America’s biggest export products by value in 2020 were refined petroleum oil, crude oil, cars, electronic integrated circuits and petroleum gases. In aggregate, those major exports account for 16.4% of overall exports sales from the United States. That comparatively low percentage suggests a diversified range of exported goods.
The United States ranks among world-leading nations for exporting refined petroleum oils, cars and petroleum gases.
The latest available country-specific data in 2020 shows that 69.3% of products exported from the U.S. were bought by importers in: Canada (17.8% of the global total), Mexico (14.9%), China (8.7%), Japan (4.5%), United Kingdom (4.1%), Germany (4%), South Korea (3.6%), Netherlands (3.2%), Brazil (2.4%), Taiwan (2.1%), France (2%) and Belgium (1.9%).
From a continental perspective, 32.7% of exports from the United States by value was delivered to its fellow North American trade partners. Meanwhile 32.4% was sold to Asian importers with another 22.5% worth of goods going to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (9%), Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (1.9%) then Africa (1.5%).
Given America’s population of 330 million people, its total $1.431 trillion in revenues from exports in 2020 translates to roughly $4,300 for every U.S. resident.
United States Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in American global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the United States.
- Machinery including computers: US$182.6 billion (12.8% of total exports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $162.9 billion (11.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $155.1 billion (10.8%)
- Vehicles: $105.2 billion (7.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $83.4 billion (5.8%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $80.9 billion (5.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $60.2 billion (4.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: $60 billion (4.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $53.9 billion (3.8%)
- Organic chemicals: $34 billion (2.4%)
America’s top 10 exports surpass over two-thirds (68.3%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Only two top 10 export categories grew in value from 2019 to 2020, namely pharmaceuticals (up 0.7%) and gems or precious metals (up 0.6%).
Half of the top export categories declined year over year: aircraft and spacecraft (down -40.5%), mineral fuels including oil (down -22.4%), vehicles (down -21%), organic chemicals (down -13.6%) and machinery including computers (down -11.3%).
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of America’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
The following types of American product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Aircraft, spacecraft: US$52.3 billion (Down by -48.2% since 2019)
- Oil seeds: $28.6 billion (Up by 33%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $25 billion (Reversing a -$10.4 billion deficit)
- Cereals: $16.7 billion (Up by 15.6%)
- Other chemical goods: $13.2 billion (Down by -19.6%)
- Meat: $8.7 billion (Down by -2.1%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $7.3 billion (Up by 2.9%)
- Cotton: $6.1 billion (Down by -13.3%)
- Woodpulp: $4.5 billion (Down by -8.4%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $4.2 billion (Up by 3%)
For example, United States has highly positive net exports in the international trade of aircraft launching gear and other on-deck landing equipment. In turn, these cashflows indicate America’s strong competitive advantages under the aerospace-related products category.
Overall the U.S. incurred a -$976.1 billion trade deficit for 2020, expanding by 5.7% from the -$923.2 billion in red ink for all products one year earlier.
Below are product categories from the United States that are negative net exports or product trade balance deficits for 2020. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on American goods trail U.S. importer spending on foreign products.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -US$180.6 billion (Up by 0.8% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$179 billion (Up by 3.4%)
- Vehicles: -$149.3 billion (Down by -15.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$85.6 billion (Up by 14.6%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: -$57 billion (Up by 0.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$47 billion (Reversing a $1.5 billion surplus mainly gold)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$36 billion (Down by -20.6%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$31.2 billion (Down by -15.9%)
- Toys, games: -$31 billion (Up by 11.9%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: -$28.6 billion (Up by 95.2%)
United States has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for electronics-related equipment, notably consumer electronics.
The resulting cashflow deficiency clearly exemplifies U.S. competitive disadvantages in the international electronics market, but also represents a key opportunity for United States to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations and creative employment initiatives in the homeland.
American Export Companies
Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from the United States.
- Apple (computer hardware)
- Exxon Mobil (oil, gas)
- Johnson & Johnson (medical equipment, supplies)
- Chevron Corporation (oil, gas)
- Procter & Gamble (household, personal care items)
- Pfizer (pharmaceuticals)
- The Coca-Cola Company (beverages)
- Merck & Co (pharmaceuticals)
- Qualcomm (semiconductors)
- Philip Morris International (tobacco)
- Intel (semiconductors)
- Schlumberger (oil, gas)
- PepsiCo (beverages)
- Cisco Systems (communications equipment)
- Boeing (aerospace)
- ConocoPhillips (oil, gas)
- AbbVie (pharmaceuticals)
- Occidental Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Eli Lilly and Company (pharmaceuticals)
Searchable List of America’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from the United States during 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease from 2019 to 2020.
