America's Most Traded Goods in one Chart

The coronavirus outbreak has caused many Americans to consider the fragility of modern supply chains, particularly when it comes to foreign imports. As the world’s largest economy, the United States is one of the world’s largest exporters and importers. What categories of goods are most common for each?

America's Most Traded Goods in one Chart

  • The U.S. is now a net exporter of energy for the first time since 1953.
  • The U.S. gets 97% of its antibiotics from China.
  • In one month, the U.S. aircraft market lost about $175 billion in market value due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Our data comes from Trade Map, a statistical repository from the International Trade Centre. The visualization depicts both the U.S.’s top ten categories of exports and imports. The left half of the viz depicts imports, and the right half exports. Each is sorted from high to low. A darker shade of pink indicates a higher level of imports, and a darker shade of blue indicates a higher level of exports.

This viz does not show you which countries the U.S. trades with: to learn about the U.S. balance of trade with other countries, check out this HowMuch article.

Top 5 Categories of Goods Most Imported Into the U.S.

1. Machinery (including computers): $379.04B (14.76% of total imports)
2. Electrical machinery: $352.31B (13.72% of total imports)
3. Vehicles: $310.09B (12.07% of total imports)
4. Mineral fuels: $210.11B (8.18% of total imports)
5. Pharmaceuticals: $128.24B (4.99% of total imports)

Top 5 Categories of Goods Most Exported From the U.S.

1. Machinery (including computers): $205.88B (12.51% of total exports)
2. Mineral fuels: $199.74B (12.14% of total exports)
3. Electrical machinery: $173.19B (10.53% of total exports)
4. Aircraft, spacecraft: $136.04B (8.27% of total exports)
5. Vehicles: $133.04B (8.09% of total exports)

The U.S. recently became a net exporter of energy for the first time since 1953. However, exports may dip as the market for oil contracts amidst the coronavirus: in fact, some analysts are expecting oil prices could fall below zero. Vehicles is also a significant category for both imports and exports, but many auto manufacturers across the globe have shut down production.

The United States is also a net importer of plastic, at a time when many countries are implementing sweeping bans of plastic usage. Many American municipalities are beginning to enact bans on single-use plastic items, and expect this trend to continue as more countries refuse to accept plastic waste dumping. The U.S. is a net importer of precious metals. Many of these come from Mexico, which is the largest source of silver imports and second-largest supplier of gold.

Pharmaceuticals are a major import category for the U.S., particularly from China: the U.S. gets 97% of its antibiotics and 95% of its ibuprofen from China. The fallout from the coronavirus has put major strain on the already-tense U.S.-China trade relationship, and may affect key imports in the U.S., particularly pharmaceuticals. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, researchers expressed concern about U.S. dependence on foreign pharmaceuticals as a national security issue.

Another category which the coronavirus has greatly impacted is aircraft, a major export for the U.S. In one month, about $175 billion in market value. Boeing, a leading U.S. aircraft manufacturer, is seeking $60 billion in federal assistance for the industry, while the company has suspended dividends and its CEO given up his salary.

Where does this leave the U.S. trade market? While the overall U.S. trade deficit narrowed in January, exports also fell as the global economy began reacting to the coronavirus. This data, however, came well before the near-shutdown of the American economy, and Goldman Sachs predicted a 24% contraction in GDP.

How will the coronavirus impact what the U.S. imports and exports? What products were you surprised to find on the list? Let us know in the comments and share with your friends.

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