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

Brian Daigle
(202) 205-2458
Brian.Daigle@usitc.gov

U.S. Exports

In 2017, U.S. total exports rose by $95.7 billion to $1.5 trillion (6.6 percent), a turnaround from the previous year. In 2016 exports declined by $52.1 billion, or 3.5 percent; exports in all 10 sectors increased in 2017, though the size of the increase varied. Nearly one-half of the 2017 increase in U.S. exports was due to a rise in the quantity and value of U.S. energy exports, which in value terms increased $44.8 billion (45.5 percent) to $143.2 billion in 2017.[1] Other sectors that experienced significant increases in exports included chemicals (up $9.2 billion), minerals and metals (up $7.8 billion), machinery ($7.8 billion), and electronic products ($7.9 billion). Combined, these five sectors accounted for 80.9 percent of the increase in U.S. exports in 2017.

Table US.1: 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
157,633
164,429
146,644
148,683
153,116
4,433
3.0
    Forest products
40,839
41,169
39,059
37,707
39,698
1,991
5.3
    Chemicals and related products
231,422
235,020
227,676
218,089
227,270
9,181
4.2
    Energy-related products
154,463
161,755
110,225
98,418
143,236
44,818
45.5
    Textiles and apparel
23,318
23,985
23,272
21,656
22,082
426
2.0
    Footwear
1,391
1,456
1,464
1,368
1,430
62
4.5
    Minerals and metals
160,510
152,910
135,667
128,684
136,452
7,769
6.0
    Machinery
139,616
145,981
138,765
128,097
135,945
7,848
6.1
    Transportation equipment
322,152
336,439
327,401
320,022
325,434
5,412
1.7
    Electronic products
261,190
267,833
264,119
260,407
268,278
7,870
3.0
    Miscellaneous manufactures
43,842
47,636
47,366
47,754
49,138
1,383
2.9
    Special provisions
42,140
43,260
41,444
40,125
44,655
4,530
11.3
        Total
1,578,517
1,621,874
1,503,101
1,451,011
1,546,733
95,722
6.6
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Agricultural products
126,657
136,341
136,947
139,153
147,406
8,253
5.9
    Forest products
39,984
42,213
42,383
43,118
44,856
1,738
4.0
    Chemicals and related products
236,678
251,529
260,293
259,846
268,112
8,266
3.2
    Energy-related products
384,142
351,626
194,132
157,826
198,096
40,270
25.5
    Textiles and apparel
118,003
121,688
126,538
120,265
121,423
1,158
1.0
    Footwear
24,811
26,018
27,650
25,634
25,654
20
0.1
    Minerals and metals
190,442
205,500
189,230
183,522
200,714
17,192
9.4
    Machinery
170,227
185,529
185,884
179,537
196,414
16,878
9.4
    Transportation equipment
375,526
404,024
426,225
418,286
434,894
16,608
4.0
    Electronic products
421,656
439,109
449,793
449,951
484,271
34,321
7.6
    Miscellaneous manufactures
109,936
114,391
124,817
124,973
130,453
5,481
4.4
    Special provisions
69,925
78,388
84,291
85,695
90,610
4,915
5.7
        Total
2,267,987
2,356,356
2,248,183
2,187,805
2,342,905
155,100
7.1
U.S. merchandise trade balance:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Agricultural products
30,976
28,088
9,697
9,530
5,710
-3,820
-40.1
    Forest products
856
-1,044
-3,324
-5,411
-5,158
253
4.7
    Chemicals and related products
-5,256
-16,509
-32,617
-41,757
-40,843
915
2.2
    Energy-related products
-229,679
-189,871
-83,907
-59,408
-54,860
4,548
7.7
    Textiles and apparel
-94,685
-97,702
-103,265
-98,609
-99,341
-733
-0.7
    Footwear
-23,420
-24,562
-26,186
-24,266
-24,225
41
0.2
    Minerals and metals
-29,933
-52,591
-53,563
-54,838
-64,262
-9,424
-17.2
    Machinery
-30,610
-39,549
-47,119
-51,440
-60,470
-9,030
-17.6
    Transportation equipment
-53,374
-67,584
-98,824
-98,264
-109,460
-11,196
-11.4
    Electronic products
-160,466
-171,276
-185,674
-189,543
-215,994
-26,450
-14.0
    Miscellaneous manufactures
-66,094
-66,755
-77,452
-77,218
-81,316
-4,098
-5.3
    Special provisions
-27,785
-35,128
-42,847
-45,570
-45,955
-385
-0.8
        Total
-689,470
-734,482
-745,082
-736,794
-796,172
-59,378
-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.    