|Rank||US Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||YOY|
|1||Processed petroleum oils||$60,709,450,000||-30.6%|
|7||Phone system devices including smartphones||$28,091,200,000||-8.5%|
|8||Electro-medical equipment (e.g. xrays)||$28,022,805,000||-5.7%|
|9||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$26,090,951,000||+0.9%|
|11||Computers, optical readers||$24,776,333,000||-3.9%|
|12||Medication mixes in dosage||$23,081,430,000||+1%|
|14||Machinery for making semi-conductors||$19,614,947,000||+26.9%|
|16||Computer parts, accessories||$12,893,764,000||-22.7%|
|18||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$10,561,409,000||-12.8%|
|21||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$9,799,017,000||-6.1%|
|23||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$9,271,485,000||-0.4%|
|25||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$9,203,144,000||+21.5%|
|26||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$9,111,526,000||-12.8%|
|29||Precious metal waste, scrap||$7,886,168,000||+50.5%|
|31||Liquid pumps and elevators||$7,280,393,000||-12.4%|
|33||Miscellaneous plastic items||$6,552,160,000||-5.2%|
|35||Unrecorded sound media||$6,255,186,000||+28.9%|
|37||Other food preparations||$6,211,975,000||-0.8%|
|38||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$6,158,816,000||-7.9%|
|39||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$6,092,861,000||-37.9%|
|41||Cotton (uncarded, uncombed)||$5,969,433,000||-2.9%|
|42||Hand-drawn paintings, drawings||$5,921,127,000||-37.6%|
|45||Air or vacuum pumps||$5,746,264,000||-11.6%|
|46||Electrical converters/power units||$5,613,491,000||-5.7%|
|47||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$5,544,668,000||-11%|
|49||Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers||$5,361,331,000||-2.3%|
|51||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$5,287,174,000||-3.6%|
|53||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$5,081,837,000||-16.8%|
|54||Chemical industry products/residuals||$5,026,811,000||-0.3%|
|55||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$4,990,431,000||-16.3%|
|56||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$4,969,331,000||-3.9%|
|57||Other measuring/testing machines||$4,875,198,000||-13.4%|
|58||Piston engine parts||$4,823,941,000||-19.3%|
|59||Iron or steel scrap||$4,781,698,000||-10.5%|
|61||Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps||$4,241,682,000||-18.5%|
|62||Electric motors, generators||$4,216,213,000||-0%|
|63||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$4,165,520,000||-9.9%|
|65||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$4,092,544,000||-10.6%|
|67||Rubber tires (new)||$3,974,149,000||-20.1%|
|68||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$3,881,047,000||-11.4%|
|72||Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues||$3,680,203,000||+6.9%|
|73||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$3,622,489,000||-17.6%|
|74||Fresh or chilled beef||$3,562,210,000||+1.1%|
|76||Other organic cleaning preparations||$3,526,401,000||+5.6%|
|77||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$3,486,768,000||-16.8%|
|78||Electric storage batteries||$3,434,595,000||-8.8%|
|80||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$3,355,155,000||+6.1%|
|82||Vinyl chloride polymers||$3,196,314,000||-14%|
|83||Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates||$3,181,891,000||-8.3%|
|84||Liquid/gas checking instruments||$3,167,290,000||-11.1%|
|86||Uncoated kraft paper||$3,142,920,000||-6.2%|
|87||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$3,005,356,000||-23.9%|
|89||Beet-pulp, brew/distilling waste||$2,980,644,000||+2%|
|90||Petroleum oil residues||$2,959,212,000||-31%|
|92||Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools||$2,940,214,000||-1.9%|
|95||TV/radio/radar device parts||$2,793,206,000||-7%|
|96||Bombs, grenades, ammunition||$2,756,032,000||-38.1%|
|99||Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings||$2,724,224,000||-9%|
|100||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$2,695,689,000||-9.5%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$912.3 billion or approaching two-thirds (63.7%) by value for all products exported from the U.S. during 2020.
In macroeconomic terms, the United States’ total exported goods represent 6.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($20.807 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity U.S. dollars). That 6.9% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 7.7% for 2019. Those metrics seem to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for America’s total economic performance, at least in the short term.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its jobless rate. America’s unemployment rate published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was 6.3% in January 2021, up from an average 3.892% one year earlier as reported by the International Monetary Fund.
See also United States Top 10 Imports, America’s Top Trading Partners, Top United States Trade Balances and America’s Top 20 Export States and United States Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on April 29, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 29, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 29, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 29, 2021
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on April 29, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of United States. Accessed on April 29, 2021