President Obama says it is essential for the United States to import less and export more.
"We will rebuild this economy stronger than before, and at its heart will be three powerful words: Made In America," he said. "For too long, we have been buying too much from the rest of the world, when we should be selling more to the rest of the world."
In a White House bill-signing ceremony Wednesday, the president reaffirmed a goal he set out early this year: to double exports of U.S. goods and services in the next five years.
"We have got a lot of work to do to reach this goal," he said. "Our economy has fallen into the habit of buying from overseas and not selling the way it needs to. But it is vitally important that we reverse that trend."
The Commerce Department said Wednesday the U.S. trade deficit grew by almost one-fifth in June. The difference between what Americans sell to other countries and what they buy from abroad reached almost $50 billion, its highest figure since late 2008.
U.S. exports fell by more than one percent, while imports were up by about three percent.
President Obama signed legislation he says will help narrow that gap.
The new law would lift tariffs on some of the materials U.S. companies must import to make their products.
"This legislation will reduce or eliminate some of those tariffs, which will significantly lower costs for American companies across the manufacturing landscape, from cars to chemicals, medical devices to sporting goods," he said. "And that will boost output, support good jobs here at home, and lower prices for American consumers."
The legislation had rare support from both Democrats and Republicans, as well as manufacturers' groups.
The National Association of Manufacturers says the new law will help the U.S. export more, and will help create jobs.
News of the widening trade gap, along with several other gloomy economic reports, contributed to a 2.5 - percent drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday.