Background

The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services jumped 17.7 percent in 2020, the highest since the financial crisis in 2008, according to trade statistics released Feb. 5 by the Department of Commerce. Both imports and exports saw large declines amid then-President Trump’s trade war and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. deficit with China was down for the second straight year in 2020 as exports increased and imports continued to fall. Annual deficits with Germany, Japan, Italy, France, and Canada were down as well. However, longstanding surpluses with a handful of major trading partners all declined except one.

Annual statistics. For all of 2020 the U.S. trade deficit totaled $678.7 billion, up from $576.9 billion in 2018. Exports fell 15.7 percent to $2.13 trillion, the most in six decades according to a Reuters article, and imports were down 9.5 percent to $2.81 trillion, the lowest amount in four years. Both were lower for the second straight year.

The goods deficit rose 6.0 percent to a record-high $915.8 billion. Exports were down 13.2 percent to $1.43 trillion, including decreases of $27.4 billion in civilian aircraft, $18.4 billion in civilian aircraft engines, $14.8 billion in crude oil, $13.3 billion in automotive parts and accessories, $10.5 billion in passenger cars, and $8.5 billion in gem diamonds. Imports fell 6.6 percent to $2.35 trillion, including decreases of $65.2 billion in automotive vehicles, parts, and accessories, $50.2 billion in crude oil, and $11.1 billion in civilian aircraft engines along with increases of $25.1 billion in non-monetary gold, $23.7 billion in finished metal shapes, and $11.5 billion in computers.

The services surplus plummeted 17.5 percent to $237.1 billion. Exports fell 20.7 percent to $697.1 billion while imports dropped 21.8 percent to $460.1 billion.

The goods and services deficit was 3.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2020, up from 29.9 percent in 2019.

Country/region

Deficit

% Change

Surplus

% Change

China

$310.8 billion

-10.1

 

 

European Union

$183.4 billion

+3.1

 

 

Mexico

$112.7 billion

+10.7

 

 

Germany

$57.3 billion

-14.7

 

 

Switzerland

$56.7 billion

+112.4

 

 

Ireland

$55.9 billion

+6.1

 

 

Japan

$55.4 billion

-19.7

 

 

Malaysia

$31.7 billion

+15.7

 

 

Taiwan

$29.9 billion

+30.0

 

 

Italy

$29.5 billion

-11.7

 

 

Thailand

$26.4 billion

+30.7

 

 

South Korea

$24.8 billion

+20.4

 

 

India

$23.8 billion

+2.1

 

 

France

$15.6 billion

-20.8

 

 

Canada

$15.0 billion

-44.4

 

 

Indonesia

$12.8 billion

+3.2

 

 

South/Central America

 

 

$39.8 billion

-25.9

Netherlands

 

 

$18.1 billion

-15.8

Hong Kong

 

 

$16.1 billion

-38.3

Brazil

 

 

$11.7 billion

-4.1

Australia

 

 

$9.1 billion

-40.1

United Kingdom

 

 

$8.8 billion

+46.7

Belgium

 

 

$6.7 billion

-54.1

Monthly statistics. The monthly trade deficit in goods and services was $66.6 billion in December 2020, down from $69.0 billion in November. Exports were up 3.4 percent to $190.0 billion while imports rose 1.5 percent to $256.6 billion.

The deficit in goods trade fell 3.2 percent in December to $84.2 billion. Imports of goods rose 1.4 percent to $217.7 billion, including increases of $1.6 billion in passenger cars and $1.2 billion in finished metal shapes along with decreases of $1.5 billion in cell phones and other household goods and $1.1 billion in pharmaceutical preparations. Exports of goods gained 4.7 percent to $133.5 billion, including increases of $1.3 billion in crude oil, $1.0 billion in soybeans, and $900 million in automotive vehicles, parts, and engines.

The services surplus was down 0.2 percent to $17.5 billion, with imports up 1.8 percent to $38.9 billion and exports up 0.5 percent to $56.5 billion.

Country/region

Deficit

% Change

Surplus

% Change

China

$28.1 billion

-6.3

 

 

European Union

$19.2 billion

+15.0

 

 

Mexico

$10.3 billion

-8.8

 

 

Japan

$5.5 billion

-16.7

 

 

Germany

$5.8 billion

+18.4

 

 

Italy

$3.2 billion

-8.6

 

 

Taiwan

$3.2 billion

+6.7

 

 

South Korea

$2.7 billion

-6.9

 

 

India

$2.8 billion

+16.7

 

 

Canada

$1.1 billion

-35.2

 

 

France

$1.6 billion

-5.9

 

 

Singapore

$0.9 billion

Shift from $0.2 billion surplus

 

 

South/Central America

 

 

$3.9 billion

+30.0

Hong Kong

 

 

$2.1 billion

+16.7

Brazil

 

 

$0.8 billion

-33.3

United Kingdom

 

 

$0.2 billion

-81.8

Saudi Arabia

 

 

$0.6 billion

+200.0

Copyright © 2021 Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A.; WorldTrade Interactive, Inc. All rights reserved.

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