California’s Top 10 Exports

California's state flag courtesy of

California’s state flag

Nicknamed “The Golden State” stretching along America’s west coast within the Pacific Region, California shipped US$171.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount represents a 5.1% uptick from 2016 to 2017 but a -1.1% setback since 2014.

California is America’s second-biggest exporter by state behind Texas. The value of California’s exports equals 11.1% of United States’ overall exported products for 2017.

Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), California’s exported products represent 6.6% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2016. The latter real dollar values were expressed in 2009 chained dollars, according to the BEA.

Given California’s population of 39.5 million people, its total $171.9 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $4,350 for every resident in “The Golden State”.

California’s unemployment rate was 4.3% as of March 2018 per YCharts.

California’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export products represent the highest dollar value in California global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from California.

Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.

  1. Aircraft including engines, parts: US$7.1 billion (4.2% of California’s total exports)
  2. Machinery for making semi-conductors: $5 billion (2.9%)
  3. Diamonds (unmounted): $4.9 billion (2.8%)
  4. Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $4.5 billion (2.6%)
  5. Integrated circuits (excluding processors/controllers): $3.7 billion (2.1%)
  6. Shelled almonds: $3.2 billion (1.9%)
  7. Electric vehicles: $3.1 billion (1.8%)
  8. Computer parts and accessories: $2.5 billion (1.5%)
  9. Miscellaneous petroleum oils: $2.4 billion (1.4%)
  10. Medical, dental, veterinarian tools: $2.2 billion (1.3%)

California’s top 10 exports accounted for 22.5% of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.

Integrated circuits was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 90.5% from 2016.

In second place for improving export sales was machinery for making semi-conductors which rose 50.5%.

Shipments of miscellaneous petroleum oils posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 46.2%.

The leading decliner among California top 10 export products was modems and similar reception/transmission devices which retreated -35.9% year over year.

More Key Facts

Overall, California incurred a -$268.8 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2017. That dollar amount reflects a 9% year-over-year increase from – $246.7 billion in red ink in 2016.

Another way of saying surplus or deficit is positive or negative net exports. In a nutshell, the term “net exports” quantifies the amount by which foreign spending on a state’s goods or services exceeds or lags that same state’s spending on foreign goods or services.

Below are California’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2017.

  1. Mid-sized automobiles (piston engine): $36.5 billion (8.3% of California’s total imports)
  2. Small portable digital computers: $19.7 billion (4.5%)
  3. Cell phones: $19.2 billion (4.3%)
  4. Crude petroleum oils: $17.9 billion (4.1%)
  5. Large automobiles (piston engine): $14 billion (3.2%)
  6. Modems, similar reception/transmission devices: $12.9 billion (2.9%)
  7. Integrated circuits (processors/controllers): $10.3 billion (2.3%)
  8. Computer parts and accessories: $10.1 billion (2.3%)
  9. Small automobiles (piston engine): $6.3 billion (1.4%)
  10. Solid-state semiconductor storage devices: $4.8 billion (1.1%)

California has highly negative net exports in the international trade of automobiles, small portable digital computers, mobile phones and crude oil. In turn, these cashflows indicate California’s strong competitive disadvantages under these product categories thus highlighting the strong impact of foreign-made automotive goods on California’s global balance sheet.


The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchase over two-thirds (68.5%) worth of the total value of products exported from California during 2017.

  1. Mexico $26.7 billion (15.5% of California’s total exports)
  2. Canada $16.8 billion (9.8%)
  3. China $16.4 billion (9.6%)
  4. Japan $12.9 billion (7.5%)
  5. Hong Kong $12.1 billion (7%)
  6. South Korea $9.6 billion (5.6%)
  7. Taiwan $6.3 billion (3.7%)
  8. Germany $6 billion (3.5%)
  9. Netherlands $5.8 billion (3.4%)
  10. United Kingdom $5 billion (2.9%)

California’s top trade partners in North America, Canada and Mexico, account for one-quarter (25.3%) of the overall value of exported goods from the state. This compares with a third (33.4%) for the top five Asian countries (China, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan) that consume Californian exports.


California Export Companies

Fifty-three of California-headquartered corporations rank among America’s leading companies showcased on the Fortune 500 listing for 2017. Selected examples are listed below, sorted by highest revenues.

  • Apple Inc. (computer hardware, software)
  • McKesson Corporation (pharmaceuticals, medical technology)
  • Chevron Corporation (petroleum, natural gas, petrochemicals)
  • Wells Fargo (multinational financial services)
  • Alphabet Inc (technology, autonomous cars, software)
  • Intel Corporation (microprocessors, chips, mobile phones, flash memories)
  • Hewlett-Packard (computer hardware, software)
  • Cisco Systems (telecom equipment, networking hardware)
  • Oracle (servers, workstations, storage devices, middleware)
  • Gilead Sciences (pharmaceuticals, biotechnology products)

Shown within brackets for each company is a summary of the international trade-related product categories in which each business deals.

California’s capital city is Sacramento, nicknamed “The City of Trees” and “Sactown”.

See also California’s Top 10 Imports, America’s Top 20 Export States, United States Top 10 Exports and Top United States Trade Balances

Research Sources:
Department of Numbers, California GDP (dollars shown in real terms). Accessed on April 29, 2018, Flags of US States. Accessed on April 29, 2018

Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 29, 2018

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 29, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 29, 2018

Los Angeles Times, The new Fortune 500 list is out. These California companies made the cut. Accessed on April 29, 2018

United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade (State by 6-Digit HS Code). Accessed on April 29, 2018

United States Census Bureau, QuickFacts: California. Accessed on April 29, 2018

Wikipedia, California. Accessed on April 29, 2018

Wikipedia, List of California Companies. Accessed on April 29, 2018

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Sacramento, United States. Accessed on April 29, 2018

YCharts, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Report. Accessed on April 29, 2018