Refined petroleum oils, petroleum gases, soya beans, corn and coal are major drivers for the highest positive trade balances for the United States during 2018. Cars, crude oil, smartphones, computers and medication mixes in dosage represent major factors causing the US to experience the greatest trade deficits by product.
America’s trade balance for all products totaled a -US$946.4 billion deficit for 2018, up 21% from a -$781.9 billion negative score during 2011.
Year over year, the -$946.4 billion trade deficit represents a 10.1% increase compared to America’s -$859.9 billion deficit for 2017.
Top US Trade Balances by Product and Country
The following 10 leading products generated a surplus subtotal of $131.1 billion for US in its global trade during 2018. Metrics listed below highlight US’s strongest competitive advantages over worldwide trading partners by product.
- Processed petroleum oils: US$34.4 billion (Reversing a -$2.9 billion deficit in 2011)
- Petroleum gases: $17 billion (Reversing a -$7.8 billion deficit in 2011)
- Soya beans: $16.8 billion (Down -3.2% from 2011)
- Corn: $12.5 billion (Down -7.3%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $11.6 billion (Down -19.7%)
- Gold (unwrought): $10.7 billion (Down -32.1%)
- Machinery for making semi-conductors: $9.6 billion (Up 444.1%)
- Miscellaneous nuts: $6.6 billion (Up 46.8%)
- Cotton (uncarded, uncombed): $6.5 billion (Down -21.8%)
- Ethylene polymers: $5.4 billion (Up 57.7%)
America’s exported processed petroleum oils went from red ink in 2011 to a significant surplus for 2018. There was a similar happy story for petroleum gases that also swung from deficit to surplus over the 7-year period.
Among categories that increased by positive percentage amounts, machinery for making semi-conductors (up 444.1%), ethylene polymers (up 57.7%) then miscellaneous nuts (up 46.8%) improved at the fastest rate.
The 10 major products below accumulated a deficit subtotal of -$547.7 billion for the US in international trade for 2018. America has demonstrated the severest competitive disadvantages in the exports and imports of the following commodities.
- Cars: -US$127.1 billion (Up 66.5% since 2011)
- Crude oil: -$114.5 billion (Down -66.4%)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: -$78.8 billion (Up 57.4%)
- Computers, optical readers: -$66.9 billion (Up 24.4%)
- Medication mixes in dosage: -$51 billion (Up 97.2%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: -$25.7 billion (Up 109.7%)
- Miscellaneous furniture: -$24.5 billion (Up 81.6%)
- Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs): -$21.9 billion (Up 68.5%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: -$19.8 billion (Down -23.2%)
- Turbo-jets: -$17.4 billion (Up 148.5%)
America’s red ink in global trade expanded at the fastest rate for the following products: turbo-jets (up 148.5%), automobile parts and accessories (up 109.7%), medication mixes in dosage (up 97.2%) and miscellaneous furniture (up 81.6%).
Two of the listed trade products caused deficit decreases since 2011. America’s negative trade balance for crude oil fell in value by -66.4% while TV receivers, monitors and projectors dropped -23.2%.
In 2018, the US generated a surplus subtotal worth $126 billion with the following 10 trading partners.
- Hong Kong: US$30.9 billion (Down -3.1% since 2011)
- Netherlands: $23.4 billion (Up 26.9%)
- Australia: $14.9 billion (Down -13.4%)
- United Arab Emirates: $14.3 billion (Up 6.6%)
- Belgium: $13.5 billion (Up 11.2%)
- Brazil: $7.3 billion (Down -28.6%)
- Panama: $6.4 billion (Down -18.3%)
- Singapore: $5.9 billion (Down -50.7%)
- Argentina: $4.9 billion (Down -5.1%)
- United Kingdom: $4.5 billion (Up 15.6%)
From 2011 to 2018, the US grew its trade surpluses with four trade partners namely: Netherlands (up 26.9%), United Kingdom (up 15.6%), Belgium (up 11.2%) and the United Arab Emirates (up 6.6%).
The greatest decliners over the 7-year period were Singapore (down -52.8%) and Brazil (down -29.7%).
America experienced a money-losing international trade relationship with 95 countries (islands or territories). The following 10 trade partners created a massive -$866.6 billion deficit subtotal in 2018 from buying and selling exported and imported goods.
- China: -US$443.1 billion (Up 41.5% since 2011)
- Mexico: -$83.8 billion (Up 25.3%)
- Japan: -$70.7 billion (Up 5.9%)
- Germany: -$70.6 billion (Up 36.5%)
- Ireland: -$47 billion (Up 47.4%)
- Vietnam: -$41.6 billion (Up 194.2%)
- Italy: -$33.5 billion (Up 75.7%)
- Malaysia: -$27.1 billion (Up 121.8%)
- Canada: -$26.4 billion (Down -27.9%)
- India: -$22.9 billion (Up 44.2%)
Leading growth in the size of America’s country-specific deficits since 2011 were Vietnam (up 194.2%), Malaysia (up 121.8%), Italy (up 75.7%), Ireland (up 47.4%) and India (up 44.2%).
The sole decline over the 7-year timeframe was the -27.9% reduction trading with Canada.
See also United States Top 10 Imports, America’s Top Trading Partners, United States Top 10 Exports and America’s Top 20 Export States and United States Top 10 Major Export Companies
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 7, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 7, 2019
The World Factbook, Field Listing: World, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 7, 2019
Wikipedia, Economy of the United States. Accessed on March 7, 2019