International shipping and trade is the lifeblood of world economy. It helps countries grow their national economies and expands the global trade market.
Imports and exports, in particular, help countries because every country is rich in certain resources while others lack these resources. At the same time, some countries have more highly developed infrastructures and capital markets than others (that allow for complex technological manufacturing) while others do not. In short, imports and exports create a sort of balance so that countries can trade for resources they need by trading off resources they have an abundance off.
The United States is one of the top countries in international shipping and trade. Below is more information on the US’s top imports and top exports as well as the names of the countries they do the most trading with.
What are Imports and Exports?
A basic understanding of imports and exports is necessary to appreciate the top imports and exports of the United States.
Imports are goods that are brought into one country from another. When the United States trades for resources to bring into the country, this is an import. The reason for importing goods is usually because they are not domestically readily available. It can also be because they are cheaper to buy overseas. These imported goods are very important for businesses and individual consumers in the country they are imported to.
Exports, on the other hand, are just the opposite of imports. They are goods a country sells to another. When the United States sells goods to another country, this is an export. Goods are often exported because a country has an abundance of a particular resource.
It is better for a country to export more goods than it imports. This makes it a net exporter rather than a net importer. When you export the majority of your goods, more money is coming into the country through sales than out of the country. In addition to the sales themselves, exports increase domestic activity including production, jobs, and overall revenue. Simply put, exporting helps the wealth of a country go up.
Top United States Imports
It’s important to note that the United States’ top imports have the potential to vary from year to year depending on the world trade market. The top five imports below are for the year 2014. However, each of the below resources is generally near the top of the US import list, no matter the particular year.
- Oil – Oil makes up over 18% of the United States’ annual imports. Almost $400 billion of oil is imported each year.
- Machines, Engines – Imports of machines and engines make up nearly 15% of the US’s annual imports. This accounts to over $300 billion per year.
- Electronic Equipment – Just over $300 billion worth of electronic equipment is imported into the United States every year. This category makes up nearly 13% of the country’s annual imports.
- Vehicles – Slightly over $250 billion worth of vehicles are imported each year. That means that this trade category makes up 10% of the country’s annual imports.
- Medical, Technical Equipment – Another major category of US imports is medical and technical equipment with $72 billion, or 3% o imports, per year.
Top United States Exports
The United States is one of the world’s top exporters as well as one of its top importers. As you will notice below, several of its top exports are also its top imports. The reasons for this are numerous. In the case of oil, for instance, the US has some of the best oil processing facilities in the world. It can buy cheap, dirty oil from other countries and process it into useable oil of its own. This allows it to sell its own high quality oil to other countries at premium prices.
- Machines, Engines – Machines and engines make up over 13% of the US’s yearly exports with $213 billion worth of goods shipped to other countries.
- Electronic Equipment – The United States exports over $165 billion, or 10% of its exports, worth of electronic equipment each year.
- Oil – Just under $150 billion worth of oil is exported by the United States each year. This account for 9% of its worldwide exports.
- Vehicles – $133 billion worth of vehicles are exported by the US each year. This figure amounts to around 8.5% of the country’s annual exports
- Aircraft, Spacecraft – The United States is one of the world’s top exports of aircraft and spacecraft. $115 billion was exported in 2014. This accounts for 7.5% of the country’s annual exports.
United States Top International Trading Partners
The United States is the top trading partner of well over 50 countries around the world. It is the country that these other countries primarily export and import with. At the top of the list are Chad, Haiti, and Mexico for exports and Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica for imports.
However, the United States top international trading partners are far different. These are the countries that make up the bulk of the US’s imports and exports, rather than the US making up the bulk of their trading. At the top of this list are Canada, China, Mexico, the European Union, and Japan.
Final Thoughts on US Imports and Exports
International shipping and trade is of utmost importance to the United States, like it is for all other countries. Imports and exports allow the country the chance to make money off of abundant resources. They also allow the country to buy resources and goods that they are lacking in. Global market trade helps United States businesses and consumers get what they need to stay in business and raise the quality of life.
The United States trades with almost every country in the world. This has allowed the country to prosper economically and gives its consumers a wide variety of goods to select from. It goes without saying that imports and exports will continue to be of great importance to the US long into the future.