U.S. Trade by Industry Sector and Selected Trading Partners

Author: Alissa Tafti
International Economist

U.S. Exports1

In 2015, U.S. total exports fell by $116.0 billion from 2014 levels (7.2 percent), slipping from $1,620.5 billion to $1,504.6 billion (table US.1 and figure US.1). The decrease in exports was primarily due to declining crude petroleum prices, weak global economic growth that dampened global demand, and continued appreciation of the U.S. dollar. Exports decreased in all of the sectors discussed in this report with the exception of footwear, for which exports increased by $3.0 million (0.2 percent).

Table US.1: U.S. total exports, general imports, and merchandise trade balance, by major industry/commodity sectors, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change,
2014–15
Percent
change,
2014–15
U.S. total exports:              
    Agricultural products 150,461 154,274 157,637 164,451 146,553 -17,898 -10.9
    Forest products 40,849 39,832 40,826 41,159 39,058 -2,101 -5.1
    Chemicals and related products 225,308 228,922 231,296 234,825 227,963 -6,861 -2.9
    Energy-related products 137,176 143,379 154,423 160,917 111,746 -49,171 -30.6
    Textiles and apparel 22,372 22,454 23,321 23,988 23,218 -769 -3.2
    Footwear 1,290 1,332 1,391 1,455 1,458 3 0.2
    Minerals and metals 165,012 163,980 160,523 152,907 135,743 -17,165 -11.2
    Machinery 130,321 138,528 139,646 145,915 138,487 -7,427 -5.1
    Transportation equipment 280,064 313,396 322,173 336,278 326,269 -10,010 -3.0
    Electronic products 251,669 257,698 261,218 267,772 263,893 -3,880 -1.4
    Miscellaneous manufactures 38,608 41,385 43,849 47,628 47,321 -307 -0.6
    Special provisions 39,378 40,639 42,136 43,237 42,888 -349 -0.8
        Total 1,482,508 1,545,821 1,578,439 1,620,532 1,504,597 -115,934 -7.2
U.S. general imports:              
    Agricultural products 116,374 123,321 126,657 136,207 136,858 651 0.5
    Forest products 36,274 37,071 39,985 42,105 42,290 185 0.4
    Chemicals and related products 237,927 237,243 236,697 251,434 260,380 8,946 3.6
    Energy-related products 458,764 428,235 384,142 351,628 194,475 -157,153 -44.7
    Textiles and apparel 113,848 113,860 118,012 121,689 126,569 4,880 4.0
    Footwear 22,654 23,887 24,811 26,014 27,660 1,646 6.3
    Minerals and metals 193,651 195,077 190,441 205,048 188,946 -16,101 -7.9
    Machinery 156,123 167,783 170,225 184,948 185,502 555 0.3
    Transportation equipment 309,994 363,317 375,521 402,972 425,428 22,456 5.6
    Electronic products 402,543 415,473 421,656 437,885 448,879 10,994 2.5
    Miscellaneous manufactures 99,878 104,750 109,936 114,317 124,706 10,389 9.1
    Special provisions 59,924 66,250 70,287 73,439 79,969 6,531 8.9
        Total 2,207,954 2,276,267 2,268,370 2,347,685 2,241,664 -106,022 -4.5
U.S. merchandise trade balance:              
    Agricultural products 34,087 30,953 30,980 28,244 9,695 -18,549 -65.7
    Forest products 4,575 2,761 841 -946 -3,232 -2,286 -241.6
    Chemicals and related products -12,619 -8,321 -5,401 -16,609 -32,417 -15,807 -95.2
    Energy-related products -321,588 -284,856 -229,719 -190,711 -82,729 107,982 56.6
    Textiles and apparel -91,475 -91,405 -94,692 -97,701 -103,351 -5,650 -5.8
    Footwear -21,364 -22,554 -23,420 -24,559 -26,202 -1,643 -6.7
    Minerals and metals -28,640 -31,097 -29,918 -52,140 -53,204 -1,063 -2.0
    Machinery -25,803 -29,255 -30,579 -39,033 -47,015 -7,982 -20.5
    Transportation equipment -29,930 -49,921 -53,348 -66,694 -99,159 -32,465 -48.7
    Electronic products -150,874 -157,774 -160,438 -170,113 -184,987 -14,874 -8.7
    Miscellaneous manufactures -61,270 -63,365 -66,087 -66,688 -77,385 -10,697 -16.0
    Special provisions -20,546 -25,611 -28,151 -30,201 -37,081 -6,880 -22.8
        Total -725,447 -730,446 -689,931 -727,153 -737,066 -9,913 -1.4

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. Sectors are ordered by the level of processing of the products.

