Background

The International Trade Commission has updated its annual compendium of data and analysis examining changes in trade with key U.S. partners and in important industries. The “Shifts in U.S. Merchandise Trade 2019” report focuses on changes in U.S. imports, exports, and reexports with respect to ten sectors (agricultural products, chemicals and related products, electronic products, energy and related products, footwear, forest products, machinery, minerals and metals, textiles and apparel, and transportation equipment) and four major trading partners (China, Mexico, Canada, and Vietnam).

Exports. Total U.S. exports fell 1.2 percent in 2019 to $1.6 trillion and exports in six of the ten sectors decreased. The only sectors to see an increase in exports were footwear (+4.7 percent), energy-related products (+3.8 percent), and chemicals and related products (+0.2 percent). The largest declines were in forest products (-9.8 percent) and minerals and metals (-6.0 percent).

Across all merchandise sectors, exports were up to Vietnam (+12.5 percent), Germany (+4.4 percent), the United Kingdom (+4.3 percent), France (+3.2 percent), India (+2.7 percent), Taiwan (+2.2 percent), and South Korea (+0.7 percent). Exports were down to China (-11.3 percent), Mexico (-3.4 percent), Canada (-2.5 percent), and Japan (-0.8 percent).

Imports. The value of total U.S. imports declined 1.7 percent to $2.5 trillion in 2019 but imports in six of the ten sectors increased. The largest gains were in chemicals and related products (+3.1 percent), transportation equipment (+2.7 percent), and footwear and agricultural products (+2.1 percent each). Decreases were registered in energy-related products (-13.4 percent), forest products (-8.6 percent), and minerals and metals (-7.7 percent).

For all merchandise sectors, imports were up from each of the listed major trading partners except China (-16.2 percent). The largest increases were from Vietnam (+35.6 percent), Taiwan (+18.6 percent), and France (+9.6 percent).

Trade Balances. U.S. trade balances improved in energy-related products (+103.7 percent) and footwear (+1.9 percent) but declined in the other sectors, including chemicals and related products (-14.7 percent), transportation equipment (-10.4 percent), and machinery (-6.3 percent). Nine of the ten sectors (all but energy-related products) saw a trade deficit and the largest deficits were in electronic products ($2.12 billion), transportation equipment ($1.33 billion), and textiles and apparel ($1.06 billion).

The U.S. ran trade deficits with all listed major trading partners except the United Kingdom. Deficits increased with five of them, including Canada (-43.5 percent), Vietnam (-41.3 percent), and Mexico (+26.2 percent), and decreased with China (+17.6 percent) and Germany (+1.4 percent).

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