U.S. Imports and Exports: Components and Statistics

What Does the United States Trade With Foreign Countries?

Ports Await Possibly Radioactive Ships From Japan
The biggest components of U.S. imports and exports are oil and consumer goods. Photo: Joern Pollex//Getty Images

In 2016, total U.S. trade with foreign countries was $4.9 trillion. That was $2.2 trillion in exports and $2.7 trillion in imports of both goods and services. The United States was the world's third-largest exporter, after China and the European Union. It was the world's second-largest largest importer after the EU. (Source: "U.S. Trade in Goods and Services," U.S. Census. CIA World Factbook Rankings.)

What Does the United States Export?

Goods make up more than two-thirds of U.S. exports ($1.4 trillion). One-third of exported goods are capital goods ($519 billion). The largest sub-category is commercial aircraft ($121 billion). Other capital goods include industrial machines ($51 billion), semiconductors ($44 billion), and telecommunications ($41 billion). Electric apparatus ($42 billion) and medical equipment ($35 billion) are also significant contributors.

Another third of exported goods is industrial supplies ($398 billion). The largest sub-category is chemicals ($71 billion).  Next are petroleum products ($51 billion), fuel oil ($30 billion) and plastic ($32 billion). Non-monetary gold is $20 billion.

Only 13 percent of exported goods are consumer goods ($194 billion). This includes pharmaceuticals ($53 billion), cell phones ($24 billion) and gem diamonds ($21 billion). Find out more about these categories in Consumer Spending.

Automobiles make up 10 percent of all exported goods. In 2016, that was $150 billion.

Just 9 percent of exported goods are foods, feeds and beverages ($131 billion). The big three are soybeans ($24 billion), meat and poultry ($17 billion) and corn ($11 billion). Food exports are falling since many countries don't like U.S. food processing standards.

To find out why, see Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. (Source: "Exhibit 7. Exports by End-Use Category," U.S. Census.)

Services contribute one-third of U.S. exports ($750 billion). The largest single category was travel services, at $293 billion. Computer and business services export $178 billion. The next category was royalties and license fees, at $120 billion. Other private services, such as financial services, added $120 billion. Government and military contracts added $20 billion. (Source: "U.S. Exhibit 3. U.S. Exports of Services by Major Category," U.S. Census.)

What Does It Import?

More than 80 percent of U.S. imports are goods ($2.2 trillion). Slightly less than a third of these are industrial machinery and equipment ($444 billion). The largest sub-category is oil and petroleum products, at $144 billion.

Capital goods make up one-fourth of all goods imported ($590 billion). That includes computers ($114 billion) and telecommunications equipment, including semiconductors ($123 billion).

Nearly another quarter is consumer goods ($584 billion). Of this, apparel and footwear is the largest ($123 billion). Next is the cell phone and TV category ($121 billion). Pharmaceutical imports are $112 billion.

The fourth-largest category is automotive vehicles, parts and engines at $350 billion. The food, feeds and beverages category is the smallest, at $130 billion. (Source: "Exhibit 8. U.S. Imports by End-Use Category," U.S. Census.)

Services make up 19 percent of imports ($502 billion). The largest category is travel and transportation services at $219 billion. The next is business and computer services at $139 billion.  Banking and insurance is $73 billion. Last but not least was government service imports at $21 billion.  (Source: "Exhibit 4. U.S. Imports of Services by Major Category," U.S. Census.)

Since the United States imports more than it exports, it has a trade deficit of $502 billion. Even though America exports billions in oil, consumer goods and automotive products, it imports even more. For more on the economic impact of this, see U.S. Trade Deficit.

How U.S. Imports and Exports Are Part of the Balance of Payments

What Is the Balance of Payments?

  1. Current Account
  2. Capital Account
  3. Financial Account