Figure US.1: U.S. total exports and general imports both increased in 2017, although general imports increased at a higher rate and returned to levels last experienced in 2014 (billion $).



Source: USITC DataWeb/USDOC (accessed February 12, 2018).

Other sectors experienced smaller increases in exports. U.S. exports of transportation equipment, the largest U.S. export sector of this report, increased $5.4 billion (up 1.7 percent). U.S. agricultural product exports rose by $4.4 billion (3 percent), forest products exports rose by $2 billion (5.3 percent), textiles and apparel sector exports increased $426 million (2 percent), and footwear sector exports rose $62 million (4.5 percent).

Table US.2: All merchandise sectors: 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:
Petroleum products (EP005)
121,037
119,712
80,576
68,481
85,785
17,304
25.3
            Crude petroleum (EP004)
5,099
12,219
8,821
9,423
21,825
12,402
131.6
            Natural gas and components (EP006)
13,031
17,885
12,004
13,900
23,225
9,325
67.1
        Certain organic chemicals (CH006)
20,024
19,322
16,723
15,388
18,013
2,625
17.1
        Motor vehicles (TE009)
74,096
77,763
70,464
69,657
71,632
1,975
2.8
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment (TE013)
113,852
124,214
129,413
131,985
129,640
-2,345
-1.8
        Medicinal chemicals (CH019)
51,838
54,717
58,468
57,122
55,475
-1,647
-2.9
        Minerals and metals:
Aluminum mill products (MM038)
6,142
6,080
5,928
6,811
5,631
-1,179
-17.3
            Copper ores and concentrates (MM004)
2,601
3,238
3,083
2,413
1,715
-698
-28.9
    All other
1,170,795
1,186,725
1,117,623
1,075,832
1,133,792
57,961
5.4
        Total
1,578,517
1,621,874
1,503,101
1,451,011
1,546,733
95,722
6.6
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    Increases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Energy-related products:
Crude petroleum (EP004)
273,836
246,969
126,073
101,841
132,945
31,103
30.5
            Petroleum products (EP005)
89,198
79,764
51,512
41,167
48,430
7,263
17.6
        Computers, peripherals, and parts (EL017)
121,106
121,512
119,602
112,539
124,108
11,570
10.3
        Transportation equipment:
Motor vehicles (TE009)
176,789
183,158
197,764
200,727
208,616
7,888
3.9
            Aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment (TE013)
29,937
35,006
35,838
31,444
31,162
-283
-0.9
        Medicinal chemicals (CH019)
85,436
93,436
109,759
113,175
112,083
-1,091
-1.0
    Decreases:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
        Medicinal chemicals (CH019)
85,436
93,436
109,759
113,175
112,083
-1,091
-1.0
        Certain motor-vehicle parts (TE010)
74,677
82,106
86,144
85,888
85,287
-601
-0.7
 

Some sectors with the largest increases in U.S. exports overall nonetheless experienced significant export declines in certain subsectors. For example, while U.S. transportation equipment exports increased overall by $5.4 billion, exports of certain aircraft declined $2.3 billion and aircraft engine exports fell by $532 million due to the expiration of aviation contracts. Similarly, while exports of chemicals rose overall by $9.2 billion, the expiration of a number of medical patents led to a $1.6 billion decline in medicinal chemical (pharmaceutical) exports. Finally, even though minerals and metals exports increased by $7.8 billion in 2017, exports of aluminum bars and mill products fell, as did exports of copper ores.