Figure US.1: U.S. total exports and general imports decreased in 2015 after steadily increasing from 2011 to 2014

US.1: Bar Graph. The graph shows that U.S. total exports, general imports, and trade deficit steadily increased from 2011 and 2014. In 2015, U.S total exports, general imports both declined, while the deficit increased (see table DT.US.1).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: USITC DataWeb/USDOC (accessed February 10, 2016).
Note: See appendix table DT.US.1,

The largest sectoral decline in exports occurred in energy-related products. Exports in this sector decreased by $49.2 billion (30.6 percent) to $111.7 billion, led by a decrease in exports of refined petroleum products (table US.2). The drop in value of exports of energy-related products was primarily the result of falling crude petroleum prices, as export volumes increased in 2015.2

Table US.2: All merchandise sectors: 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. total exports:              
    Increases:              
    Transportation equipment:              
     Aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment (TE013) 87,671 103,699 113,863 124,158 128,846 4,688 3.8
     Aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment (TE013)              
     Certain motor-vehicle parts (TE010) 40,598 44,127 45,524 45,859 47,093 1,234 2.7
     Medicinal chemicals (CH019) 48,596 51,225 51,839 54,681 58,671 3,990 7.3
     Telecommunications equipment (EL002) 31,516 33,605 36,107 38,945 40,853 1,908 4.9
     Semiconductor manufacturing equipment and robotics (MT019) 16,440 14,952 15,167 16,707 18,046 1,339 8.0
    Decreases:              
     Energy-related products:              
       Petroleum products (EP005) 102,041 111,836 121,010 118,679 82,131 -36,548 -30.8
       Natural gas and components (EP006) 10,578 9,251 13,025 17,974 12,007 -5,967 -33.2
       Crude petroleum (EP004) 2,084 2,634 5,099 12,309 8,739 -3,570 -29.0
       Transportation equipment:
Motor vehicles (TE009)
63,983 70,430 74,098 77,694 70,402 -7,292 -9.4
       Construction and mining equipment (TE004) 30,626 32,991 26,342 22,957 17,572 -5,385 -23.5
       Internal combustion piston engines, other than for aircraft (TE002) 19,318 20,265 20,240 21,756 19,602 -2,154 -9.9
       Agricultural products:
Oilseeds (AG032)
17,949 25,129 21,934 24,230 19,210 -5,020 -20.7
       Cereals (AG030) 28,160 20,368 19,954 22,413 18,549 -3,863 -17.2
     Minerals and metals:              
       Steel mill products (MM025) 17,772 18,212 17,152 17,069 13,710 -3,359 -19.7
       Natural and synthetic gemstones (MM019) 19,309 18,187 20,948 23,051 20,246 -2,805 -12.2
       Precious metals and non-numismatic coins (MM020) 44,932 45,307 40,644 29,718 27,332 -2,386 -8.0
    All other 900,934 923,602 935,491 952,331 901,588 -50,743 -5.3
        Total 1,482,508 1,545,821 1,578,439 1,620,532 1,504,597 -115,934 -7.2
U.S. general imports:              
    Increases:              
      Medicinal chemicals (CH019) 92,961 89,365 85,435 93,388 109,822 16,434 17.6
      Transportation equipment:
Motor vehicles (TE009)
140,963 168,194 176,789 183,144 197,730 14,586 8.0
       Certain motor-vehicle parts (TE010) 63,368 73,333 75,215 82,005 86,151 4,145 5.1
      Electronic products:              
       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
       Blank and prerecorded media (EL004) 4,106 4,269 4,662 5,650 6,910 1,261 22.3
      Miscellaneous manufactures:              
        Furniture (MS009) 24,703 26,908 28,645 31,024 34,418 3,394 10.9
        Works of art and miscellaneous manufactured  goods (MS017) 11,540 12,573 13,979 14,244 17,267 3,023 21.2
    Decreases:              
     Energy-related products:              
       Crude petroleum (EP004) 336,687 315,820 273,836 246,969 126,065 -120,903 -49.0
       Petroleum products (EP005) 94,648 92,564 89,198 79,771 51,502 -28,268 -35.4
       Natural gas and components (EP006) 17,291 11,481 13,036 17,070 9,932 -7,138 -41.8
      Minerals and metals:              
        Steel mill products (MM025) 30,890 34,231 29,117 38,163 30,493 -7,671 -20.1
        Precious metals and non-numismatic coins (MM020) 34,329 32,164 30,216 26,817 22,084 -4,733 -17.6
        Certain base metals and chemical elements (MM041) 7,511 6,761 5,850 6,700 5,310 -1,390 -20.7
        Copper and related articles (MM036) 10,979 9,732 10,155 9,141 7,914 -1,226 -13.4
        Natural and synthetic gemstones (MM019) 23,599 21,601 24,922 26,490 25,386 -1,104 -4.2
        Ferroalloys (MM022) 3,033 2,897 2,475 3,236 2,200 -1,036 -32.0
        Computers, peripherals, and parts (EL017) 120,774 122,736 121,106 121,186 119,288 -1,897 -1.6
        Chemicals and related products:
Organic specialty chemicals (CH005)
11,140 11,661 12,784 13,662 11,937 -1,726 -12.6
        Certain organic chemicals (CH006) 11,290 10,715 10,970 11,660 10,416 -1,244 -10.7
    All other 1,056,121 1,112,645 1,133,990 1,203,161 1,224,140 20,978 1.7
        Total 2,207,954 2,276,267 2,268,370 2,347,685 2,241,664 -106,022 -4.5

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.

Two other sectors experiencing significant absolute declines in exports included agricultural products and minerals and metals. Exports of agricultural products fell $17.9 billion (10.9 percent) to $146.6 billion, mainly as a result of lower commodity prices (figure US.2) and a stronger U.S. dollar.3 Exports in the minerals and metals sector which fell by $17.2 billion (11.2 percent) to $135.7 billion, largely resulting from sluggish global demand, lower prices for many products in this sector, and the increased value of the U.S. dollar in 2015.4

Figure US.2: Key commodity prices declined significantly from December 2014 to December 2015 (percent)

 

US.2: Bar Graph. It shows that between 2014 and 2015, prices of the following commodities fell by significant percentages: aluminum (22 percent), iron ore (40 percent), copper (28 percent), soybeans (17 percent), maize (8 percent), and crude petroleum (40 percent).

Sources: World Bank Commodity Markets monthly data (accessed May 3, 2016).

Additionally, although exports had risen in the transportation equipment sector from 2011 to 2014, in 2015 U.S. exports in this segment declined by $10.0 billion (3.0 percent), falling to $326.3 billion. The most significant decline in this sector occurred in exports of motor vehicles, which fell by $7.3 billion (9.4 percent). At the same time, exports of aircraft and related equipment increased by $4.7 billion (3.8 percent), and exports of certain motor vehicle parts rose by $1.2 billion (2.7 percent). There were notable increases in exports of medicinal chemicals, which rose by $4.0 billion (7.3 percent); of telecommunications equipment, which rose by $1.9 billion (4.9 percent); and of semiconductor equipment, which rose by $1.3 billion (8.0 percent).

U.S. Imports5

In 2015, the value of U.S. general imports decreased by $106.0 billion (4.5 percent), falling from $2,347.7 billion to $2,241.7 billion. As with U.S. exports, energy-related products experienced the largest decline by value, with imports of these products dropping by $157.2 billion (44.7 percent) to $194.5 billion. Within this sector, U.S. imports of crude petroleum dropped by $120.9 billion (49.0 percent), and imports of refined petroleum products fell by $28.3 billion (35.4 percent). Given that there was a slight increase in the volume of crude petroleum imported (see table ST.2 in the special topic chapter), the decline in the value of such U.S. imports was entirely due to falling crude petroleum prices. The value of imports in the minerals and metal sector also declined, falling to $188.9 billion (by $16.1 billion, or 7.9 percent).

The value of imports from all remaining sectors, however, rose by $67.2 billion in total, with the largest increases occurring in transportation equipment (by $22.5 billion, or 5.6 percent); electronic products (by $11.0 billion, or 2.5 percent); miscellaneous manufactures (by $10.4 billion, or 9.1 percent); and chemicals and related products (by $8.9 billion, or 3.6 percent). Increases in imports of motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts accounted for more than three-quarters of the growth in the value of imports in the transportation sector, with imports from Mexico accounting for nearly one-third of the total increase. Growth in imports of telecommunications equipment from China, Mexico, and Vietnam comprised about 70 percent of the total increase in the value of U.S. imports of electronic products.

Trade with Major Trading Partners

In 2015, the top trading partners with the United States continued to be China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Germany. As in previous years, these five partners accounted for more than half of total U.S. trade with the world. However, by contrast with previous years, in which Canada led all the United States’ trading partners in terms of combined imports and exports, for the first time China was the top U.S. trading partner. The total value of U.S. trade with China was $598.1 billion, higher than total U.S. trade with Canada ($575.2 billion; figure US.3).

