Definitions of the five broad metrics gathered by the U.S. Census:
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 Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) under Customs custody.
Imports for consumption (sometimes called “special imports”) are merchandise that has physically cleared through Customs, either entering consumption channels immediately or entering for consumption after withdrawal from bonded warehouses or FTZs under Customs custody.
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.
Re-exports (sometimes called foreign 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.
Total exports are U.S. domestic exports plus re-exports. This includes all exports of physical merchandise from the United States.1
1USDOC, Census webpage, “Trade Definitions,” https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/reference/definitions/ (accessed March 25, 2015); USITC, “A Note on U.S. Trade Statistics,” August 22, 2014, http://www.usitc.gov/publications/research/tradestatsnote.pdf (accessed March 25, 2015). Census also notes the following definition for foreign exports: “Exports of foreign merchandise (re-exports) consist of commodities of foreign origin which have entered the United States for consumption, or into Customs bonded warehouses or U.S. Foreign Trade Zones, and which, at the time of exportation, are in substantially the same condition as when imported.” USDOC, Census webpage, “Guide to Foreign Trade Statistics,” http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/guide/sec2.html (accessed March 25, 2015).