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flag United States United States: Trade profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

The U.S. is the world's largest importer and second-largest exporter of goods, as well as the largest importer and exporter of commercial services. Nevertheless, trade represents only 23.4% of the country’s GDP in 2020 (World Bank). U.S. top exports in 2020 were refined petroleum oils followed by cars, electronic integrated circuits, petroleum gases, and automotive parts and accessories. Main U.S. imports in the same year included cars, automatic data processing machines, phone system devices, medicaments, crude oils, and automobile parts. The U.S. signed 14 reciprocal free trade agreements, 5 preferential trade programs, 51 trade and investment framework agreements, and 48 bilateral investment treaties.

The country's main trading partners in 2020 were Canada (17.8%), Mexico (14.9%), China (8.7%), Japan (4.5%), the United Kingdom (4.1%) and Germany (4%); whereas imports came chiefly from China (19%), Mexico (13.7%), Canada (11.5%), Japan (5.1%) and Germany (4.9% - data by Comtrade). Historically, the U.S. has taken the view that trade promotes economic growth, social stability, democracy and better international relations. However, in recent years the trend had reversed, with the insurgence of several trade disputes (particularly with China, accused of unfair trade practices). Trade relations between the U.S. and China finally started to normalize towards the end of Trump’s presidency, with the two countries signing the U.S.–China Phase One trade deal in Washington. Nevertheless, trade relations did not improve much during Biden’s presidency.

The U.S. trade balance is structurally negative and the trade deficit has further widened in recent years: in 2020 it stood at an estimated 3.1% of GDP (World Bank). In the same year, exports of goods decreased to USD 1,431 billion, down by 12.8% year-on-year; with imports declining at a slower pace (-6.2% - at USD 2,407 billion). Despite being a net importer of goods, the U.S. are a net exporter of services: in 2020, services exports totalled USD 684 billion (-19.8% y-o-y) against USD 435.7 billion of imports (-23.2% y-o-y, data WTO). The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that in the first ten months of 2021 the goods and services deficit increased by USD 161.7 billion (+29.7%) from the same period one year earlier. Exports increased by USD 315.1 billion or 17.9%, imports rose by USD 476.8 billion or 20.7%.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 2,251,3512,408,4762,614,2212,567,4452,407,527
Exports of Goods (million USD) 1,454,6071,546,2731,663,9821,643,1611,431,610
Imports of Services (million USD) 503,053520,424540,951567,121435,748
Exports of Services (million USD) 752,411778,361839,594853,842684,001

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 26.527.227.526.323.4
Trade Balance (million USD) -749,801-799,340-880,302-864,332-915,573
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -481,172-513,785-579,939-576,865-681,707
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.54.44.11.2-8.9
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.44.12.8-0.1-13.6
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 14.615.015.214.513.3
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 11.912.212.311.810.1

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 5.48.24.43.63.5
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 14.18.74.12.12.0

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
Canada 17.8%
Mexico 14.9%
China 8.7%
Japan 4.5%
United Kingdom 4.1%
See More Countries 50.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
China 19.0%
Mexico 13.7%
Canada 11.5%
Japan 5.1%
Germany 4.9%
See More Countries 45.9%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 

Main Products

1,430.3 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 4.2%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 3.5%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.2%
Electronic integrated circuits and microassembliesElectronic integrated circuits and microassemblies 3.1%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 2.3%
See More Products 83.6%
2,405.4 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 6.1%
Automatic data processing machines and units...Automatic data processing machines and units thereof; magnetic or optical readers, machines for transcribing data onto data media in coded form and machines for processing such data, n.e.s. 4.4%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line...Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 4.0%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 3.4%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 3.4%
See More Products 78.8%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Search import and export data.

 

Main Services

840.7 bn USD of services exported in 2018
23.32%
21.05%
17.15%
13.56%
10.98%
4.83%
2.83%
2.61%
2.13%
1.19%
0.35%
552.2 bn USD of services imported in 2018
22.82%
19.56%
19.14%
8.79%
7.92%
6.64%
5.80%
4.16%
3.48%
1.13%
0.57%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
American Dollar (USD)
Exchange Rate Regime
Floating exchange regime.
Level of Currency Instability
Very limited exchange risk since the U.S. dollar is a major world currency.
Exchange Rate on :
 
 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
American Dollar (USD) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GBP 1.351.291.331.251.28

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency converter.

