Electronic Products

Author: Mihir P. Torsekar
International Trade Analyst

Change in 2014 from 2013:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Increased by $6.4 billion (2.4 percent) to $267.6 billion
  • U.S. general imports: Increased by $16.5 billion (3.9 percent) to $438.2 billion

From 2013 to 2014, both total U.S. exports and U.S. general imports grew in this sector. Total U.S. exports increased $6.4 billion (2.4 percent) to $267.6 billion in 2014 owing to increased exports of semiconductors and telecommunications equipment (table EL.1). U.S. export growth resulted from higher exports of semiconductors to China and Malaysia and widespread demand in Mexico for various electronic products.

Table EL.1: Electronic products: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2010–14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. exports of domestic exports merchandise:              
China 13,471 11,932 12,330 14,123 14,524 401 2.8
Mexico 16,546 16,746 18,891 20,732 21,695 964 4.6
Japan 9,677 10,650 11,258 10,412 10,166 -246 -2.4
Malaysia 6,451 5,812 4,705 4,533 5,226 692 15.3
Canada 16,940 18,421 18,704 17,971 17,318 -653 -3.6
South Korea 6,375 7,171 7,174 6,716 6,878 162 2.4
Germany 8,177 8,236 7,950 7,957 8,237 280 3.5
Taiwan 4,670 4,940 3,736 3,536 3,740 204 5.8
Thailand 2,496 2,304 2,154 2,223 2,355 131 5.9
United Kingdom 5,334 5,493 5,416 5,015 5,490 475 9.5
All other 69,957 73,375 74,714 73,948 73,528 -420 -0.6
Total domestic exports 160,093 165,081 167,033 167,166 169,156 1,990 1.2
Re-exports 77,098 86,588 90,657 94,057 98,416 4,360 4.6
Total U.S. exports (domestic exports and re-exports) 237,192 251,669 257,690 261,223 267,573 6,350 2.4
U.S. general imports:              
China 143,695 158,625 170,940 176,141 186,289 10,148 5.8
Mexico 62,316 62,354 65,628 65,174 64,730 -445 -0.7
Japan 26,562 26,618 26,304 24,217 22,898 -1,320 -5.4
Malaysia 18,010 16,681 17,210 19,180 22,078 2,898 15.1
Canada 9,466 9,786 9,521 9,123 9,104 -19 -0.2
South Korea 18,157 18,207 14,610 16,701 17,381 680 4.1
Germany 11,585 13,966 14,208 14,242 15,171 929 6.5
Taiwan 17,948 21,015 17,253 16,378 17,385 1,006 6.1
Thailand 9,531 9,567 10,975 11,574 12,334 760 6.6
United Kingdom 4,981 5,401 5,611 5,441 5,563 122 2.2
All other 56,374 60,323 63,217 63,500 65,235 1,734 2.7
Total general imports 378,626 402,543 415,476 421,672 438,167 16,495 3.9
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed April 21, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data. The trading partners shown are those with the largest total U.S. trade (U.S. general imports plus U.S. domestic exports) in these products in the current year. Re-exports (also called foreign exports) are further defined in the “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) and in the “Trade Metrics” discussion.

The $16.5 billion expansion of U.S. general imports of electronic products reflected a $10.1 billion increase in imports from China—much of which was cellular telephones and consumer electronics—and a $2.9 billion increase from Malaysia, mostly for semiconductors (table EL. 2).1 However, U.S. import growth was slightly offset by a $1.3 billion reduction in imports from Japan.

Table EL.2: Electronic products: Leading changes in U.S. domestic exports and general imports, 2010–14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. domestic exports:              
Increases:              
Semiconductors and integrated circuits (EL015) 31,420 29,257 26,406 26,084 27,444 1,360 5.2
Telecommunications equipment (EL002) 13,612 14,628 15,169 16,271 17,058 787 4.8
Decreases:              
Measuring, testing, and controlling instruments (EL025) 22,177 24,884 26,391 26,583 25,692 -891 -3.4
All other 92,885 96,312 99,067 98,228 98,962 734 0.7
Total 160,093 165,081 167,033 167,166 169,156 1,990 1.2
U.S. general imports:              
Increases:              
Telecommunications equipment (EL002) 74,406 80,170 83,922 91,776 98,161 6,386 7
Medical goods (EL022) 29,260 31,852 32,693 34,211 36,079 1,868 5.5
Decreases:              
Consumer electronics (EL003) 51,264 46,552 47,967 43,201 42,791 -410 -0.9
All other 223,696 243,969 250,893 252,484 261,135 8,651 3.4
Total 378,626 402,543 415,476 421,672 438,167 16,495 3.9
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed March 27, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data.

