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China

Gregory LaRocca
(202) 205-3405
Gregory.LaRocca@usitc.gov

  To view changing data, hover over or touch the animated graphic below.

Change in 2017 from 2016:

  • U.S. total exports to China: Increased by $14.8 billion (12.8 percent) to $130.4 billion
  • U.S. general imports from China: Increased by $43.0 billion (9.3 percent) to $505.6 billion
  • U.S. trade deficit with China: Increased by $28.2 billion (8.1 percent) to $375.2 billion

U.S. Total Exports

U.S. total exports to China rose 12.8 percent to $130.4 billion in 2017. U.S. exports for most industry sectors increased, with major factors including the expansion of the Chinese economy by 6.9 percent in 2017,[1] relaxed U.S. regulation of crude petroleum exports, and increased U.S. natural gas export capacity.[2]

The largest U.S. export sector shift occurred in energy-related products, whose value surged by $6.0 billion (199 percent) to $9 billion in 2017 (table CHI.1).  Within this sector, the value of U.S. exports of crude petroleum grew by 1,130 percent, rising by $4.1 billion to $4.4 billion. By volume, U.S. exports of crude petroleum increased by 1,064 percent from 7.4 million barrels in 2016 to 78.7 million barrels in 2017.  On December 18, 2015, the U.S. Congress lifted crude petroleum export restrictions,[3] and U.S. exports of crude petroleum to China have subsequently accelerated.[4]

Exports of natural gas and components also grew strongly, increasing by $1.3 billion (117 percent) to $2.5 billion. Increased infrastructure and export capacity at Cheniere’s Sabine Pass liquefaction terminal in Louisiana, as well as rising demand, supported a 26.9 percent increase in U.S. natural gas exports to China (to 68.6 million tons).[5]

Table CH.1: China: U.S. total exports, general imports, and merchandise trade balance, by major industry/commodity sectors, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. total exports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Agricultural products
26,835
25,738
21,664
22,929
21,091
-1,838
-8.0
    Forest products
6,900
7,020
6,431
6,796
7,532
736
10.8
    Chemicals and related products
14,556
14,716
14,248
14,372
16,681
2,309
16.1
    Energy-related products
3,150
2,094
2,628
3,010
9,000
5,990
199.0
    Textiles and apparel
1,387
1,274
1,010
892
932
40
4.5
    Footwear
51
56
81
90
109
19
21.0
    Minerals and metals
12,198
10,930
7,999
7,342
9,046
1,703
23.2
    Machinery
9,560
10,104
10,025
9,602
10,417
815
8.5
    Transportation equipment
26,069
29,994
28,767
27,700
31,963
4,263
15.4
    Electronic products
19,305
19,882
21,167
20,972
21,529
558
2.7
    Miscellaneous manufactures
777
858
956
875
898
23
2.6
    Special provisions
957
992
955
1,023
1,172
149
14.6
        Total
121,746
123,657
115,932
115,602
130,370
14,767
12.8
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Agricultural products
6,989
7,008
6,802
6,719
7,072
353
5.3
    Forest products
8,274
8,873
9,517
9,562
9,819
256
2.7
    Chemicals and related products
29,466
31,892
30,995
29,810
33,581
3,771
12.7
    Energy-related products
511
635
538
717
686
-31
-4.3
    Textiles and apparel
46,467
47,219
48,887
45,204
45,029
-175
-0.4
    Footwear
17,016
17,066
17,276
14,821
14,255
-566
-3.8
    Minerals and metals
27,788
31,039
32,057
30,242
32,958
2,716
9.0
    Machinery
44,345
48,144
50,524
48,427
53,018
4,591
9.5
    Transportation equipment
18,053
21,554
23,920
24,235
26,357
2,123
8.8
    Electronic products
176,141
186,705
189,217
180,404
205,606
25,201
14.0
    Miscellaneous manufactures
60,787
62,886
67,899
67,044
71,062
4,019
6.0
    Special provisions
4,592
5,454
5,558
5,432
6,152
720
13.3
        Total
440,430
468,475
483,189
462,618
505,597
42,979
9.3
U.S. merchandise trade balance:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Agricultural products
19,847
18,731
14,862
16,210
14,018
-2,192
-13.5
    Forest products
-1,374
-1,853
-3,086
-2,767
-2,287
480
17.4
    Chemicals and related products
-14,910
-17,176
-16,747
-15,438
-16,900
-1,462
-9.5
    Energy-related products
2,639
1,459
2,090
2,293
8,314
6,021
262.6
    Textiles and apparel
-45,080
-45,945
-47,876
-44,313
-44,098
215
0.5
    Footwear
-16,965
-17,010
-17,195
-14,731
-14,146
585
4.0
    Minerals and metals
-15,590
-20,109
-24,057
-22,899
-23,912
-1,013
-4.4
    Machinery
-34,785
-38,039
-40,499
-38,825
-42,601
-3,776
-9.7
    Transportation equipment
8,016
8,440
4,847
3,465
5,606
2,141
61.8
    Electronic products
-156,836
-166,823
-168,050
-159,433
-184,076
-24,644
-15.5
    Miscellaneous manufactures
-60,011
-62,028
-66,944
-66,168
-70,164
-3,996
-6.0
    Special provisions
-3,635
-4,462
-4,602
-4,409
-4,980
-571
-12.9
        Total
-318,684
-344,818
-367,257
-347,016
-375,228
-28,212
-8.1

