WASHINGTON - The US trade gap broadened in September as American companies increased their imports of semiconductors, aircraft and petroleum products, the Commerce Department reported.

Even record exports of US goods and services could not fend off the rising deficit. Export hit their highest level in nearly three years, driven upward by growing international sales of crude oil and transport services. President Donald Trump has taken an aggressive stance on trade, vowing to reduce bilateral trade deficits, and launching high-stakes talks to renegotiate trade agreements and investigate the practices of foreign trading partners.

The September trade gap rose 1.7 percent to $43.5 billion, in line with analyst expectations, according to the report. So far this year, the US trade deficit is up 9.3 percent over the same period in 2016. Exports rose 1.1 percent to $196.8 billion in September, the highest level since December 2014. Services exports also were the highest on record at $66.2 billion. But imports rose 1.2 percent to $240.3 billion, with services like transport also at their highest level on record at $44.3 billion.

Crude oil imports by volume fell to their lowest level since October 2015 at 206.8 million barrels -- helping shift the US trade balance with members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to a $600 million surplus from an $800 million deficit. The US deficit with China is just under $30 billion, while the deficit with Germany expanded $1.1 billion to $5.9 billion for the latest month, and the US trade gap with India rose by $700 million to $2.3 billion.

The US recorded a $100 million surplus with Canada but a $5.1 billion deficit with Mexico, coming amid fraught negotiations to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement. US exports to Britain were the highest on record at $5.5 billion, for an overall surplus of $700 million. Officials said the back-to-back late-summer hurricanes impacted the September trade data, but the distortions could not be isolated or quantified.