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Trade Shift FAQs

How is Trade Shifts information organized?

Overall U.S. merchandise trade performance is summarized for the current year and compared to such trade for the previous year. Coverage of the individual merchandise sectors includes data showing U.S. export, import, and trade balance shifts by sectors, industry groups (and in some cases subgroups), and shifts in trade with U.S. trade partners.

Shifts in U.S. trade with five selected trading partners—China, South Korea, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom—are presented. Mexico was chosen because it is one of the United States’ largest trading partners. The other four countries were chosen because they had the largest increase or decrease in two-way trade with the United States, based on either percentage or absolute dollar value.

A general sector overview is presented for each of the 10 sectors, identifying significant shifts in merchandise trade within the sector. In most cases, significant shifts in specific industry groups or subgroups are also identified. A statistical summary table of industry groups or subgroups is included in each sector analysis chapter, showing absolute and percentage changes in a year-to-year comparison for the previous and current years.

What are Trade Shifts sectors?
Sectors are major segments of the U.S. economy (e.g., agricultural products, minerals and metals). The Commission divides the U.S. economy into 10 merchandise sectors.
What are Trade Shifts special-provision exports and imports?

These are merchandise subject to special classification provisions, temporary legislation, temporary modifications proclaimed under trade agreements legislation, or other legislation. See chapters 98 and 99 of the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule ( and chapter 98 of U.S. Schedule B ( for more information.

Which HTS 8-digit subheadings are included in each product grouping?

How are trading partner/regional groups defined?

What do the trade abbreviations and acronyms mean?  

What trade statistics are used in Trade Shifts?
Trade statistics are compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce). These statistics are categorized using the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedules (for imports) and Schedule B (for exports) using an international nomenclature system.
Why are your Trade Shifts data different from other trade data?

Although all import and export data presented in this report are official Commerce statistics, these data may differ from the data presented by other government agencies and private institutions that cite Commerce as the source for trade data. Possible reasons for these differences are as follows:

  • Data in this report include merchandise trade only; other reported data may include services.
  • Data are not seasonally adjusted; the values of other reported data may be so adjusted.
  • Data are not adjusted on a balance of payments (BOP) basis; the values of other reported data may be so adjusted in line with the concepts and definitions used to prepare national and international accounts.
  • Exports and imports may not include all errata because certain errors may not be corrected by Commerce in time to be included in this report.
  • Data in this report may be adjusted for errors that are not of sufficient magnitude to be changed in Commerce data.
  • The import and export data in this report for 2013-17 have been updated as of February 12, 2018, based on the latest official revisions from the Census Bureau. The merchandise sectors contained in this report are defined by the Commission and may differ from similarly labeled groups from other sources.

The Commission’s staff has prepared "A Note on U.S. Trade Statistics" that is intended to help the public understand the most widely cited figures on the U.S. merchandise trade balance. It begins by defining the underlying trade flows and proceeds to a discussion of the resulting trade balances.

Why is this information prepared?

The international trade analysts of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC, or the Commission), Office of Industries, routinely monitor trade developments in all natural resource, agricultural, and manufacturing industries and in the services sector, enabling the Commission to better anticipate and address issues of concern in its various roles under U.S. trade statutes.a Trade monitoring at the industry/commodity sector and subsector levels (the latter referred to as industry groups and subgroups in this report) is a facet of the research and analysis undertaken by the Office of Industries as part of its responsibility to provide advice and technical information on industry and trade issues.

On August 27, 1993, on its own motion and pursuant to section 332(b) of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1332(b)), the U.S. International Trade Commission instituted investigation No. 332-345, Annual Reports on U.S. Trade Shifts in Selected Industries. The report format was developed by the Commission in response to Congressional interest in establishing a systematic means of examining and reporting on the significance of major trade shifts, by product and with leading U.S. trade partners, in all natural-resource, agricultural, and manufacturing industries.

On December 20, 1994, the Commission on its own motion expanded the scope of this study to include selected service industries, thus providing more comprehensive coverage of U.S. trade performance and overall economic competitiveness. Under the expanded scope, the Commission publishes two separate reports annually: Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade and Recent Trends in U.S. Services Trade.

a Major roles include determining whether U.S. industries are materially injured or threatened with material injury by unfair imports, conducting studies on the international competitiveness of U.S. industries, and advising the President and the Congress on the likely effects of trade-policy changes and proposals.