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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 classified therein.

The value of U.S. exports of transportation equipment to China also grew significantly, increasing by $4.3 billion (15.4 percent) to $32 billion in 2017—due, again, to growing consumer demand. Rising U.S. exports of motor vehicles and aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment contributed to most of the change. Motor vehicle exports increased by $1.8 billion (20.7 percent) to $10.8 billion in 2017, while exports of U.S. aircraft, spacecraft, and related parts increased $1.7 billion (11.6 percent) to $16.3 billion. Chinese consumers purchased 3 percent more motor vehicles in 2017 than in 2016 (total 2017 sales were 28.9 million vehicles),[6] and the burgeoning Chinese commercial airline sector is reliant upon foreign-produced jetliners.[7]

U.S. exports to China of minerals and metals increased by $1.7 billion (23.2 percent) to $9 billion in 2017. Precious metal and non-numismatic coin exports increased by $575 million (183.3 percent) to $889 million. In particular, U.S. exports of unrefined and refined gold grew almost eightfold, increasing by $532 million (683.8 percent) to $610 million in 2017. China has relied upon increased imports to fill the gap between rebounding domestic demand and lesser domestic mine output. Rising consumer incomes, market reforms, and traditional cultural preferences[8] have led China to become the world’s leading gold market for the last five years. Chinese demand for gold in 2017 was particularly strong, as consumption rose by 38 metric tons (4.2 percent) to 953 metric tons.[9] However, Chinese mined-gold output fell by 13 metric tons (3.0 percent) to 453 metric tons in 2017,[10] a drop attributed by market observers to stricter environmental regulations and increased resource-extraction taxes.[11]

Agricultural products experienced the only sectoral decrease among U.S. exports to China, falling by $1.8 billion (8 percent) to $21.1 billion in 2017. Large declines in U.S. exports of oilseeds and animal feeds offset modest gains for cotton, fish, and dairy products. The value of oilseed exports (principally exports of soybeans) decreased by $1.8 billion (12.9 percent) to $12.4 billion in 2017. By volume, U.S. exports of soybeans decreased by 4 million metric tons (11 percent) to 23 million metric tons in 2017.[12] This change reflects a decision by Chinese importers to rely increasingly on soybean suppliers from Brazil and Argentina due to their lower prices and their beans’ higher protein content.[13] In addition, due to quality concerns regarding the presence of foreign matter in U.S. shipments, the Chinese government has tightened phytosanitary requirements for U.S. soybeans.[14] This has further shifted demand away from U.S. soybeans and towards those of Brazil and Argentina.

Animal feeds were the subject of the second-largest trade shift in U.S. exports of agricultural products. Exports decreased by $540 million (39.8 percent) to $816 million in 2017. The major cause of this decrease was a $406 million (86.5 percent) decline in U.S. exports of dried distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS).[15] U.S. DDGS exports fell significantly after China imposed antidumping and countervailing duties on DDGS from the United States in September 2016.[16]

U.S. General Imports

U.S. general imports from China increased by $43 billion (9.3 percent) to $505.6 billion in 2017. The increase in imports was driven predominantly by electronic products (table CHI.2), with other major increases occurring in machinery and miscellaneous manufactured goods. Sectors that experienced decreases in U.S. imports from China were textiles and apparel, footwear, and energy-related products.

Table CH.2: China: Leading changes in U.S. exports and imports, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. total exports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Energy-related products:
Crude petroleum (EP004)
27
21
15
361
4,434
4,074
1,129.7
            Natural gas and components (EP006)
149
342
965
1,134
2,459
1,325
116.8
        Transportation equipment:
Motor vehicles (TE009)
8,637
11,182
9,209
8,934
10,780
1,845
20.7
            Aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment (TE013)
12,587
13,928
15,441
14,577
16,266
1,689
11.6
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Agricultural products:
Oilseeds (AG032)
13,307
14,481
10,503
14,185
12,361
-1,824
-12.9
            Animal feeds (AG013)
2,033
2,004
2,465
1,356
816
-540
-39.8
            Ethyl alcohol for nonbeverage purposes (AG050)
11
8
135
313
42
-271
-86.5
        Telecommunications equipment (EL002)
2,364
2,193
2,484
2,414
1,708
-706
-29.3
    All other
82,632
79,498
74,715
72,328
81,504
9,175
12.7
        Total
121,746
123,657
115,932
115,602
130,370
14,767
12.8
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Electronic products:
Telecommunications equipment (EL002)
54,660
60,052
62,775
61,444
73,129
11,686
19.0
            Computers, peripherals, and parts (EL017)
75,620
76,554
73,130
66,536
72,960
6,424
9.7
            Consumer electronics (EL003)
16,997
17,841
17,528
16,366
19,804
3,438
21.0
        Furniture (MS009)
15,748
16,707
18,576
19,308
21,605
2,297
11.9
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Apparel (TX005)
34,112
34,250
34,953
31,662
30,864
-798
-2.5
        Footwear (FW001)
17,016
17,066
17,276
14,821
14,255
-566
-3.8
        Major household appliances and parts (MT004A)
2,180
2,489
2,850
2,605
2,227
-377
-14.5
        Semiconductors and integrated circuits (EL015)
4,368
4,838
5,162
5,237
4,944
-293
-5.6
    All other
219,730
238,678
250,939
244,640
265,809
21,169
8.7
        Total
440,430
468,475
483,189
462,618
505,597
42,979
9.3

Source: Compiled from official statistics of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
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. imports of electronic products from China increased by $25.2 billion (14 percent) to $205.6 billion. Imports of telecommunication equipment accounted for much of the growth, rising by $11.7 billion (19 percent) to $73.1 billion in 2017. Overall, annual Canadian and U.S. demand for smartphones grew by only 2 percent to 201.3 million units in 2017.[17] The value increase was driven in part by higher prices for premium smartphones; the average unit value of imports from China increased by 5.9 percent.[18] In addition, Chinese producers expanded their share of U.S. telecommunication equipment imports from 56.9 percent to 63.1 percent.[19]

A second electronic product subgroup that experienced a significant increase in U.S. imports was computers, peripherals, and parts, imports of which rose by $6.4 billion (9.7 percent) to $73 billion in 2017. The rise in the United States’ imports of computers from China was in line with increases in U.S. imports from other nations, as well as the increase in overall U.S. demand for computers and computer peripherals. China’s share of U.S. imports of computers and related parts fell by 0.3 percent because of slightly larger increases in U.S. imports from third-party trade partners, such as Taiwan and the Philippines.[20]  Chinese firms in the computer sector are striving to transition from supplying lower-tier goods to higher-end ones, a shift supported by the information technology pillar of China’s “Made in China 2025” development program.[21] 

U.S. imports of machinery from China grew $4.6 billion (9.5 percent) to $53.0 billion in 2017. The largest increase in machinery imports was in air-conditioning equipment and parts, imports of which rose by $629 million (11.6 percent) to $6.0 billion in 2017. Other product categories that experienced significant increases were taps, cocks, valves, and similar devices ($509 million) and electric motors, generators, and related equipment ($483 million). Chinese gains in the imports of these goods are generally tied to overall U.S. economic growth. Chinese production of machinery and construction-related products has been stimulated by China’s investment in infrastructure products throughout the developing world through the Belt and Road initiative.[22]

The value of U.S. imports of miscellaneous manufactured goods from China increased by $4.0 billion (6 percent) to $71.1 billion in 2017. The largest increase in miscellaneous manufactured goods involved furniture, imports of which rose by $2.3 billion (11.9 percent) to $21.6 billion in 2017. U.S. demand for furniture grew by $2.5 billion from 2016 to 2017.[23] The Chinese furniture industry is becoming more concentrated in industrial clusters, which has reportedly allowed improvements in the industry supply chain.[24] 

The largest declines in imports from China were found in two related product sectors: textiles and apparel, and footwear. U.S. imports of textiles and apparel declined in value by $175 million (0.4 percent) to $45 billion in 2017 as China’s share of U.S. imports fell slightly.[25]  U.S. imports of footwear decreased by 3.8 percent to $14.2 billion in 2017, as China’s share of U.S. imports, again, decreased slightly.[26] Profit margins for Chinese textile and footwear producers are narrowing due to wage increases and international competition from other developing nations, such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia.[27] Global production of textiles and apparel and footwear is increasingly located outside of China, eroding China’s share of U.S. imports of these products.[28] Nonetheless, China remains by far the largest single source of U.S. apparel and footwear to the U.S. market, by far.