U.S. Imports

In 2017, U.S. general imports rose in all sectors by a combined $155.1 billion (7.1 percent) to $2.34 trillion. As was the case with U.S. exports, the largest increase occurred in the energy-related product sector. Imports of energy-related products rose $40.3 billion to $198.1 billion (25.5 percent), constituting a little over one-fourth of the increase in the value of U.S. imports, due to an increase in both the price and the volume of energy-related products. The majority of the rise in the value of energy-related product imports occurred in crude petroleum, imports of which rose $31.1 billion to $132.9 billion (an increase of 30.5 percent). Other sectors that experienced substantial increases in U.S. imports include electronic products ($34.3 billion), minerals and metals ($17.2 billion), machinery ($16.9 billion), and transportation equipment ($16.6 billion).

Other sectors, particularly chemicals and agricultural products, also experienced a rise in general imports in 2017. Agricultural imports rose $8.3 billion (5.9 percent), and chemical imports rose $8.3 billion (3.2 percent), despite a $1.1 billion decline in medicinal chemical imports (1 percent).

Trade with Major Trading Partners

As has been the case for the past several years, the top trading partners with the United States were China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Germany. While China continued to be the largest source of imports to the U.S. economy, Canada maintained its position as the largest export destination for U.S. products (figure US.3), followed by Mexico and then China. In 2017, the value of U.S. exports to Canada ($282.5 billion) almost equaled exports to the entire European Union ($283.5 billion), while U.S. exports to Mexico reached their highest level in the 2013–17 period ($243 billion in 2017).   

Figure US.2: Total trade between the United States and its five largest single-country trading partners, 2017 (billion $)

Source: USITC DataWeb/USDOC (accessed February 12, 2018).

On the export side, the United States increased exports to its three largest trading partners. U.S. exports to China rose 12.8 percent ($14.8 billion); to Canada, 5.9 percent ($15.7 billion); and to Mexico, 5.8 percent ($13.3 billion). Combined, these three economies accounted for nearly one-half of the increase in global U.S. exports (45.7 percent). Exports to other major trading nations rose as well, with the largest percentage increase experienced by India (a 18.7 percent increase), South Korea (14.1 percent), Italy (9.7 percent), Germany (8.4 percent), and Japan (7.1 percent). However, U.S. exports declined in 2017 to one major traditional market for U.S. exports, the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). U.S. exports to OPEC countries declined by $6.1 billion (9.4 percent).

At the sector level, the increase in U.S. exports to the major U.S. trading partners was principally concentrated in electronics, transportation equipment, machinery, and energy-related products. Some of the largest increases in exports to Canada, for example, were in motor vehicles (a $2.2 billion increase, 8.1 percent above the previous year), construction equipment ($1.2 billion), and consumer electronics ($786 million). Among U.S. exports to China, the leading U.S. export increases were in crude petroleum ($4.1 billion increase), motor vehicles ($1.8 billion), and aircraft ($1.7 billion).

Many of the significant declines in U.S. exports to major trading partners occurred in the machinery, equipment, and metals and minerals sectors. In South Korea, the largest declines in U.S. exports occurred in aircraft ($1.9 billion), arms and ammunition ($222 million), construction and mining equipment ($140 million), and organic commodity chemicals ($110 million). Despite the fact that total U.S. exports to Mexico increased, there were U.S. export declines to Mexico in certain sectors, including computers and computer parts ($752 million), telecommunications equipment ($708 million), copper ores ($671 million), and motor vehicles ($527 million). Similarly, although total U.S. exports to China and Canada also increased, U.S. exports in certain mineral sectors declined (particularly unrefined copper in China and precious metals in Canada).

