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US Economy: What Are the Exports and Imports It Relies on Most?

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In this US economic guide we provide an overview of the US economy with a focus on the country’s primary imports and exports of goods and services.

You will learn about the US’s most imported and exported goods and services, as well as the top destinations of exports.

We also explore the overall energy consumption in the US, along with the most produced commodities. Those interested in debt can see our live US Debt Clock for insights.

US Economy Overview

The United States of America exports almost $1.5 trillion worth of goods globally each year.

This figure has recovered and risen by over 37% since 2009 when the global financial crisis caused a dramatic downturn in trade figures.

The International Monetary Fund economic outlook for the U.S suggest that GDP totaled $18.5 trillion in 2016 and exports account for almost 8% of the country’s economic output.

All figures based on OEC 2016 projections unless otherwise stated

Top US Exports

Here is a breakdown of the most exported products from the US with total annual amounts in USD:

CommodityAnnual Amount
Refined and Crude Petroleum$71.32 billion
Soybeans$22.3 billion
Gold$17.7 billion
Corn$9.82 billion
Wheat$5.13 billion

Other Notable US Exports

  1. Cars $173 billion
  2. Vehicle Parts $43 billion
  3. Computers $84.8 billion

Top US Imports

These are the most imported products in the US. Crude oil and gold are also two of the most exported commodities.

CommodityAnnual Amount
Refined and Crude Petroleum$149.2 billion
Lumber$20.3 billion
Gold$16.5 billion
Aluminium$8.2 billion
Coffee$5.75 billion

America imports a total of $2.1 trillion of goods each year.

Other Notable US Imports

Each state in the U.S has a favorite import when you look at the figures, with Wisconsin importing the most sweaters and pullovers and Washington D.C the biggest importer of medicine overall.

Here are the top 5 imports as a whole country:

  1. Cars $173 billion
  2. Computers $84 billion
  3. Vehicle Parts $64.9 billion
  4. Refined Petroleum $41.2 billion
  5. Rubber Tires $13.3 billion

Did You Know? – American consumers eat $6.7 billion of imported crustaceans each year

Most Produced Commodities In The US

See the below summaries of the most produced commodities in the US.

Refined and Crude Petroleum: Both Imported And Exported

The U.S leads the league table of refined and crude petroleum trade in exports at 15% of market share with Russia 2nd in the table with 11% of the export market.

The U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that crude oil production averages 9.7 million barrels per day and that most of the increased capacity has come from the Gulf of Mexico.

Soybeans: Runner-Up To China

The U.S is the top exporter of soybeans and has 45% market share compared to Brazil with 38% and all the other countries who control much less than 10% of the remaining soybean exports.

China is the biggest importer of soybeans by a considerable margin and takes 67% of total exports.

Cotton: Over Double India’s Exports

The U.S is the dominant force in cotton trade and controls 43% of the export market with its nearest rival India having a 15% share, followed by Brazil and Australia both on 13%.

China is the biggest importer of raw cotton at 22% with Turkey at 17% and Indonesia at 15%.

The United States has been the major cotton player for almost 200 years and very few other markets have remained unchanged for so long. The federal government provides over $1 billion in subsidies and spends large sums on R&D in order to maintain its advantage.

This is despite the fact that Asia and Africa actually have better-growing conditions for cotton than Texas, which is where the majority of cotton is grown.

Corn: Most Exported From The US

The U.S is the number one exporter of corn and controls 39% of the export market, followed by Argentina (17%) and Brazil (14%).

Corn exports are distributed fairly evenly on a global basis and Japan is the biggest import destination at 12% and Mexico at 11%, with all the other countries taking much less than 10% of the total corn export market.

U.S corn exports are predicted to fall in the future as the major suppliers are starting to divert more of its crop to meet rising ethanol demand.

Wheat: Another Leading Exported Commodity

The U.S is marginally the biggest exporter of wheat at 15%, with Canada at 14% and Russia at 13% competing for the top slot.

Wheat is exported to many different countries with Indonesia the biggest importer at 8.5% and followed by Italy at 6.3%.

Top Destinations For US Exports

The United States has recently started trading wheat with Iraq and has exported the commodity since 2011. This has helped boost its export numbers by 500,000 tons to 26.5 million tons per year.

You can see the economic overview for each of the USA’s top export partners by clicking the country name in the table below:

CountryAmount Annually
Flag of Canada
$266 billion
Flag of Mexico
$229 billion
Flag of China
$115 billion

$63.2 billion
Flag of United Kingdom
United Kingdom
$55.3 billion

Energy Production & Consumption Analysis

US Energy Consumption by Source via EIA.gov

Oil: Heavily Imported Despite Production

There are close to one hundred countries that produce crude oil.

There are five significant producers who account for 48% of the world’s total and the United States is the third largest with an 11% share of global production numbers.

The U.S produces a large percentage of the oil it needs and relies on 25% of imports each year to meet demand. It is almost self-sufficient when it comes to natural gas and its annual production total is equal to 97% of its annual consumption.

The United States produces about 14.6 million barrels of petroleum and consumes approximately 19.6 million barrels per day.

The five largest sources of oil imports are –

  1. Canada 38%
  2. Saudi Arabia 11%
  3. Venezuela 8%
  4. Mexico 7%
  5. Colombia 5%

Natural Gas: Self-Sufficient Energy In The US

The United States has access to significant shale natural gas resources.

In the U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves (December 2016), the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that the United States has about 200 trillion cubic feet of proved shale gas resources.

The United States now produces nearly all of the natural gas that it uses. Its natural gas production in 2016 was the second-highest level recorded.

In 2016, U.S. dry natural gas production was equal to about 97% of U.S. natural gas consumption.

Five states accounted for about 65% of total U.S. dry natural gas production in 2016:

  1. Texas 24%
  2. Pennsylvania 20%
  3. Oklahoma 9%
  4. Louisiana 6%
  5. Wyoming 5%

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Other Resources On US Economy

We conduct data study research projects and publish them frequently on our blog. