Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2017
Investigation No. 332-345
Publication 4829 (October 2018)

Welcome to Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2017 (also called 2017 Trade Shifts), published by the U.S. International Trade Commission (Commission or USITC). This report identifies the major changes in U.S. trade during 2017 with selected trade partners and by industry sector. It also identifies a number of reasons for these changes.

The first part of the report provides a macroeconomic overview of the U.S. economy in 2016–17, while the second examines U.S. two-way (bilateral) trade flows with Canada, ChinaMexico, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.[1] The third part contains 10 sector analyses that focus on general imports, domestic exports, and re-exports, highlighting sectors in which re-exports play a significant role. The final section, this year’s special topic, examines the varied impacts of trade in intermediate goods.  Each section has its own webpage, and the clickable hyperlinks can be located in the leftmost column of this home page. 

As in previous years’ reports, the 2017 Trade Shifts is published only in a web-based format to optimize the use of interactive features. User-friendly, interactive graphics are integrated with the analyses, appearing at the top of the webpage for each trading partner. Viewers can change the data presentation in any graphic by hovering their cursors over the graphic.

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Key Economic Events

  • Exports of all 10 industry sectors increased in 2017 compared to 2016.  Exports of energy and related products increased significantly.
  • Imports of all 10 industry sectors increased; imports of energy and related products increased significantly.

  • U.S. total exports increased by $95.7 billion (6.6 percent) from 2016 levels to $1,546.7 billion in 2017. The primary reasons for the increase were rising crude petroleum prices and depreciation of the U.S. dollar relative to all of its trading partners. Exports increased in all 10 industry sectors discussed in this report.
  • U.S. general imports increased by $155 billion (7.1 percent) from 2016 levels to $2,342.9 billion in 2017.  As with U.S. exports, energy-related products experienced the largest increase by value, with imports of these products rising by $40.3 billion (25.5 percent) to $198 billion. Imports from all remaining sectors rose, with the greatest increases by value occurring in electronic products (by $34.3 billion, 7.6 percent); minerals and metals (by $17.2 billion, 9.4 percent), machinery (by $16.9 billion, 9.4 percent); and transportation equipment (by $16.6 billion, 4 percent).
  • One of the major factors affecting U.S. trade in 2017 was the increase in the price of crude petroleum.  Higher international prices for crude petroleum (Brent spot price) increased the value of U.S. trade in crude petroleum, petroleum products, and petrochemicals. U.S. crude petroleum also traded at a larger average discount compared to the international price per barrel in 2017, spurring greater U.S. export volumes for crude petroleum and downstream products. Another factor contributing to the increase of exports of U.S. crude was the removal of the U.S. government ban on most exports of U.S. crude to countries other than Canada in December 2015.  Growth in the energy-related products sector affected downstream sectors, such as petrochemicals; exports of products in that sector also increased.


Part I: Introduction

Part II: Country Shifts

Part II analyzes shifts in trade between the United States and five key trading partners:

Part III: Sector Shifts

Part III analyzes shifts in trade for the following 10 industry sectors:

Part IV: Special Topic:

Intermediate Goods Imports in Key U.S. Manufacturing Sectors

General Contacts

Office of Industries

Jennifer Catalano, MBA, PhD
Project Leader

Brian Daigle, MSc
Deputy Project Leader

Media Contact

Peg O’Laughlin
Public Affairs Officer


[1] Mexico was selected for study because it is one of the United States’ largest trading partners.  The other four countries were selected because they had the largest increase or decrease in two-way trade with the United States, based on either percentage or absolute dollar value.