Table US.3:  All merchandise sectors: U.S. total exports, general imports, and merchandise trade balance, by selected trading partners and groups, 2013–17

 
Million $
 
Item
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
Absolute change,
2016–17
Percent
change,
2016–17
U.S. total exports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    China
121,746
123,657
115,932
115,602
130,370
14,767
12.8
    Canada
300,755
312,817
280,855
266,797
282,472
15,674
5.9
    Mexico
225,954
241,007
236,204
229,702
242,989
13,287
5.8
    Japan
65,237
66,892
62,393
63,236
67,696
4,460
7.1
    Germany
47,363
49,419
49,945
49,363
53,493
4,129
8.4
    Korea
41,649
44,650
43,484
42,309
48,277
5,967
14.1
    United Kingdom
47,361
53,913
56,095
55,289
56,329
1,040
1.9
    France
31,744
31,289
30,055
31,132
33,582
2,450
7.9
    India
21,810
21,499
21,453
21,652
25,700
4,048
18.7
    Italy
16,757
16,969
16,212
16,707
18,323
1,616
9.7
    All other
658,139
659,762
590,473
559,220
587,504
28,284
5.1
        Total
1,578,517
1,621,874
1,503,101
1,451,011
1,546,733
95,722
6.6
    EU-28
262,095
276,274
271,879
269,617
283,517
13,901
5.2
    OPEC
85,795
83,525
73,249
65,310
59,196
-6,114
-9.4
    Latin America
410,370
424,852
388,783
365,665
393,218
27,553
7.5
    Asia
402,070
407,186
385,459
383,312
421,736
38,424
10.0
    Sub-Saharan Africa
23,978
25,491
18,009
13,490
14,111
621
4.6
U.S. general imports:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    China
440,430
468,475
483,189
462,618
505,597
42,979
9.3
    Canada
332,504
349,286
296,230
277,756
299,975
22,220
8.0
    Mexico
280,556
295,730
296,401
294,056
314,045
19,989
6.8
    Japan
138,575
134,505
131,383
132,046
136,544
4,497
3.4
    Germany
114,342
124,182
124,819
114,099
117,745
3,645
3.2
    Korea
62,370
69,677
71,758
69,881
71,164
1,283
1.8
    United Kingdom
52,741
54,689
57,993
54,272
53,075
-1,197
-2.2
    France
45,706
47,105
47,752
46,710
48,888
2,178
4.7
    India
41,810
45,358
44,790
46,032
48,631
2,599
5.6
    Italy
38,709
42,378
44,164
45,273
49,963
4,690
10.4
    All other
720,243
724,971
649,706
645,061
697,278
52,217
8.1
        Total
2,267,987
2,356,356
2,248,183
2,187,805
2,342,905
155,100
7.1
    EU-28
387,510
420,609
427,537
416,377
434,933
18,556
4.5
    OPEC
154,699
133,423
66,733
58,557
72,221
13,665
23.3
    Latin America
438,985
445,985
412,255
401,708
430,007
28,299
7.0
    Asia
865,470
914,154
943,615
928,054
994,200
66,146
7.1
    Sub-Saharan Africa
39,294
26,785
18,841
20,144
24,895
4,751
23.6
U.S. merchandise trade balance:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
    China
-318,684
-344,818
-367,257
-347,016
-375,228
-28,212
-8.1
    Canada
-31,749
-36,469
-15,375
-10,958
-17,504
-6,545
-59.7
    Mexico
-54,602
-54,723
-60,197
-64,354
-71,057
-6,702
-10.4
    Japan
-73,338
-67,613
-68,990
-68,810
-68,848
-38
-0.1
    Germany
-66,978
-74,763
-74,873
-64,736
-64,252
484
0.7
    Korea
-20,722
-25,027
-28,273
-27,572
-22,887
4,684
17.0
    United Kingdom
-5,380
-776
-1,898
1,017
3,254
2,237
220.0
    France
-13,963
-15,816
-17,697
-15,578
-15,306
272
1.7
    India
-20,000
-23,859
-23,337
-24,380
-22,931
1,449
5.9
    Italy
-21,952
-25,409
-27,951
-28,565
-31,640
-3,075
-10.8
    All other
-62,104
-65,209
-59,233
-85,841
-109,774
-23,933
-27.9
        Total
-689,470
-734,482
-745,082
-736,794
-796,172
-59,378
-8.1
    EU-28
-125,415
-144,334
-155,657
-146,760
-151,416
-4,655
-3.2
    OPEC
-68,904
-49,898
6,515
6,754
-13,025
-19,779
(a)
    Latin America
-28,615
-21,133
-23,472
-36,042
-36,789
-746
-2.1
    Asia
-463,400
-506,968
-558,156
-544,742
-572,464
-27,722
-5.1
    Sub-Saharan Africa
-15,316
-1,294
-832
-6,654
-10,784
-4,130
-62.1

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. The countries shown are those with the largest total U.S. trade (U.S. imports plus U.S. exports) in these products in the current year. See appendix B for country group definitions.

      aNot meaningful for purposes of comparison.

