U.S. Imports and Exports: Components and Statistics

What Does the United States Trade With Foreign Countries?

U.S. imports and exports for 2019 totaled $5.6 trillion, with $3.1 trillion in imports and $2.5 trillion in exports

Image by © The Balance 2020

In 2019, the total U.S. trade with foreign countries was $5.6 trillion. There were $2.5 trillion in exports and $3.1 trillion in imports of both goods and services.

Key Takeaways

  • The United States imports more than it exports.
  • The 2019 U.S. trade balance is negative, showing a deficit of $617 billion.
  • Capital goods comprise the largest portions of both U.S. exports and imports.
  • The United States exports more services than it imports.  

U.S. Exports

Based on 2019 data, goods contribute 66%, or $1.7 trillion, to U.S. exports. One-third of exported goods are capital goods ($547 billion). The largest subcategory is commercial aircraft ($132 billion). Other capital goods include industrial machines ($57 billion), semiconductors ($50 billion), and telecommunications ($36 billion). Electric apparatus ($44 billion) and medical equipment ($38 billion) are also significant contributors.

Another third of exported goods is industrial supplies ($531 billion). The largest sub-category is petroleum products, including crude oil and other petroleum products ($122 billion). Next are chemical products, including chemical fertilizers and other sub-categories ($81 billion), fuel oil ($41 billion), and plastic ($37 billion). Non-monetary gold is $19 billion.

Only 12% of U.S. exported goods are consumer goods ($206 billion). The biggest categories are pharmaceutical preparations ($61 billion), cell phones ($27 billion), and gem diamonds ($20 billion). 

Automobiles contribute 10% of all exported goods. In 2019, that was $162 billion.

Just 8% of exported goods are foods, feeds, and beverages ($131 billion). The biggest three are soybeans ($20 billion), meat and poultry ($20 billion), and corn ($9 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 ($876 billion), based on 2019 data. The largest single category is travel services at $193 billion. Other business services export $189 billion. Other private services, such as financial services, also add $136 billion. The next category is royalties and license fees at $117 billion. Government and military contracts add $22 billion. 

U.S. Imports

According to the 2019 data, more than 80% of U.S. imports are goods ($2.5 trillion). Capital goods ($678 billion) contributed 27% of all goods imported. 

Next comes consumer goods ($654 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 ($522 billion).

The fourth-largest import category is automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($376 billion). The food, feeds, and beverages category is next at $151 billion. 

As of the end of 2019, services make up 19% of imports ($597 billion). The largest category is travel services at $134 billion. The next is business services at $114 billion. Transport contributes $107 billion and insurance $52 billion. Government service imports are at $24 billion. 

Since the United States imports more than it exports, its trade deficit is $617 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

  1. Current Account
  2. Current Account Deficit
    U.S. Current Account Deficit
  3. Trade Balance
  4. Imports and Exports
  5. U.S. Imports and Exports Summary
    U.S. Imports
  6. U.S. Imports by Year for Top 5 Countries
  7. U.S. Exports
  8. Trade Deficit
  9. The U.S. Trade Deficit
    U.S. Trade Deficit by Country
  10. U.S. Trade Deficit With China
  11. Capital Account
  12. Financial Account

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens to exports and imports when the U.S. dollar depreciates?

When the value of the dollar drops relative to other currencies, it makes exports more expensive, and it's cheaper for other countries to buy American goods and services. All else equal, this could be expected to increase exports and decrease imports.

What are the three largest agricultural exports from the United States?

By dollar value, the three largest agricultural exports from the U.S. in the first three quarters of 2020 were soybeans ($16.1 billion), red meat products ($13.1 billion), and animal feeds and oil meal ($10.5 billion).

Article Sources

  1. United States Census Bureau. "Exhibit 1. U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services."

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

  3. United States Census Bureau. "Exhibit 3. U.S. Exports of Services by Major Category."

  4. United States Census Bureau. "Imports of Goods by Principal End-Use Category."

  5. United States Census Bureau. "Exhibit 4. U.S. Imports of Services by Major Category."

  6. U.S. Census. "New Annual Data Show First Trade Deficit Decrease Since 2013."

  7. Department of Agriculture. "U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update." Download "U.S. Agricultural Exports, Year-to-Date and Current Months: 2021."