Electronic Products

Author: Sharon Ford
International Trade Analyst

Change in 2015 from 2014:

  To view changing data, mouseover the graphic below.
  • U.S. total exports: Decreased by $3.9 billion (1.4 percent) to $264 billion
  • U.S. general imports: Increased by $11 billion (2.5 percent) to $449 billion

From 2014 to 2015, U.S. total exports of electronic products fell by $3.9 billion (1.4 percent) to $264 billion in 2015, with decreases in both domestic and foreign exports. The largest declines in domestic exports occurred in measuring, testing, and controlling instruments, as well as computers, peripherals, and parts. Foreign exports (re-exports) of semiconductors and integrated circuits, as well as of computers, peripherals, and parts, also fell. Domestic exports to Canada and Japan posted the largest percentage declines for the sector (table EL.1).

Table EL.1: Electronic products: U.S. exports and general imports, by selected trading partners, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. exports of domestic merchandise:              
    China 11,932 12,330 14,123 14,523 15,204 681 4.7
    Mexico 16,746 18,891 20,732 21,689 23,288 1,599 7.4
    Japan 10,650 11,251 10,385 10,152 9,585 -567 -5.6
    Malaysia 5,812 4,705 4,532 5,221 5,153 -68 -1.3
    Canada 18,421 18,704 17,974 17,556 15,685 -1,871 -10.7
    South Korea 7,171 7,173 6,715 6,855 7,271 416 6.1
    Germany 8,236 7,948 7,957 8,233 8,204 -28 -0.3
    Taiwan 4,940 3,735 3,536 3,737 4,229 492 13.2
    Thailand 2,304 2,154 2,223 2,354 2,245 -109 -4.6
    United Kingdom 5,493 5,416 5,016 5,476 5,415 -61 -1.1
    All other 73,375 74,710 73,947 73,577 69,715 -3,862 -5.2
        Total domestic exports 165,081 167,018 167,140 169,374 165,996 -3,378 -2.0
Foreign exports 86,588 90,680 94,078 98,398 97,897 -502 -0.5
Total U.S. exports (domestic and foreign) 251,669 257,698 261,218 267,772 263,893 -3,880 -1.4
U.S. general imports:              
    China 158,625 170,940 176,141 186,332 188,954 2,622 1.4
    Mexico 62,354 65,628 65,188 64,651 72,093 7,443 11.5
    Japan 26,618 26,300 24,214 22,875 21,663 -1,211 -5.3
    Malaysia 16,681 17,210 19,180 22,056 25,323 3,267 14.8
    Canada 9,786 9,521 9,101 9,090 8,930 -160 -1.8
    South Korea 18,207 14,610 16,701 17,371 16,166 -1,205 -6.9
    Germany 13,966 14,208 14,241 15,167 14,780 -387 -2.6
    Taiwan 21,015 17,253 16,378 17,327 16,310 -1,017 -5.9
    Thailand 9,567 10,975 11,574 12,326 13,339 1,013 8.2
    United Kingdom 5,401 5,611 5,445 5,554 5,576 22 0.4
    All other 60,323 63,217 63,494 65,136 65,744 609 0.9
       Total general imports 402,543 415,473 421,656 437,885 448,879 10,994 2.5
 

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
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).

By contrast, U.S. general imports of electronic products expanded by $11 billion (2.5 percent) to $449 billion in 2015, reflecting increases in imports of telecommunications equipment and medical goods. The largest percentage increases in imports of electronic products were from Mexico and Malaysia, up by 12 percent ($7.4 billion) and 15 percent ($3.3 billion), respectively. Imports from China, the largest U.S. supplier, rose by a modest 1.4 percent ($2.6 billion). That increase was offset by a $3.4 billion reduction in imports from Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan (combined).

U.S. Exports1

U.S. domestic exports of electronic products declined $3.4 billion (2.0 percent) to $166 billion in 2015. The decrease occurred against the backdrop of a strong U.S. dollar, volatility in commodities prices, slowing economic growth in key international markets, and growing overseas production capacity.2 Dominating the decreases were exports of measuring, testing, and controlling instruments, down $1.8 billion (6.9 percent), and of computers, peripherals, and parts, down $1.3 billion (6.1 percent) (table EL.2). Together, the two subsectors accounted for more than half of the total absolute decline. U.S. domestic exports of electronic products declined the most to Canada, down $1.9 billion (10.7 percent), followed by those to Japan, down $567 million (5.6 percent).