U.S. Exports2

The $1.4 billion growth of domestic exports of U.S. semiconductor equipment such as chips and circuits in 2014 was largely driven by Malaysia (up $682.8 billion) and China (up $579.5 billion). Both countries are large producers of consumer electronics, telecommunications equipment, and information and communications technologies, all of which rely heavily on semiconductors as a principal component. Demand for these products continued to rise in 2014, contributing to growing demand for semiconductors: worldwide shipments of semiconductor wafers—a major component of semiconductors—increased by 11 percent over the previous year.3

The $787 million growth in U.S. domestic exports of telecommunications equipment during 2013–14 in part reflected increased demand for these goods as countries continued to expand their digital networks to accommodate growing Internet traffic and mobile services.4 The two largest export categories within this telecommunications subsector were computer network switches and routers, and cellular telephones,5 both of which were heavily re-exported goods. Re-exports represented 57 percent of total exports of the former and 69 percent of total exports of the latter (table EL.3).6 Although data are limited, the majority of these re-exports are believed to be used goods. Cellphones, for example, are commonly collected from wireless original equipment manufacturers, operators, and retailers by remarketers after consumers trade in their old devices for new ones.7 Many of these used devices are repaired, refurbished, and retested before being re-exported.8

Table EL.3: Electronic products: Leading changes in U.S. re-exports, 2010–14
 
Million $
 
           
Absolute change,
Percent change,
Item
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2013-14
2013-14
U.S. re-exports:              
Increases:              
EL015 Semiconductors and integrated circuits 15,618 14,520 14,538 15,192 14,555 -638 -4.2
EL002 Telecommunications equipment 13,837 16,889 18,370 19,829 21,841 2,012 10.1
EL017 Computers, peripherals, and parts 21,470 26,176 26,449 26,384 26,801 417 1.6
EL011 Circuit apparatus not exceeding 1000V 2,064 2,178 2,409 2,624 2,923 299 11.4
EL020 Optical goods, including ophthalmic goods 1,192 1,324 1,524 1,660 1,743 83 5
EL013 Parts of circuit apparatus 506 569 642 834 1,008 173 20.8
EL012 Circuit apparatus assemblies 753 1,021 1,245 1,487 1,587 100 6.7
EL022 Medical goods 5,451 5,749 6,689 7,542 7,915 374 5
EL009 Printed circuits 467 465 450 465 557 92 19.8
EL014 Electron tubes 64 66 66 68 54 -14 -19.9
EL008 Electrical capacitors and resistors 1,093 1,130 1,088 1,030 1,063 33 3.2
EL010 Circuit apparatus exceeding 1000V 85 100 118 125 116 -9 -7.5
EL007 Electric sound and visual signaling apparatus 520 597 608 626 725 99 15.8
EL003A Television receivers and video monitors 2,936 3,157 2,989 2,539 2,688 149 5.9
EL023 Watches and clocks 539 673 857 876 955 79 9
Decreases:              
EL025 Measuring, testing, and controlling instruments 3,426 3,942 4,328 4,608 5,105 497 10.8
EL005 Navigational instruments and remote control apparatus 738 874 1,003 994 1,449 456 45.9
EL004 Blank and prerecorded media 1,042 1,146 1,115 1,175 1,142 -33 -2.8
EL016 Miscellaneous electrical equipment 623 874 951 936 944 8 0.9
EL018 Photographic film and paper 131 142 141 111 126 15 13.5
EL021 Photographic cameras and equipment 915 929 916 838 836 -2 -0.3
EL003 Consumer electronics 5,557 6,045 6,037 5,494 5,682 188 3.4
EL001 Office machines 320 363 322 288 310 22 7.7
EL006 Radio and television broadcasting equipment 436 469 447 497 552 55 11
EL019 Optical fibers, optical fiber bundles and cables 158 270 266 286 359 73 25.4
EL024 Drawing, drafting, and calculating instruments 92 77 79 87 67 -20 -22.6
Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2010–14 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2014 (accessed February 20, 2015).
Note: Import values are based on Customs value; export values are based on free along ship value, U.S. port of export. Calculations based on unrounded data.

