1. News & Issues

U.S. Imports and Exports Components

By

U.S. imports and exports (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
In 2012, total U.S. trade with foreign countries was $4.9 trillion. This consisted of $2.194 trillion in exports and $2.734 trillion in imports of both goods and services. This makes the U.S. is the world's third largest exporter, after the European Union (EU) and China, and the world's second largest importer, after the EU.

What Does the U.S. Export?:

More than two-thirds of U.S. exports are material goods ($1.547 trillion). One-third of all goods exported ($527 billion) are capital goods. The largest sub-categories are industrial machines ($46 billion), commercial aircraft ($45 billion), and semiconductors ($42 billion). Capital equipment also includes medical equipment, telecommunications and computer equipment.

Another third is industrial supplies and equipment ($501 billion). The largest sub-categories are fuel oil ($60 billion), petroleum products ($57 billion) and chemicals ($35 billion). Industrial supplies also includes plastics, gold and steel.

Nine percent of U.S. goods exports are automobiles ($146 billion).

The fourth largest category is consumer goods ($182 billion). This includes pharmaceuticals ($48 billion), cell phones ($22 billion) and gem diamonds ($18 billion).

The smallest category ($133 billion) is foods, feeds and beverages. This includes soybeans ($26 billion), meat/poultry ($18 billion) and corn ($10 billion). (Source: U.S. Census, Exhibit 7. Exports by End-Use Category, 2012)

The remaining third of exports are services ($632 billion). Travel passenger services was the largest single category, at $128 billion. Next was royalties and license fees, at $121 billion. Passenger fares totaled $40 billion, while other transportation was $43 billion. Government and military contracts was $20 billion. The rest was miscellaneous private services, which includes financial services.(Source: U.S. Census, Exhibit 3, U.S. Services by Major Category -- Exports, 2012)

What Does the U.S. Import?:

More than 80% of U.S. imports are goods ($2.275 trillion). The largest category ($731 billion) is industrial machinery and equipment, of which nearly half ($313 billion) is crude oil. Within this, the largest category is oil and related petroleum products. In addition to this are imports of fuel oil ($46 billion), petroleum products ($50 billion) and natural gas ($9 billion). Other large industrial imports are iron and steel products ($30 billion), chemicals ($25 billion), ferilizers ($16 billion).

The second largest import sub-category is capital goods ($548 billion). This includes computers ($60 billion), computer accessories ($56 billion), and telecommunications equipment ($53 billion).

The third largest category is consumer goods, which totaled $517 billion. Of this, apparel was the largest sub-cateogry, at $95 billion. Next was pharmaceuticals ($87 billion), cell phones ($81 billion) and toys ($33 billion).

The fourth largest category was automotive vehicles, parts, and engines at $297 billion. Food, feeds, and beverages was the smallest category, at $110 billion. This includes fish ($17 billion), fruit ($12 billion) and vegetables ($11 billion). (Source: U.S. Census, Exhibit 6 - Imports by End-Use Category)

The remaining 20% of imports are services ($437 billion). Miscellaneous private services, primarily financial services, was nearly half, at $191 billion. The next largest category is travel passenger services, at $84 billion. Other transportation services was $55 billion, while passenger fares totaled $34 billion. The U.S. imported $42 billion in royalties and license fees services. Last but not least was U.S. Government service imports ($31 billion) which was primarily defense ($27 billion). (Source: U.S. Census, Exhibit 4, U.S. Services by Major Category -- Imports, 2012)

The U.S. imports more than it exports. This creates a trade deficit of $540 billion. Even though America exports billions in oil, consumer goods and automotive products, it imports even more. For more on the economic impact of this, see U.S. Trade Deficit.(Article updated July 23, 2013)

  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. US Economy
  4. Trade
  5. U.S. Imports and Exports

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.