U.S. Merchandise Trade Balance

The U.S. trade deficit with China grew by $28.2 billion (8.1 percent) to $375.2 billion in 2017. On a sector basis, the trade deficit expansion was due principally to electronic products (deficit up by $24.6 billion), miscellaneous manufactured goods (deficit up by $4.0 billion), machinery (deficit up by $3.8 billion), and agricultural products (surplus down by $2.2 billion). These increases in the bilateral trade deficits were offset partially by increases in U.S. surpluses for energy-related products (up by $6.0 billion) and transportation equipment (up $2.1 billion).[29]

 


[1] BBC News, “China’s Economy Grows by 6.9% in 2017,”January 18, 2018.

[2] Reuters, “Fourth Train Complete at Cheniere’s Sabine Pass,” October 13, 2017.

[3] Wingfield, “U.S. Reverses Decades of Oil-Export Limits,” December 18, 2015.

[4] Gloystein, “How Soaring U.S. Oil Exports to China,” February 9, 2018.

[5] Reuters, “Fourth Train Complete at Cheniere’s Sabine Pass,” October 13, 2017; Xinhua, “China Natural Gas Imports Surge,” January 12, 2018.

[6] Moss, “China Vehicle Sales Growth Slows to 3%,” January 11, 2018.

[7] China Daily, “Boeing Eyes More Deals in Chinese Market,” November 4, 2017.

[8] See, e.g., World Gold Council, China’s Jewelry Market: New Perspectives, December 1, 2016.

[9] World Gold Council, “Gold Demand Trends Data Tables,” February 6, 2018.

[10] George, “Gold,” January 2018, 70.

[11] Schiff, “Chinese Gold Consumption Surged in 2017,” February 1, 2018.

[12] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS subheading 1201.90.0095; accessed May 11, 2018).

[13] Gu and Thukral, “Soy Source: Brazil’s Share of Soybean Exports,” January 25, 2018; USDA, FAS, “Global Market: Oilseeds—China Key,” January 12, 2018; Good, “USDA Trade Data Update: Focus on Soybeans and Grains,” January 16, 2018.

[14] USDA, APHIS, “USDA Statement on New Procedures,” December 27, 2017.

[15] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS subheading 2303.30, accessed May 9, 2018).

[16] Exports of DDGS fell sharply after preliminary duties were imposed in September 2016.  In early January 2017 China announced final antidumping duties ranging from 42.2 to 53.7 percent and countervailing duties ranging from 11.2 to 12 percent.  USDA, FSA, “China—Peoples Republic of: Grain and Feed Update; Everything Must Go,” December 11, 2016.

[17] GfK Global, “Global Smartphone Average Sales Price,” April 3, 2018.

[18] The average unit value increase was calculated by dividing sales value by units sold for both years. Then the 2017’s average unit value was divided by 2016’s average unit value. Information is available in the second graph, “Smartphone Sales in 2016 vs. 2017.” The data for North America include only the United States and Canada. GfK Global, “Global Smartphone Average Sales Price,” April 3, 2018.

[19] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS 8517; accessed May 11, 2018).

[20] USITC DataWeb/USDOC (HTS 8517; accessed May 9, 2018).

[21] HKTDC Research, “Rapid Development of Asia’s Electronics Supply Chain,” October 10, 2017; Thomas, “A New World under Construction: China and Semiconductors,” November 2015.

[22] Singh and Goh, “Caterpillar Drives Sales on China’s New Silk Road,” March 5, 2018.

[23] Guattery, “Furniture Wholesaling in the US,” November 2017.

[24] HKTDC Research, “China’s Furniture Market,” August 21, 2017.

[25] For further information, please review table CHI.1.

[26] For further information, please review table CHI.1.

[27] Leng, “China’s Once-booming Textile and Clothing Industry,” April 30, 2017.

[28] Bradsher, “Chinese Maker of Ivanka Trump’s Shoes,” June 1, 2017.

[29] U.S. Census, “Trade in Goods with China,” October 2, 2017.

 

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