2014 Trade Shifts

Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2014
Investigation No. 332-345
Publication 4536 (June 2015)

Welcome to the redesigned Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2014 (also called 2014 Trade Shifts), published by the U.S. International Trade Commission (Commission or USITC). The Commission’s annual detailed analysis of shifts in U.S. trade, addressing 4 U.S. trading partners/regions and 10 individual sectors, is now enhanced by new interactive features and a discussion of evolving approaches to analyzing trade data.

As U.S. trade and international distribution chains become more complex, companies are diversifying their options for moving intermediates and finished goods to market. Re-exports Re-exports are exports of goods of foreign origin that (1) have previously entered the U.S. customs territory, a Customs bonded warehouse, or a U.S. FTZ, and (2) at the time of exportation, have not undergone any substantial change in form or condition or any enhancement in value by further manufacturing in the U.S. customs territory or U.S. FTZs. (also called foreign exports by the U.S. Census Bureau) are a growing part of U.S. trade, and recent modifications to the way foreign trade zones (FTZs) are set up and operated make the zones more useful for re-export purposes.

2014 Trade Shifts addresses this trend in two ways:

First, the special topic webpage, “Trade Metrics,” describes trade data statistics. Following definitions of individual trade measures (e.g., general imports General imports are total physical arrivals of merchandise from foreign countries into the United States, whether such merchandise enters consumption channels immediately or is entered into bonded warehouses or FTZs under Customs custody.), it offers a detailed discussion of the impact that changes in distribution methods, FTZs, and re-exports have on trade data statistics.

Second, as noted in more depth in “Trade Metrics,” a variety of trade measures are used in 2014 Trade Shifts to allow a more inclusive look at the composition of U.S. trade flows. Data for total exports Total exports are U.S. domestic exports plus re-exports. This includes all exports of physical merchandise from the United States. and general imports are presented and analyzed in this report’s first two parts—that is, the macroeconomic overview of the U.S. economy in 2013–14, and the sections that examine U.S. bilateral trade flows with China, Japan, sub-Saharan Africa, and the European Union (EU). The 10 sector analyses found in the third part focus on general imports, domestic exports Domestic exports are (1) exported goods that were grown, produced, or manufactured in the United States, and (2) exported commodities of foreign origin that have been changed in the United States (including changes made in a U.S. FTZ) from the form in which they were imported, or that have been enhanced in value or improved in condition by further processing or manufacturing in the United States., and re-exports, highlighting sectors in which re-exports play a significant role.

Interactive features have been added to enrich the user experience and make the data presentation more effective and accessible. 2014 Trade Shifts is published only in a Web-based format to optimize the use of these features. User-friendly, in-line interactive graphics integrated with the analyses appear at the top of each trading partner/region and sector webpage. Viewers can change the data presentation by hovering their cursors over each graphic.

The graphics are augmented by Data Analysis Tools (DATs). The DATs present a series of dashboards (contained in two files) displaying U.S. merchandise trade data at various levels of aggregation. Users can choose different data series by clicking on prespecified selections. Although linked to the Commission’s annual Trade Shifts and Year in Trade reports, the data presentations in the DATs do not repeat tables and charts from those two reports, but rather complement them in ways that are intended to quickly provide additional analytical insights.

We appreciate feedback about the redesign. Please email comments to TradeShifts@usitc.gov.


2014 Trade Shifts provides a comprehensive review of U.S. trade performance in 2014. It focuses on changes in U.S. exports and imports of key natural resources, as well as products of leading agricultural and manufacturing industries; it also examines changes in U.S. trade with 4 key partners and country groups. Profiles of the U.S. industry and market for 10 major U.S. sectors that cover a majority of the products traded are also included. The analyses principally examine:

  • Industry developments and the principal drivers influencing trends in U.S. trade; and
  • Bilateral trade flows between the United States and 4 key trading partners/regions, addressing the factors which influenced trade in the leading products traded.

As mentioned above, 2014 Trade Shifts concludes with a special topic webpage, “Trade Metrics,” that describes different methods of measuring U.S. trade flows. In addition to defining common U.S. trade metrics, it examines ways that changes in U.S. trade flows have affected the significance of certain measures. These changes range from broad reductions in U.S. tariffs to the growing importance of re-exports and the evolution of U.S. foreign-trade zones.

Readers can access the different sections of the study, including a complete set of trade tables and “Frequently Asked Questions“ (FAQs), by following the live links on this 2014 Trade Shifts home page. Or, readers can always navigate to links in the “Trade Shifts Index” or “Resources” boxes at the top left of each page. Below is a brief overview of the principal developments in U.S. trade during the past year, followed by links to more detailed analysis.

Key Economic Events

  • The value of U.S. total exports grew by $43.9 billion (2.8 percent), in part because of fluctuations in the value of the U.S. dollar during 2014 as well as the 7 percent expansion of the Chinese economy, the United States' third-largest export market. Three sectors accounted for just over half the overall value of U.S. total exports in 2014: transportation equipment, electronics, and chemicals.
  • Re-exports' share of U.S. total exports has been growing annually as firms increasingly use the United States as a distribution hub, particularly for merchandise destined to Canada and Mexico under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In 2014, re-exports were valued at $221.2 billion (14 percent of U.S. total exports). The top three sectors were footwear (43 percent); electronics (37 percent); and textiles and apparel (19 percent). Within each of these sectors, re-exports were concentrated within individual industry segments (e.g., telecommunications equipment in the electronics sector).
  • The value of U.S. general imports rose by $76.9 billion (3.4 percent), driven by the stronger U.S. economy and the corresponding upturn in personal spending and business investment. Three sectors accounted for just over half the overall value of U.S. general imports in 2014: electronics, transportation equipment, and energy.
  • U.S. trade flows with the 4 key trading partners/regions profiled in 2014 Trade Shifts accounted for about 30 percent of U.S. total exports and almost half of U.S. general imports. U.S. trade balances with these partners/regions fluctuated in 2014. U.S. trade deficits with China and the EU continued to increase, while those with Japan and sub-Saharan Africa declined. Energy products and transportation equipment contributed to these changes, accounting for the largest shifts in value in both U.S. total exports and U.S. general imports.

Part I:

Part II: Country Shifts

Part II analyzes shifts in trade between the United States and four key trading partners:

Part III: Sector Shifts

Part III analyzes shifts in trade for the following 10 merchandise sectors:

Part IV: Special Topic:

Data Analysis Tools

General Contacts

Office of Industries

Elizabeth R. Nesbitt
Project Leader

Kathryn Lundquist
Deputy Project Leader

Media Contact

Peg O’Laughlin
Public Affairs Officer