Figure US.3: Total trade between the United States and its five largest single-country trading partners, 2015

US.3: Stacked bar graph. U.S. exports and U.S. imports with the top five single-country trading partners in 2015 are shown in descending order. China was the largest trade partner for the U.S. in terms of imports and exports combined, followed by Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Germany.

Source: USITC Dataweb/USDOC. (accessed February 10, 2016).
Note: See appendix table DT.US.3.

Of the United States’ major single-country trading partners, the United States saw its exports to Canada decline the most in value in 2015. These exports decreased by $32.4 billion (10.4 percent), falling from $312.4 billion to $280.0 billion (table US.3). The sectors most affected were petroleum products and natural gas, steel mill products, and motor vehicles. U.S. exports to China declined by $7.5 billion (6.1 percent), largely driven by China’s lower level of growth and subsequently lower demand for imports from the United States.6 U.S. exports to the United Kingdom and Germany increased by $2.5 billion (4.7 percent) and $0.6 billion (1.2 percent), respectively.

Table US.3: All merchandise sectors: U.S. total exports, general imports, and merchandise trade balance, by selected trading partners and groups, 2011–15

 
Million $
 
Item 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Absolute change,
2014–15
Percent
change,
2014–15
U.S. total exports:              
    China 104,122 110,517 121,721 123,676 116,186 -7,489 -6.1
    Canada 281,292 292,651 300,755 312,421 280,017 -32,404 -10.4
    Mexico 198,289 215,875 226,070 240,249 236,377 -3,871 -1.6
    Japan 65,800 69,976 65,216 66,827 62,472 -4,356 -6.5
    Germany 49,294 48,803 47,362 49,363 49,947 583 1.2
    South Korea 43,462 42,283 41,687 44,471 43,499 -973 -2.2
    United Kingdom 56,033 54,860 47,348 53,823 56,353 2,530 4.7
    France 27,857 30,813 31,735 31,301 30,077 -1,224 -3.9
    Taiwan 25,932 24,337 25,470 26,670 25,929 -741 -2.8
    India 21,542 22,106 21,811 21,608 21,530 -78 -0.4
    All other 608,886 633,601 649,263 650,123 582,212 -67,911 -10.4
        Total 1,482,508 1,545,821 1,578,439 1,620,532 1,504,597 -115,934 -7.2
    EU-28 269,580 265,683 262,086 276,142 272,688 -3,455 -1.3
    OPEC 64,809 81,727 84,711 82,346 72,781 -9,566 -11.6
    Latin America 367,301 399,059 410,430 424,267 389,684 -34,584 -8.2
    Asia 380,707 386,986 402,000 407,156 386,215 -20,941 -5.1
    Sub-Saharan Africa 21,165 22,503 23,979 25,488 17,832 -7,656 -30.0
U.S. general imports:              
    China 399,371 425,619 440,434 466,754 481,881 15,126 3.2
    Canada 315,325 324,263 332,558 347,798 295,190 -52,608 -15.1
    Mexico 262,874 277,594 280,555 294,074 294,741 667 0.2
    Japan 128,928 146,432 138,574 134,004 131,120 -2,884 -2.2
    Germany 98,684 109,226 114,349 123,260 124,139 880 0.7
    South Korea 56,661 58,899 62,433 69,518 71,827 2,309 3.3
    United Kingdom 51,263 55,006 52,850 54,392 57,805 3,413 6.3
    France 40,049 41,646 45,706 46,874 47,644 770 1.6
    Taiwan 41,405 38,861 37,939 40,581 40,708 127 0.3
    India 36,154 40,513 41,809 45,244 44,741 -503 -1.1
    All other 777,240 758,210 721,162 725,185 651,866 -73,319 -10.1
        Total 2,207,954 2,276,267 2,268,370 2,347,685 2,241,664 -106,022 -4.5
    EU-28 368,902 382,199 387,643 418,201 426,006 7,805 1.9
    OPEC 191,470 180,752 152,690 132,349 66,150 -66,199 -50.0
    Latin America 437,165 449,385 439,073 444,765 410,614 -34,152 -7.7
    Asia 796,218 849,741 865,577 910,934 941,481 30,547 3.4
    Sub-Saharan Africa 74,322 49,624 39,294 26,773 18,856 -7,917 -29.6
U.S. merchandise trade balance:              
    China -295,250 -315,102 -318,713 -343,079 -365,695 -22,616 -6.6
    Canada -34,033 -31,612 -31,803 -35,377 -15,174 20,204 57.1
    Mexico -64,585 -61,719 -54,485 -53,825 -58,364 -4,538 -8.4
    Japan -63,128 -76,456 -73,358 -67,176 -68,648 -1,472 -2.2
    Germany -49,390 -60,423 -66,987 -73,896 -74,193 -296 -0.4
    South Korea -13,200 -16,616 -20,747 -25,047 -28,329 -3,282 -13.1
    United Kingdom 4,771 -145 -5,502 -569 -1,452 -883 -155.3
    France -12,192 -10,833 -13,971 -15,573 -17,567 -1,994 -12.8
    Taiwan -15,473 -14,524 -12,469 -13,911 -14,779 -868 -6.2
    India -14,612 -18,407 -19,997 -23,637 -23,212 425 1.8
    All other -168,354 -124,609 -71,899 -75,062 -69,655 5,408 7.2
        Total -725,447 -730,446 -689,931 -727,153 -737,066 -9,913 -1.4
    EU-28 -99,322 -116,517 -125,557 -142,058 -153,318 -11,259 -7.9
    OPEC -126,661 -99,026 -67,979 -50,003 6,631 56,634 (a)
    Latin America -69,864 -50,326 -28,643 -20,498 -20,930 -432 -2.1
    Asia -415,512 -462,756 -463,577 -503,778 -555,266 -51,488 -10.2
    Sub-Saharan Africa -53,157 -27,122 -15,315 -1,285 -1,024 261 20.3

