Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2019

Investigation No. 332-345 
Publication 5116 (August 2020) 

Welcome to Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2019 (also called 2019 Trade Shifts), published by the U.S. International Trade Commission (Commission or USITC). The Commission’s annual examination of trends in U.S. trade describes the overall changes in U.S. trade, as well as changes in trade with four major trading partners and within 10 industry sectors.  

This report is divided into three parts. The first part gives an overview and review of the largest, most noticeable trends in merchandise trade by partner country and sector; the second part shows shifts in U.S. trade for U.S. two-way (bilateral) trade flows with Canada, China, Mexico, and Vietnam; and the third part addresses 10 important U.S. industry sectors covering roughly 92 percent of U.S. total trade.[1] Unlike in years past, this year’s report does not contain a special topic chapter but includes new tabular presentations of data in interactive dashboards and data visualizations. These changes are intended to enable readers to quickly understand the shifts that have occurred in merchandise trade flows, whether on an absolute, relative, or ranked basis. Note that this report uses data on three broad categories of trade--“general imports,” “total exports,” and “domestic exports.” Whereas data on general imports are used throughout the report, data for total exports are used in the presentations on trading partners, and those for domestic exports are used in the sector discussions. Some sector discussions include data on re-exports, [2] if applicable. (For more information on trade terminology, please refer to USITC, “Special Topic: Trade Metrics,” Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade 2014.) Data for two additional sectors—miscellaneous manufactures and special provisions—are included in some tables but are not discussed in detail in the text.  

Due to competing resource demands, this year’s report is slimmed-down and data-focused, with discussion limited to describing the change in trends. These descriptions are based on import and export values and do not analyze quantity, prices, or changes in the industry. Note that a change in import or export value does not necessarily reflect a change in the quantity imported or exported. 

As in previous years, this year’s report again features a complete downloadable dataset for U.S. merchandise trade from 2015 to 2019 in addition to a web-based format that optimizes the use of interactive features. Each section has its own webpage, and the hyperlinks for the sections can be opened in the leftmost column of this home page.  

If you have any feedback on the contents of this year’s report, you may send it to us at


Part I: Introduction 

Part II: Country Shifts 

Part II presents shifts in trade between the United States and four key trading partners: 

The Commission selected Mexico and Canada for this section because they were the United States’ largest and second-largest trading partners based on two-way trade (exports plus imports) in 2019. Likewise, the Commission selected China because it had the highest absolute decrease in its two-way trade with the United States. Finally, the Commission selected Vietnam because it registered the largest absolute increase in U.S. imports in 2019. Each presentation includes data tables and interactive graphics. The sectors in these tables are ordered by the level of processing of the products classified therein and are based on the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS) 8-digit digest classification.

Part III: Sector Shifts  

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

Each presentation includes data tables and interactive graphics. The countries in these tables are sorted by amount of U.S. trade, with those having the largest total U.S. trade by value (U.S. general imports plus U.S. total exports) in these products during the most recent year appearing first. For breakouts of the HTS subheadings for the different industry/commodity groups, click here

General Contacts

Laura Thayn and Shova KC
Project Leaders

Media Contact

Peg O’Laughlin 
Public Affairs Officer 



[1] U.S. total trade is the sum of U.S. general imports and U.S. total exports.

[2] Re-exports, also known as foreign exports, are calculated as total exports minus domestic exports. Exports of foreign goods (re-exports) consist of commodities of foreign origin that (1) have previously been admitted to a U.S. Foreign Trade Zone or entered the United States for consumption, including via entry into a U.S. Customs and Border Protection bonded warehouse, and  (2) at the time of exportation, are in substantially the same condition as when imported.