Table EL.2: Electronic products: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change, 
2014–15
Percent
change, 
2014–15
U.S. domestic exports:              
    Increases:              
        Television receivers and video monitors (EL003A) 1,722 1,383 1,217 1,234 1,787 553 44.8
        Telecommunications equipment (EL002) 14,628 15,172 16,269 17,106 17,554 448 2.6
        Miscellaneous electrical equipment (EL016) 2,346 2,628 2,588 2,436 2,805 369 15.1
    Decreases:              
        Measuring, testing, and controlling instruments (EL025) 24,884 26,390 26,559 25,707 23,926 -1,781 -6.9
        Computers, peripherals, and parts (EL017) 20,352 21,076 20,124 20,578 19,326 -1,252 -6.1
    All other 101,150 100,369 100,383 102,311 100,598 -1,714 -1.7
        Total 165,081 167,018 167,140 169,374 165,996 -3,378 -2.0
U.S. general imports:              
    Increases:              
        Telecommunications equipment (EL002) 80,170 83,922 91,781 98,137 104,960 6,823 7.0
        Medical goods (EL022) 31,852 32,693 34,212 36,068 37,738 1,670 4.6
    All other 290,520 298,857 295,664 303,680 306,181 2,501 0.8
        Total 402,543 415,473 421,656 437,885 448,879 10,994 2.5
 

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce for the 2011–15 period. These reflect all official revisions of previously published data up to June 2015 (accessed February 10, 2016).
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 widespread economic downturn and the global drop in energy commodity prices reduced government consumption and investment in energy research and exploration in countries around the world.3 As a result of suppressed demand, U.S. exports of measuring, testing, and controlling equipment fell to 7 of the 10 leading destinations for the subsector in 2015. The pronounced deceleration in China's economy reduced funds for geographical surveying and related research, which contributed to a decline in U.S. exports to China of $266 million (7.9 percent).4 The global drop in crude petroleum prices reduced demand for further exploration in the Canadian tar sands, and, thus, for surveying instruments and appliances for gas and oil exploration.5 As a result, exports of these products to Canada fell by $364 million (12.1 percent). The combined drop in exports to these two countries accounted for 35.4 percent of the total decline in U.S. exports of measuring, testing, and controlling equipment.

Numerous factors contributed to the decline of U.S. exports of computers, peripherals, and parts. These include longer personal computer (PC) lifecycles, competition from mobile phones and tablets, and shifts toward cloud services and software defined networking and storage. Worldwide shipments of PCs, which constitute 31 percent of the subsector, fell 10.6 percent in 2015, representing the largest drop in history.6 As the computer market has shifted away from PCs and toward mobile phones and tablets, the need for computer peripherals has also fallen.7 All-in-one tablets, for example, have essentially replaced webcams, keyboards, and mice with built-in video recording and touch screens.8 Exports of computers, peripherals, and parts to Japan—where a slowing economic outlook and continued uncertainty over currency dampened demand—dropped by $264 million (29.1 percent). Exports to Canada, which entered a recession in 2015, also declined significantly, falling by $256 million (9.5 percent).

Although the overall U.S. domestic exports of electronic products declined, some subsectors experienced an increase in exports. Examples included television receivers and video monitors, up $553 million (44.8 percent); telecommunications equipment, up $448 million (2.6 percent); and miscellaneous electrical equipment, up $369 million (15.1 percent). Domestic exports of electronic products also increased to 4 of the top 10 U.S. trading partners, namely, Mexico, up $1.6 billion (7.4 percent); China, up $681 million (4.7 percent); Taiwan, up $492 million (13.2 percent); and South Korea, up $416 million (6.1 percent).

In 2015, the leading destinations for U.S. exports of electronic products were NAFTA partners Mexico ($23.3 billion) and Canada ($15.7 billion). Together, they accounted for 23 percent of sector exports. They were followed by China ($15.2 billion) and Japan ($9.6 billion). The four countries accounted for 38 percent of U.S. exports in this sector. Mexico remained the largest destination for U.S. domestic exports of electronic products in 2015 and also registered the largest expansion of U.S. exports in the sector.9