Like U.S. exports in 2017, U.S. imports from major trading partners also rose. Imports from China rose the most by value ($43 billion increase). U.S. imports from China rose by 9.3 percent; in 2017 the increase in percentage terms was second only to Italy among large U.S. trade partners (10.4 percent increase, $1.6 billion). The United States increased its imports from Canada by $22.2 billion (8 percent) and from Mexico by $20 billion (6.8 percent). The only major U.S. trading partner that showed a significant decline in imports was the United Kingdom (UK): imports from the UK fell by $1.2 billion (2.2 percent). As a result of the decrease in U.S. imports from the UK and the increase in U.S. exports to the UK, the U.S. trade surplus with the UK in 2016 more than doubled, from $1.5 billion in 2016 to $3.3 billion in 2017.

Increases in U.S. imports among larger trading partners were typically concentrated in machinery and equipment. The largest increase in imports from South Korea, for example, was in computers ($1.2 billion, 57.5 percent higher than the previous year). The biggest increase in imports from Mexico was in motor vehicles ($7.9 billion, 15.8 percent); from China, in telecommunications equipment ($11.7 billion increase to $73.1 billion). Canada was the exception to this trend; the largest increases in U.S. imports from Canada occurred in crude petroleum ($13.9 billion), petroleum products ($2.7 billion), and natural gas and components ($2.5 billion), followed by aluminum and steel products.

U.S. Trade Balance

The U.S. merchandise trade deficit with the rest of the world grew by $59.4 billion (8.1 percent) to $796.2 billion in 2017, representing both the highest level and the greatest yearly growth in the 2013–17 period. As was the case in each of the four preceding years (with the exception of forest products in 2013), the agricultural product sector was the only one with a trade surplus, though it fell to its lowest level in the five-year period ($5.7 billion). In some sectors—namely, forest products, chemicals and related products, footwear, and energy-related products—U.S. trade deficits fell slightly. In the energy-related products sector, for example, the trade deficit fell to $54.9 billion (a 7.7 percent decline from the previous year), steadily declining from the $230 billion deficit in energy-related products reached in 2013.

In other sectors, trade deficits expanded. Four sectors—mineral and metals, machinery, transportation equipment, and electronic products—contributed the most to the overall increase in the U.S. trade deficit. In the electronic products sector, the $26.5 billion increase in the trade deficit to $216 billion (a 14 percent increase) constituted roughly half of the trade balance deficit change from 2016. Combined, the four sectors above account for $56.1 billion of the total increase ($59.4 billion) in the trade deficit, though this was mitigated slightly by the reduction of trade deficits in other sectors.

In most cases, U.S. import growth exceeded U.S. export growth with major trading partners in 2017. Thus, U.S. merchandise trade deficits expanded with the United States’ top three trading markets. Particularly with Canada, the deficit increased by 59.7 percent, substantially more than the U.S. deficit with Mexico (a 10.4 percent increase) or China (an 8.1 percent increase). However, in some cases, such as with Japan, the increase in the merchandise trade deficit from 2016 to 2017 was negligible (up 0.1 percent). In other cases, U.S. trade deficits with some trading partners declined. For example, the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea declined substantially (down $4.7 billion, or 17 percent).  U.S. trade deficits also declined with France (down $272 million), India ($1.4 billion), and Germany ($484 million), though the declines were small in percentage terms (1.7, 5.9, and 0.7 percent, respectively).

 

 

[1] This development will be explained in greater detail in the Energy and Related Products section of this report.