U.S. Imports and Exports: Components and Statistics

What Does the United States Trade With Foreign Countries?

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••• The biggest components of U.S. imports and exports are oil and consumer goods. Photo: Joern Pollex//Getty Images

In 2017, total U.S. trade with foreign countries was $5.2 trillion. That was $2.3 trillion in exports and $2.9 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. 

U.S. Exports

Goods contribute two-thirds of U.S. exports ($1.4 trillion). One-third of exported goods are capital goods ($533 billion). The largest sub-category is commercial aircraft ($121 billion). Other capital goods include industrial machines ($57 billion), semiconductors ($48 billion), and telecommunications ($38 billion). Electric apparatus ($43 billion) and medical equipment ($35 billion) are also significant contributors.

Another third of exported goods is industrial supplies ($463 billion). The largest sub-category is chemicals ($77 billion).  Next are petroleum products ($71 billion), fuel oil ($38 billion) and plastic ($34 billion). Non-monetary gold is $21 billion.

Only 13 percent of U.S. exported goods are consumer goods ($198 billion). The biggest categories are pharmaceuticals ($51 billion), cell phones ($27 billion) and gem diamonds ($21 billion). 

Automobiles contribute 10 percent of all exported goods. In 2017, that was $158 billion.

Just 9 percent of exported goods are foods, feeds, and beverages ($133 billion). The big three are soybeans ($22 billion), meat and poultry ($19 billion) and corn ($10 billion). Food exports are falling since many countries don't like U.S. food processing standards. That was a major block to the Obama administration's successful negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Services make up one-third of U.S. exports ($778 billion). The largest single category was travel services, at $291 billion. Computer and business services export $191 billion. The next category was royalties and license fees, at $124 billion. Other private services, such as financial services, added $121 billion. Government and military contracts added $20 billion. 

U.S. Imports

More than 80 percent of U.S. imports are goods ($2.4 trillion). Capital goods ($641 billion) contibute 27 percent. That includes computers ($128 billion) and telecommunications equipment, including semiconductors ($128 billion).

Next is consumer goods ($602 billion). Of this, the cell phone and TV category ($121 billion) is the largest. Next is apparel and footwear ($123 billion). Pharmaceutical imports are $110 billion. U.S consumer spending is dependent upon these low-cost imported goods.

Slightly less than a quarter of imports are industrial machinery and equipment ($508 billion). The largest sub-category is oil and petroleum products, at $183 billion.

The fourth-largest import category is automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($359 billion). The food, feeds and beverages category is the smallest, at $138 billion. 

Services make up 18 percent of imports ($534 billion). The largest category is travel and transportation services at $236 billion. The next is business and computer services at $141 billion. Banking and insurance is $76 billion. Last but not least was government service imports at $21 billion. 

Since the United States imports more than it exports, its trade deficit is $502 billion. Even though America exports billions in oil, consumer goods and automotive products, it imports even more. 

How U.S. Imports and Exports Fit Into the Balance of Payments

Balance of Payments