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Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2007
International Economic Cooperation
The United States is a member of the following international economic organisations: G-7, G-10, G-20, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), WTO, IMF, OECD, ICC, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates the United States click here. International organisation membership of the United States is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by the United States can be consulted here.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Look Up the Other Member Countries And Read the Web Pages of the World Customs Organization Devoted to the ATA Carnet.
Party of the TIR Convention
Yes

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
The UNCTAD Website Allows You to Read the TIR Convention, See the List of Member Countries And to Find Further Information.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
  • Entry Manifest (CBP Form 7533) or Application and Special Permit for Immediate Delivery (CBP Form 3461) or other form of merchandise release required by the port director,
  • Evidence of right to make entry,
  • Commercial invoice or a pro forma invoice when the commercial invoice cannot be produced,
  • Packing lists, if appropriate,
  • Other documents necessary to determine merchandise admissibility.

To go further, check out our service Shipping documents.

Free Zones
In the United States, free trade zones are called foreign trade zones. For a list of all the foreign trade zones, consult the Foreign Trade Zones Board.
For Further Information
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. State Department Services and consular affairs.
Non Tariff Barriers
Farm products are subject to both FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and USDA (U.S. Agricultural Department) rules.
- Dairy products require an import license. Quotas are in place. Products must conform to the strict sanitary and labelling rules and a description of ingredients is also required.
- Most fruits, vegetables and hazelnuts are subject to import licenses. The APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) analyses the risks of disease.
- Meat-based products can only be imported via ports with checking sanitary installations authorised by the USDA. The APHIS examines all goods.

Nearly 20% of all imports into the U.S. are food and food products. In 2002, Congress passed the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism Act), which, among other things, required the FDA to develop two systems: one to support the registration of facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food products intended for consumption in the United States and one to receive prior notice before food is imported or offered for import into the United States. Prior notice must be submitted electronically at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Manufactured goods should also conform to American standards, which imply potential additional costs. Electric equipment should be systematically guaranteed by a third party. There are no less than 2,700 municipal or federal authorities able to distribute safety certifications and they vary from state to state. As there is no central source of information about these normative aspects, it is imperative to enquire beforehand with the help of an importer.

Whatever the nature of the product, documentation is important- especially in terms of the invoice and certificate of origin. The documentary formalities are notably very heavy for textile imports (all products comprising above 5% in the composition of the textile product should be listed very precisely). The labelling rules can also generate substantial additional costs.

The U.S. applies a certain number of embargoes, forbidding the import of products manufactured with components originating from several countries. For a list of countries for which the U.S. applies an embargo (full or partial), visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury's website.

Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
Please click here to see all the USA commercial disagreements have been registered with the WTO.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
USA’s commercial policy, as seen by the WTO
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the EU
Sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, inventoried by the EU

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Learn more about How to Export to the United States on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

 

Standards

National Standards Organisations
American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Integration in the International Standards Network
The ANSI is a member of:
- The International Standard Organisation (ISO);
- The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC);
- The International Accreditation Forum (IAF)
- The U.S. member of the Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC)
- The Pan American Standards Commission (COPANT)
- The Asian Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC)
- Via the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB), a member of the Inter American Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC).
Obligation to Use Standards
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. private-sector led voluntary standardization and conformity assessment systems.
Classification of Standards
Five Standards Panel managed by the American National Standards Institute:
- the ANSI Biofuels Standards Panel (ANSI-BSP)
- the Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel
- the ANSI Homeland Security Standards Panel
- the ANSI Nanotechnology Standards Panel
- the Identity Theft Prevention and Identity Management Standards Panel

The classification code is: ANSI + 1 letter showing the technical area + digit number and the year.

Assessment of the System of Standardization
Respect of voluntary standardization is highly regarded in United States; it can increase partnership with other companies, sales potential on the market and the acceptance of the product by consumers.
Online Consultation of Standards
Visit the ANSI webstore.
Certification Organisations
Directory of ANSI Accredited Certification Programmes for Product Certifiers
Directory of Accredited Telecommunication Certification Body Programmes
Directory of ANSI Accredited Certification Programmes for SQF Standards
Directory of ANSI Accredited Certification Programmes for SFI and PEFC Standards
Associations of Standards Users
Standards Developing Associations

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Latest Update: May 2022