims that it gives the President the authority to raise tariffs without any limits during a national emergency of any kind.

Legal scholars disagree because the IEEPA does not mention tariffs at all and transfers no authority of tariffs towards the President.

That left the country with a trade surplus of .06 billion for the month, compared with analysts' expectations for a surplus of .53 billion, up from .71 billion in November.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected December shipments from the world's largest exporter to have risen 3 percent, slowing from 5.4 percent in November.

"Meanwhile, with policy easing unlikely to put a floor beneath domestic economic activity until the second half of this year, import growth is likely to remain subdued," Evans-Pritchard added.© 2019 CNBC LLC. A Division of NBCUniversal Data is a real-time snapshot *Data is delayed at least 15 minutes.

Trump has repeatedly promised to lower America's trade deficit, and has argued for a renegotiation of trade deals and imposition of tariffs to that end.

China announced Monday that its 2018 trade surplus with the United States was its largest in more than a decade, despite the tariff war initiated by President Donald Trump against Beijing. It was the highest on record dating to 2006, according to Reuters. Exports rose 9.9 percent from 2017 while imports grew 15.8 percent over the period, official dollar-denominated data showed. China's General Administration of Customs said Monday that the biggest worry in trade this year is external uncertainty and protectionism, forecasting the country's trade growth may slow in 2019.

grew 17 percent from a year ago to hit 3.32 billion in 2018, according to government data. has with China is likely even bigger than these figures indicate since China calculates the numbers using different methods, sometimes excluding goods that end up in the U. China said its overall trade surplus for 2018 was 1.76 billion. may have risen, last year's overall Chinese trade surplus was the lowest since 2013, even though export growth was the highest since 2011, according to Reuters' records.

Production metrics and export orders are falling as the country's trade dispute with the U. WATCH: Trump will win the trade war with China, says Gary Shilling China's overall December exports unexpectedly fell 4.4 percent from a year earlier, the biggest monthly drop in two years, the customs data showed.

Imports also unexpectedly contracted in December — falling 7.6 percent, marking the biggest decline since July 2016.

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