Mexico remained the largest destination for U.S. domestic exports of electronic products in 2014 and also registered the largest expansion of U.S. exports (up $964 million). The growth occurred across several subsectors, including parts of circuit apparatus, medical goods, and consumer electronics. Reasons for this increased demand vary. One important factor is Mexico’s standing as a leading manufacturing hub for contract electronics manufacturers, given its proximity to the large U.S. market and its abundance of relatively low-cost labor.9 As such, the country often imports inputs, such as parts of circuit boards, from the United States, which are then used for final manufacturing of various electronic products. Second, Mexico is a principal destination for U.S. exports of consumer electronics—the majority of which are re-exports from foreign-trade zones (FTZs) in the United States.10 Improved consumer confidence towards the end of 2014 likely bolstered demand for these goods in Mexico.11

Finally, Mexico’s increased investments in the healthcare sector, which rose to 6.7 percent of GDP in 2014, may have translated into growing demand for medical products.12 Total U.S. export growth was slightly limited by an $891 million decrease in measuring and testing equipment and an $832 million reduction in navigational instruments. These reductions were due in part to the appreciation of the U.S. dollar during 2013–14, which made U.S. exports relatively more expensive in foreign markets.13

U.S. Imports

Although U.S. general imports increased for 7 of the 10 largest suppliers within the electronic products sector, the $10.1 billion expansion of imports from China accounted for about two-thirds of the import growth by value. U.S. imports from China rose across all but one of the subsectors within the electronic products sector; however, cellphones—which are in the telecommunications equipment subsector—and consumer electronics accounted for the majority of import growth. China is the global leader in the production of electronic goods, including the iPhone 6. This smartphone has achieved unprecedented sales both globally and in the United States in recent months, and it accounted for an estimated one-quarter of total shipments of smartphones during 2014.14 Moreover, the United States is the world’s largest market for consumer electronics, and U.S. consumer confidence—which reached a seven-year high during 2014—buoyed demand for these goods and other electronic products.15

A $2.9 billion increase in imports from Malaysia also contributed to U.S. import growth, with semiconductors representing more than 80 percent ($2.3 billion) of the increase. FTZs in the United States conduct upstream manufacturing for various electronic products, assembling imported components—such as chip boards and other material used in semiconductors—into a finished chip and then exporting them abroad for final assembly into a finished good.16 Manufacturing within FTZs has increased since 2012, as the application process and other operational procedures have been streamlined to facilitate more activity.17

The growth in U.S. imports was slightly attenuated by a $1.3 billion decline in imports from Japan, led by a $402 million reduction in imports of computers and associated peripherals. As previously discussed, China represents a growing share of the world’s production of electronic goods, and most Japanese companies rely on Chinese production for these goods, including computers and peripherals.18 As a result, U.S. imports from Japan of these goods have declined in each of the past five years.


1 The only subsector to register a decline in general imports from China was “circuit apparatus exceeding 1000V,” for which imports fell from $109.7 million to $105.2 million during 2013–14.
2 As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports.
3 Semi, “Silicon,” February 9, 2015.
4 Thomas, “Telcos,” March 2, 2015; EIU, World Industry Outlook, September 2014.
5 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (for HTS subheadings 8517.62 and HTS 8517.12; accessed March 15, 2015).
6 Ibid. These percentages reflect foreign exports as a share of total U.S. exports.
7 Brightstar, “Buyback,” n.d. (accessed March 15, 2015).
8 Presumably, these activities do not add value, but simply attempt to restore the item to its original or near-original condition.
9 EIU, “Mexico: Consumer Goods and Retail Report,” October 15, 2014.
10 As discussed in greater detail in the Special Topics webpage of this report, FTZs permit the duty-free importation of various goods that may undergo further processing, or be stored in warehouses before being re-exported. Consumer electronics are among the leading categories of re-exports from FTZs. FTZ Board, “75th Annual Report to Congress,” August 2014; industry representative, telephone interview by USITC staff, Washington, DC, March 5, 2015. According to official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 67 percent of consumer electronics exports to Mexico in 2014 were re-exports.
11 EIU, “Mexico: Consumer Goods and Retail Report,” October 15, 2014.
12 EIU, Industry Report: Healthcare, Mexico, December 2014.
13 During 2014, the trade-weighted U.S. dollar index—which compares the value of the U.S. dollar to a basket of currencies—increased by nearly 10 percent, from 101.9 to 111.1. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, “Trade Weighted,” n.d. (accessed March 16, 2015).
14 Bradshaw, “Apple Shares,” January 30, 2015.
15 EIU, “Industry Report, Consumer Goods and Retail,” November 2014.
16 Industry official, email message to USITC staff, March 3, 2015.
17 Ibid.
18 Obe, “Japan Export Growth Stalls,” February 16, 2014.