Re-exports of semiconductors and integrated circuits fell $1.2 billion (8.5 percent), while re-exports of telecommunications equipment rose $1.5 billion (6.7 percent). Electronics re-exports continued to be significant, representing over a third (37 percent) of total U.S. exports, in 2015. As discussed in 2014 Trade Shifts, the re-exports were either (1) merchandise that had been stored at a U.S. customs bonded warehouse or a U.S. foreign trade zone (FTZ), or (2) merchandise that was previously imported for consumption and stored or used in the U.S. customs territory. The majority of re-exports are goods that were cleared through U.S. Customs as imports for consumption and did not rely on the U.S. FTZ program.10 Although data are limited, previous Commission work suggests that a large proportion of these may have been used electronics (e.g., cellphones) of foreign origin, either refurbished or exported for disassembly and processing as scrap.11 As noted in last year's report, FTZs in the United States also conduct upstream manufacturing for various electronic products, assembling imported components—such as chip boards and other material used in semiconductors—into a finished chip, then exporting them abroad for final assembly into a finished good.12 Manufacturing within FTZs has increased since 2012, as the application process and other operational procedures have been streamlined to facilitate more activity.13

U.S. Imports

U.S. general imports of electronic products increased marginally by $11 billion (2.5 percent) to a record $448.9 billion in 2015.14 U.S. imports of telecommunications equipment and medical goods had the largest increase by value in 2015. The greatest increases in imports for the sector were from China and Mexico. Telecommunications equipment imports increased by $6.8 billion (7 percent) to $105 billion, with China and Mexico posting the largest increases at 4.6 percent and 27.1 percent, respectively. Within this sector, imports of “machines for the reception, conversion and transmission or regeneration of voice, images or other data, including switching and routing apparatus,” increased by $6.5 billion (16.3 percent) and accounted for most of the total subsector increase.15 Due to supply chains that continue to expand, demand for wireless telecommunications services and associated infrastructure for advanced mobile communication technologies grew significantly, stimulating upgrades and renewals of transmission equipment.16 Additionally, communication technologies have fostered new applications and demand from new industries. E-services and call centers, for example, are now commonly adopted by government institutions and large enterprises.17 Increases in such services coincided with an increase in overall demand for imports of electronics products.

U.S. imports of medical goods increased by $1.7 billion (4.6 percent) in 2015 to $37.7 billion. Imports increased most from China and Mexico, rising 10.3 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively. U.S. demand for medical devices was bolstered by an aging population; growing demands for care, particularly for specialty medical, dental, and mental health care; and higher capital spending on health services.18 A greater supply of competitive overseas medical device manufacturers, coupled with an appreciation of the dollar, further contributed to the growth of imports.19 Within this sector, imports of catheters, cannulae, and similar devices showed the greatest increase, increasing by $523 million and representing 31 percent of total growth in medical goods imports in 2015.20

 

1 As appropriate, this section will address total exports, domestic exports, and re-exports (foreign exports).
2 Foreign-based manufacturers have increasingly produced electronic goods at lower price points and, thus, fueled competition against domestically produced equipment.
3 USDOC, ITA, Upstream Oil and Gas, May 2016, 5, 19. Energy commodity prices declined from $111.73 in 2014 to $61.43 in 2015. World Bank Commodity Price Data (“The Pink Sheet”), Annual Index (Real), May 9, 2016.
4 USDOC, ITA, Upstream Oil and Gas, May 2016, 27–28.
5 Canadian Association of Oil Well Drilling Contractors, State of the Industry Report, 2016, 4.
6 IDC, Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, Q415; worldwide PC shipments declined 9.8 percent in 2013.
7 Petrillo, Computer Peripheral Manufacturing in the US, October 2015, 4.
8 Arndt, “How to Get by Using a Tablet,” April 5, 2015; Bonnington, “In Less than Two Years, a Smartphone,” February 10, 2015. <
9 The top destinations for U.S. electronic products remained mostly unchanged from 2009 to 2015.
10 USITC, Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade 2014, 2015, 7.
11 USITC, Used Electronic Products, February 2013, xi.
12 Industry official, email message to USITC staff, March 3, 2015.
13 Industry official, email message to USITC staff, March 3, 2015.
14 High device penetration rates, strong demand for the latest devices, and short replacement cycles make the United States the most lucrative market for vendors.
15 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS subheading 8517.62.00; accessed March 8, 2016).
16 Ulama, Telecommunication Networking Equipment Manufacturing in the US, April 2016, 4, 8–9. 
17 Ahn, “The Future of the Government Call Center,” July 2, 2014.
18 Curran, Medical Device Manufacturing in the US, January 2016, 7; Werner, “The Older Population: 2010,” November 2011.
19 Curran, Jack, Medical Device Manufacturing in the US, January 2016, 5.
20 USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS subheading 9018.39.00; accessed March 8, 2016).