US Imports and Exports with Components and Statistics

What Does the United States Trade With Foreign Countries?

Image by © The Balance 2019

In 2018, total U.S. trade with foreign countries was $5.6 trillion. That was $2.5 trillion in exports and $3.1 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 importer after the top-ranked EU. 

U.S. Exports

Goods contribute 67%, or $1.7 trillion, to U.S. exports. One-third of exported goods are capital goods ($562 billion). The largest sub-category is commercial aircraft ($130 billion). Other capital goods include industrial machines ($60 billion), semiconductors ($48 billion), and telecommunications ($37 billion). Electric apparatus ($46 billion) and medical equipment ($37 billion) are also significant contributors.

Another third of exported goods is industrial supplies ($539 billion). The largest sub-category is chemicals ($62 billion). Next are petroleum products ($111 billion), fuel oil ($42 billion), and plastic ($38 billion). Non-monetary gold is $21 billion.

Only 12% of U.S. exported goods are consumer goods ($206 billion). The biggest categories are pharmaceuticals ($55 billion), cell phones ($27 billion), and gem diamonds ($22 billion). 

Automobiles contribute 9% of all exported goods. In 2018, that was $159 billion.

Just 9% of exported goods are foods, feeds, and beverages ($133 billion). The big three are soybeans ($18 billion), meat and poultry ($20 billion), and corn ($14 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 negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Services make up one-third of U.S. exports ($828 billion). The largest single category is travel services at $307 billion. Computer and business services export $206 billion. The next category is royalties and license fees at $132 billion. Other private services, such as financial services, also add $132 billion. Government and military contracts add $20 billion. 

U.S. Imports

More than 80% of U.S. imports are goods ($2.6 trillion). Capital goods ($693 billion) contribute 27% of all goods imported. That includes computers at $143 billion and telecommunications at $128 billion.

Next is consumer goods ($648 billion). The top two categories are cell phones / television at $134 billion and pharmaceuticals also at $134 billion. Next is the apparel and footwear category at $129 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 ($576 billion). The largest sub-category is oil and petroleum products, at $215 billion.

The fourth-largest import category is automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($372 billion). The food, feeds, and beverages category is the smallest at $147 billion. 

Services make up 18% of imports ($558 billion). The largest category is travel services at $253 billion. The next is business and computer services at $151 billion. Banking and insurance is $69 billion. Last but not least is government service imports at $23 billion. 

Since the United States imports more than it exports, its trade deficit is $621 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

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Article Sources

  1. United States Census Bureau. "Exhibit 1. U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services," Accessed Nov. 30, 2019.

  2. United States Census Bureau. "Exhibit 7. U.S. Exports of Goods by End-Use Category and Commodity," Accessed Nov. 30, 2019.

  3. United States Census Bureau. "Exhibit 3. U.S. Exports of Services by Major Category," Accessed Nov. 30, 2019.

  4. United States Census Bureau. "Exhibit 8. U.S. Imports of Goods by End-Use Category and Commodity," Accessed Nov. 30, 2019.

  5. United States Census Bureau. "Exhibit 4. U.S. Imports of Services by Major Category," Accessed Nov. 30, 2019.