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23 Crazy U.S. Trade Facts That You Won’t Believe Are Real

Kari Crane Kari Crane | August 15, 2022 | International Sales & Marketing, International Logistics

23 Crazy U.S. Trade Facts That You Won’t Believe Are Real | Shipping SolutionsThe last few years have been filled with highs and lows for U.S. businesses involved in international trade. Imports and exports have soared, along with the trade deficit, while relationships with some top U.S. trade partners have strained.  

Since we last took a look back at the year in international trade (U.S. Trade Hits Record Levels Amid Supply Chain Woes and Global Uncertainty) things haven’t become any more predictable. Now that we’re more than halfway through 2022, let’s take a look back at where we started the year and where things seem to be headed. 

During World Trade Month, we put together 31 interesting facts about world trade. These are some of the most noteworthy of those facts, along with new numbers that represent how things have evolved through the first half of the year.   

General U.S. Trade Statistics 

1. The United States imported $3.39 trillion in goods and services in 2021, an increase of 20.5% over 2020. Of that, $2.83 trillion were goods.

2. The United States exported $2.53 trillion in goods and services in 2021, an increase of 18.5% over 2020.

3. Goods and services exports made up 12% of GDP in the second quarter of 2022, after falling to 9.2% during the second quarter of 2020.

4. The United States trade deficit reached $859.1 billion in 2021, up from $676.6 billion in 2020.

5. The increases in imports, exports and the trade deficit have continued into 2022. Year-to-date, the goods and services deficit increased $126.5 billion, or 38.4%, from the same period in 2021. Exports increased $197.1 billion, or 19.4%. Imports increased $323.6 billion, or 24%.

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Rising Prices

6. The price of United States exports rose 18.2% from November 2020 to November 2021, the largest increase on record at the time. Agricultural export prices in particular jumped 21.4% during that time period, a trend that has continued into 2022. 

7. From May 2021 to May 2022, the export price index increased 18.9%, the largest over-the-year rise since 12-month percent changes were first published in September 1984, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

8. Supply chain snarls are partly to blame for rising prices, and have led some companies to make changes this year. Bloomberg reports that the construction of new manufacturing facilities in the U.S. has soared 116% over the past year, dwarfing the 10% gain on all building projects combined, according to Dodge Construction Network. Some businesses are reassessing where they manufacture goods. Not all of the new construction is reshoring, but some is as companies look to shorten supply chains to protect against disruptions.  

What's Being Traded?

9. Last year’s increase in imports of goods reflected increases in industrial supplies and materials ($169.7 billion), in consumer goods ($126.8 billion), in capital goods ($117.5 billion), in automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($36.8 billion), and in foods, feeds and beverages ($27.8 billion). The increase in imports of services reflected increases in transport ($32.1 billion) and in travel ($22.0 billion).

10. Last year’s increase in exports of goods reflected increases in industrial supplies and materials ($169.6 billion), in capital goods ($59.3 billion), in consumer goods ($47.3 billion), in foods, feeds and beverages ($25.9 billion), and in automotive vehicles, parts and engines ($15.7 billion). The increase in exports of services reflected increases in other business services ($26.8 billion) and in financial services ($17.7 billion). 

Global Trade Statistics Top 5 Trading Partners 2 (1)

11. The World Trade Organization said that global merchandise trade volumes rose 10.8% from 2020 to 2021. GDP gained 5.3% from 2020 to 2021. WTO is now predicting merchandise trade will grow by 3.0% in 2022 — down from its previous forecast of 4.7% — and 3.4% in 2023, but these estimates are less certain than usual due to the fluid nature of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. 

12. Global trade in services reached $6 trillion in 2021, slightly below pre-pandemic levels. Moving into 2022, services trade has also been affected by the conflict in Ukraine, including in the transport sector, which covers container shipping and passenger air transport.

Trade Relationships 

13. The United States had trade surpluses with 100 countries and deficits with 93 countries from January through December 2021. (This excludes North Korea, which the United States Top 5 Trading Partners 1 (1)does not trade with.)

14. The United States’ top five trade partners in 2021, from largest to smallest, were Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and Germany. China fell from the United States’ largest trade partner in 2020 to the third-largest in 2021.

U.S.-China Trade

15. On January 15, 2020, China signed a Phase One trade deal with the United States, agreeing to increase American export purchases by $200 billion above 2017 levels. Through October 2021, China only reached 60% of that stated goal, not enough to reach its import levels from before the trade war

16. Manufactured exports to China from January 20 - October 21 were $112.9 billion USD, out of a total $210.7 billion USD purchase commitment. Aircrafts and automotive products were below target, but Covid-related products and semiconductor equipment exceeded target purchase levels. 

17. China’s farm product purchases from the United States reached $52 billion out of a $73.9 billion total purchase commitment. Corn, pork, sorghum, wheat were above target levels, but soybean purchases fell short. 

18. Chinese energy purchases from the United States reached $21.6 billion out of a $67.7 billion commitment. Natural gas exports to China exceeded Phase 1 commitments, but coal, crude and refined products were all below target. 

19. Section 301 tariffs imposed on Chinese goods imported into the U.S. served as leverage for the Trump administration to sign the Phase One trade agreement. The U.S. is now conducting a four-year review of these tariffs. Experts expect President Biden to lift or reduce tariffs on some of the included imports, though likely only a small fraction.

U.S.-Russia Trade

20. The United States exported $6.4 billion USD of goods to Russia in 2021. Last year, the United States imported $29.7 billion USD worth of goods from Russia. 

21. The United States’ five largest exports to Russia in 2021 were transportation equipment ($1.8 billion USD), non-electrical machinery ($1.1 billion USD), computers and electronics ($923 million USD), chemicals ($871 million USD), and manufactured commodities ($270 million USD). 

22. The United States’ five largest imports from Russia in 2021 were petroleum and coal products ($12.8 billion USD), primary metals ($6.6 billion USD), oil and gas ($4.7 billion USD), chemicals ($2.3 billion USD), and fish ($1.2 billion USD). 

23. U.S. Census Bureau data shows that U.S. exports to Russia dropped to a 20-year low in March as the U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Exports dropped from $497.5 million in February to $101.1 million in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Russia-bound U.S. exports were $476 million in March 2021 and $595 million in February 2021.


Special thanks to Helen Mann. Some of these facts were compiled through her World Trade Month reporting

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