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.

aNot meaningful for purposes of comparison.

Although the United States’ imports from most of its major trading partners increased in 2015, U.S. imports from Canada, Japan, and India declined in 2015. U.S. imports from Canada experienced the largest decline among major U.S. trading partners, falling by $52.6 billion (15.1 percent) from $347.8 billion to $295.2 billion. The drop in imports was largely driven by declines in imports of crude petroleum ($36.2 billion), natural gas ($6.7 billion), and petroleum products ($3.7 billion). Imports from China experienced the largest increase by value among major U.S. trading partners, growing by $15.1 billion (3.2 percent). Notably, U.S. imports from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) declined by $66.2 billion (50.0 percent) to $66.2 billion, again, largely as a result of lower crude petroleum prices rather than changes in import volumes. Other significant decreases in U.S. imports occurred in steel mill products (down $7.7 billion or 20.1 percent), resulting from a decline in both prices and volume imported, and natural gas and components (down $7.1 billion or 41.8 percent).

U.S. Trade Balance

The U.S. trade deficit increased by $9.9 billion (1.4 percent) in 2015 to reach $737.1 billion, the highest level in the 2011–15 period. In 2015, only the agricultural products sector had a trade surplus; however, this surplus continued to decline, down $18.5 billion (65.7 percent) in 2015. All other sectors maintained trade deficits, with the trade deficit shrinking in only one of the remaining sectors—energy-related products. The significant decrease of $108.0 billion (56.6 percent) in this sector’s deficit, which fell to $82.7 billion, partly offset the declining trade balance in every other sector and limited the growth of the overall trade shortfall. Sectors experiencing a large value increase in trade deficits included transportation equipment, in which the deficit grew from $32.5 billion to $99.2 billion, or by 48.7 percent; chemicals and related products, in which it grew from $15.8 billion to $32.4 billion, or by 95.2 percent; electronic products, in which it grew by $14.9 billion, or 8.7 percent; and miscellaneous manufactures, in which it grew by $10.7 billion, or 16.0 percent.

The U.S. trade deficit with China increased by $22.6 billion (6.6 percent); with the United Kingdom, by $0.9 billion (155.3 percent). Of the major U.S. trading partners, the trade shortfalls with Canada and India were the only ones to decline in 2015, with the trade deficit with Canada contracting by $20.2 billion (57.1 percent) to $15.2 billion. The overall U.S. trade deficit with Asia (as a region) increased by $51.5 billion (10.2 percent). By contrast, the United States had a $6.6 billion trade surplus with the OPEC countries, a reversal from previous years.

 

1 For more information on reasons for the sectoral trade shifts discussed here, please see the individual sector webpages.
2 For more information, please see the “Energy and Related Products“ webpage.
3 USDA, ERS, “Agricultural Exports and Trade Balance Are Declining,” January 26, 2016.
4 USGS, Minerals Commodity Summaries 2016, 2016, 7.
5 For more information on reasons for the sectoral trade shifts discussed here, please see the individual sector webpages.
6 IMF, World Economic Outlook Update, January 2016.