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Foreign trade figures of the United States

Foreign Trade in Figures

The U.S. is the world's largest importer and second-largest exporter of goods, as well as the largest importer and exporter of commercial services. Nevertheless, trade represents only 23.4% of the country’s GDP in 2020 (World Bank). U.S. top exports in 2020 were refined petroleum oils followed by cars, electronic integrated circuits, petroleum gases, and automotive parts and accessories. Main U.S. imports in the same year included cars, automatic data processing machines, phone system devices, medicaments, crude oils, and automobile parts. The U.S. signed 14 reciprocal free trade agreements, 5 preferential trade programs, 51 trade and investment framework agreements, and 48 bilateral investment treaties.

The country's main trading partners in 2020 were Canada (17.8%), Mexico (14.9%), China (8.7%), Japan (4.5%), the United Kingdom (4.1%) and Germany (4%); whereas imports came chiefly from China (19%), Mexico (13.7%), Canada (11.5%), Japan (5.1%) and Germany (4.9% - data by Comtrade). Historically, the U.S. has taken the view that trade promotes economic growth, social stability, democracy and better international relations. However, in recent years the trend had reversed, with the insurgence of several trade disputes (particularly with China, accused of unfair trade practices). Trade relations between the U.S. and China finally started to normalize towards the end of Trump’s presidency, with the two countries signing the U.S.–China Phase One trade deal in Washington. Nevertheless, trade relations did not improve much during Biden’s presidency.

The U.S. trade balance is structurally negative and the trade deficit has further widened in recent years: in 2020 it stood at an estimated 3.1% of GDP (World Bank). In the same year, exports of goods decreased to USD 1,431 billion, down by 12.8% year-on-year; with imports declining at a slower pace (-6.2% - at USD 2,407 billion). Despite being a net importer of goods, the U.S. are a net exporter of services: in 2020, services exports totalled USD 684 billion (-19.8% y-o-y) against USD 435.7 billion of imports (-23.2% y-o-y, data WTO). The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that in the first ten months of 2021 the goods and services deficit increased by USD 161.7 billion (+29.7%) from the same period one year earlier. Exports increased by USD 315.1 billion or 17.9%, imports rose by USD 476.8 billion or 20.7%.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 2,251,3512,408,4762,614,2212,567,4452,407,527
Exports of Goods (million USD) 1,454,6071,546,2731,663,9821,643,1611,431,610
Imports of Services (million USD) 503,053520,424540,951567,121435,748
Exports of Services (million USD) 752,411778,361839,594853,842684,001

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 26.527.227.526.323.4
Trade Balance (million USD) -749,801-799,340-880,302-864,332-915,573
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -481,172-513,785-579,939-576,865-681,707
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.54.44.11.2-8.9
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.44.12.8-0.1-13.6
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 14.615.015.214.513.3
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 11.912.212.311.810.1

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 5.48.24.43.63.5
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 14.18.74.12.12.0

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
The United States is a member of the following international economic organisations: G-7, G-10, G-20, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), WTO, IMF, OECD, ICC, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates the United States click here. International organisation membership of the United States is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by the United States can be consulted here.
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
Canada 17.8%
Mexico 14.9%
China 8.7%
Japan 4.5%
United Kingdom 4.1%
See More Countries 50.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
China 19.0%
Mexico 13.7%
Canada 11.5%
Japan 5.1%
Germany 4.9%
See More Countries 45.9%

Source: Comtrade, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

1,430.3 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 4.2%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 3.5%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.2%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassembliesElectronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 3.1%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 2.3%
See More Products 83.6%
2,405.4 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 6.1%
Automatic data processing machines and units...Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 4.4%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line...Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 4.0%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 3.4%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 3.4%
See More Products 78.8%

Source: Comtrade, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

840.7 bn USD of services exported in 2018
23.32%
21.05%
17.15%
13.56%
10.98%
4.83%
2.83%
2.61%
2.13%
1.19%
0.35%
552.2 bn USD of services imported in 2018
22.82%
19.56%
19.14%
8.79%
7.92%
6.64%
5.80%
4.16%
3.48%
1.13%
0.57%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: June 2022

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