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Oil is one of America's largest import categories. (Photo: David McNew / Getty Images)

Definition: Imports are the goods and services that are bought by residents of a country, but made outside of the country. It doesn't matter what the goods or services are, or how they are sent. They can be shipped, sent by email, or even hand-carried in personal luggage on a plane. If they are produced in a foreign country and sold to domestic residents, they are imports.

For example, tourism products and services are still imports, even though they are sold to tourists outside of their country. In a way, when you travel outside the country, you are importing those souvenirs.(Source: Department of Commerce)

U.S. Imports

The U.S. is the world's largest importer. In 2011, it imported $2.3 trillion in goods and services. The European Union (EU) is next, with an estimated $2 trillion in imports (2010 figures). China is the next largest, at $1.7 trillion. Germany is responsible for more than half of the EU's imports, at $1.2 trillion. (Source: CIA World Factbook, Imports Rank Order)



(Article updated May 16, 2012)

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