Which Goods are Most Traded Between U.S. & China?

Trade talks between the United States and China are ongoing, with another round of talk set to launch soon. The standoff remains with just over a year to go before the 2020 presidential election. Two-thirds of voters said in a recent poll that tariffs on Chinese goods will increase prices on U.S. goods. But what are those goods, anyway? Likewise, what does the U.S. export to China?

most traded goods US and China

  • U.S. imports from China are down 12.5% for the year amid new tariffs.
  • China, once the number one trading partner with the United States, has since fallen to third.
  • U.S. soybean exports to China are expected to be one-third of what they were in the previous year.
  • A thirteenth round of trade negotiations between the U.S. and China is set to kick off this week.

The data comes from the Observatory of Economic Complexity, a data visualization site for international trade data created MIT Media Lab’s Macro Connections. The visualization depicts both the United States top ten categories of exports to and imports from China. The left half of the viz depicts imports, and the right half exports. Each are 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.

What Does China Export to the US? - Top 5 Goods 

1. Telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks: $43.67 B (9.80% of total imports)
2. Automatic data processing machines: $37.24 B (8.40% of total imports)
3. Tricycles, scooters and similar wheeled toys and other toys: $12.32 B (2.80% of total imports)
4. Communication apparatus: $11.25 B (2.50% of total imports)
5. Games; articles for funfair: $5.35 B (1.20% of total imports)

What Does the US Export to China? - Top 5 Goods

1. Aeroplanes and other aircraft: $13.13 B (9.90% of total exports)
2. Soya beans: $12.46 B (9.40% of total exports)
3. Vehicles with only spark-ignition internal combustion reciprocating piston engine: $7.89 B (6.00% of total exports)
4. Electronic integrated circuits; Processors and controllers: $4.95 B (3.70% of total exports)
5. Oils: $3.97 B (3.00% of total exports)

China’s economy may be known by American consumers mostly for its electronics exports, and indeed the majority of America’s most-imported Chinese products are in electronics. But more than just an exporter of keyboards and DVD players, China has become a significant leader in areas like currency reserves and GDP, as illustrated by this HowMuch article.

That said, the rise of China’s economy coincides with its rise in trade with the United States -- namely with the trade deficit, which has doubled in just ten years. This trend has not escaped the attention of the current U.S. administration, who has imposed tariffs on various Chinese goods to level the playing field in trade. What goods are affected? Chinese electronics, the biggest import, have fallen 4.4% since last year. On the other side, semiconductors and processors are a significant export to China. Huawei, a major Chinese tech company, has been placed on a U.S. blacklist requiring American firms to obtain government permission to sell to the company.

Aside from technology, the U.S. is a major natural resources and agriculture exporter to China: of particular interest are soybeans and oil. The former is hurting: U.S. soybean exports to China are expected to be one-third of what they were last year, and prices of the commodity have fallen by half. On the other hand, U.S. crude oil exports set a new record-high monthly average of 3.2 million barrels a day in June, even briefly surpassing Saudia Arabia as the world’s leading exporter of oil, despite the trade war with China. Nevertheless, the oil market appeared at an inflection point as the U.S. and China are set to resume a thirteenth round of trade talks.

How will the trade war with China affect the U.S. trade deficit? How will it affect the election? 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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