Trade Shifts Home Page

Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2020
Investigation No. 332-345
Publication 5239 (November 2021)

Welcome to Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade, 2020 (also called 2020 Trade Shifts), published by the U.S. International Trade Commission (Commission or USITC). This report is the Commission’s annual examination of trends in U.S. merchandise trade and describes the overall changes in U.S. trade during 2020, particularly within 10 industry sectors.[1] The report also includes a “special topic” chapter, which focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on freight transportation services and U.S. merchandise imports. The Commission also regularly examines the trends in services trade in its Recent Trends in Services Trade report.[2]

Part I of this report provides a macroeconomic overview of the global economy in 2020 and a review of the most substantial trends in merchandise trade by partner country and sector. Part II discusses shifts in 10 important U.S. industry sectors covering roughly 92 percent of U.S. total trade.[3] Data for two additional merchandise sectors—miscellaneous manufactures and special provisions—are included in some tables but are not discussed in detail in the text.

Note that this report uses data on three broad categories of trade: “total exports,” “domestic exports,” and “general imports.”[4] Unless otherwise noted, the export data used in the report are domestic exports. Some sector discussions include data on re-exports.[5] The import data used in the report are general imports.

Part III analyzes the impact of disruptions to maritime and air freight transportation services related to the COVID-19 pandemic and their impact on imports in the 10 merchandise trade sectors covered by this report. This section offers detailed explanations of the various disruptions that occurred in 2020 and analyzes several factors, including freight prices; the transportation costs of imported goods; changes in the mode of transportation and shipping routes; and delays in arrival times of imported products.

As in previous years, this year’s report features a downloadable dataset for U.S. merchandise trade from 2016 to 2020 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.

Report Contents

Part I: Introduction

Part II: Sector Shifts
Part II describes the leading shifts in trade for the following 10 industry sectors:

Part III: Special Topic

Each presentation includes data tables and interactive graphics.


This report was prepared principally by:

Project Leader
Jeff Horowitz

Deputy Project Leaders
Robert Ireland, Aaron Woodward

Principal Authors

Part I
Robert Ireland, Christopher Montgomery

Part II
Simon Adhanom, Renee Berry, Jeffrey Clark, Dixie Downing, Kim Ha, Alex Melton, Elizabeth Skokan, Kristin Smyth, Katherine Stubblefield, Brennan Taylor, Karl Tsuji, Allison Utomi

Part III
Art Chambers (Part III lead), Andrew David, Gregory LaRocca, Joann Peterson

Content Reviewers
Samuel Goodman, Samantha Schreiber

Editorial Reviewers
Judy Edelhoff

Statistical Reviewers
Mara Alexander, Ann-Marie Carton, Lita David-Harris, Onslow Hall, Conor Hargrove, Christine Lee,
Maureen Letostak, Cynthia Payne, Cameron Richardson, Aaron Woodward

Web Team and Accessibility Support
Christian Fluitt, Cameron Richardson, Kathleen Rumsey

Production Support
Trina Chambers, Monica Sanders

Under the direction of
James Stamps, Chief, Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Division, Office of Industries

Media Contact
Peg O’Laughlin
Public Affairs Officer



[1] Industry sectors are further divided into digests. Each USITC sector digest encompasses various 8-digit subheadings in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS). Schedule B numbers are concorded to HTS statistical numbers based on USITC estimates; therefore, exports are presented in terms of HTS 8-digit import numbers. For a complete list of HTS subheadings classified in a particular sector or digest, see this data table.

[2] For more information, see the Recent Trends landing page here.

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

[4] For more information on trade terminology, please refer to USITC, “Special Topic: Trade Metrics,” Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade 2014.

[5] 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.