Another 2021 First: Top 10 U.S. Trade Partners Top $100 Billion

Friday, February 25, 2022

Main News Photo


For the first time ever, the top 10 U.S. trade partners all topped $100 billion in export-import trade in 2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released in February.

The previous record was seven, first set in 2011 and tied every year thereafter. Until last year.

It was one of many new milestones set in a year filled with them, despite record tariffs and massive snarls in the supply chain symbolized by websites with items out of stock, barren shelves at the store, and ships stranded off the coasts of Los Angeles, Savannah and elsewhere, waiting to dock.

The United States set a record for total trade, total exports, and total imports, with those up almost 22%, 23.09%, and 21.27%, respectively.

For the first time, the U.S. trade deficit topped $1 trillion at a time when imports from China, the traditional deficit boogeyman, accounted for the lowest percentage of inbound shipments since 2008.

Also for the first time, a majority of the top 10 nations were from Asia and, also for the first time, only two were from Europe.

Canada finished as the No. 1 U.S. trade partner for the first time since 2014, when it set the record for U.S. trade that still stands. Although Canada, Mexico, and China each had 14% of U.S. trade, Canada inched out Mexico, which finished in second, followed by China.

The three new nations to the United States’ Billion-Dollar Club were Taiwan, India, and Vietnam, the totals for all three of which were within less than 1% of each other.

U.S.-India trade grew the fastest among the three, up more than 40% overall, with exports up more than 45% and imports up slightly less than 45%.

Both Taiwan and Vietnam saw increases of about 25% in a year when U.S. trade with the world grew at slightly faster than 20% from Covid-ravaged 2020.

The other seven nations in the Billion-Dollar Club are, in order, Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

Crossing $100 billion
Canada and Japan were the first two nations to top $100 billion in two-way trade with the United States, both having done so several years prior to 1992 — which is as far back as my access to data goes.

Mexico joined next, in 1994, the very year the North America Free Trade Agreement became effective. Its trade growth that year was 23.11%, almost twice as fast as the overall U.S. average. U.S. exports to Mexico grew more than twice as fast as the overall U.S. average, 22.28% compared to 10.22%, while imports grew slightly less rapidly, 23.99% and 14.23%, respectively.

China was next, crossing the $1 billion threshold in 2000, one year prior to being admitted to the World Trade Organization. It would be granted admission as a developing nation, a status which confers certain advantages. As with Mexico, China’s exports from the United States in 2020 grew at about twice the U.S. overall rate, 23.45% to 12.28%, while imports grew slightly more rapidly, 22.30% to 18.88%.

Next up was current No. 5 Germany, which topped $1 billion in 2004 followed by the United Kingdom in 2007.

Until 2021, the last nation to top $1 billion was South Korea, which did so in 2011. That was one year prior to the free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States going into effect but several years after the two nations came to terms, lacking only U.S. Senate ratification. In 2011, South Korea’s trade with the United States virtually mirrored overall gains and import gains but South Korean exports lagged the U.S. average for exports.

Crossing $200 billion
Canada crossed $200 billion in 1993; Japan and Mexico crossed in 2000; China crossed in 2004.

Crossing $300 billion
Canada topped $300 billion for the first time in 1997; Mexico and China topped $300 billion in 2006.

Crossing $400 billion
Canada topped $400 billion in 2000, China in 2008, and Mexico in 2011.

Crossing $500 billion
Canada was the first to cross the one-half trillion-dollar mark for two-way trade, doing so in 2005. It was followed by China in 2011 and Mexico in 2013.

Crossing $600 billion
Canada crossed $600 billion in two-way trade in 2005 and still holds the U.S. record at $660.22 billion, set in 2014. China topped $600 billion in 2011, followed by Mexico in 2013.


Category: International Trade, US News, Economic News

You May Also Be Interested In: