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 2020” 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). It also includes a chapter on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on freight transportation services and U.S. goods imports.

Exports. Total U.S. exports fell 13.3 percent in 2020 to $1.4 trillion, the second straight year this figure declined. The value of exports in nine of the ten sectors decreased, with the only exception being agriculture (+4.6 percent). The largest declines were in footwear (-30.6 percent), transportation equipment (-28.5 percent), and energy-related products (-23.9 percent).

With respect to major trading partners, exports across all merchandise sectors were up only to China (+16.9 percent). The largest export declines were to France (-27.5 percent), Hong Kong (-22.5 percent), India (-20.9 percent), and Belgium (-20.6 percent).

Imports. The value of total U.S. imports was down 6.3 percent to $2.3 trillion in 2020, the second straight year this figure declined as well. Imports in five of the ten sectors increased, including minerals and metals (+3.0 percent), chemical-related products (+2.9 percent), and agricultural products (+2.2 percent). Imports fell in the five other sectors, including energy-related products (-38.5 percent), footwear (-23.7 percent), and transportation equipment (-18.9 percent).

Across all merchandise sectors, imports were up from Switzerland (+67.7 percent), Vietnam (+19.8 percent), Taiwan (+11.4 percent), Malaysia (+8.9 percent), and Ireland (+6.7 percent). The largest decreases were from France (-25.5 percent), the United Kingdom (-20.5 percent), Japan (-16.8 percent), and Canada (-15.2 percent).

Trade Balances. U.S. trade balances improved in energy-related products, footwear, and agricultural products but worsened in other categories, with the biggest drops in chemicals and related products, electronic products, and minerals and metals. Nine of the ten sectors (all but energy-related products) saw a trade deficit, with the largest in electronic products ($2.30 billion), transportation equipment ($1.39 billion), and textiles and apparel ($1.09 billion).

The U.S. ran trade deficits with all listed major trading partners except the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Deficits increased with seven of them, with the largest gains being with China, Japan, and Canada, and decreased with eight, with the largest declines being with Switzerland, Vietnam, and Mexico.

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

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