The U.S. trade deficit fell in March to the lowest level in 16 months as imports plunged by the largest amount since the depths of the recession seven years ago.

The Commerce Department says the trade deficit narrowed to $40.4 billion in March, a drop of 13.9 percent from February. It was the smallest trade gap since November 2014.

Exports slipped 0.9 percent to $176.6 billion. Meanwhile, imports declined 3.6 percent to $217.1 billion as American demand for everything from autos to computers and toys fizzled. It was the largest percentage drop since February 2009.

Trade is playing a major role in the current presidential campaign. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has vowed to punish countries such as China and Mexico for unfair trade practices.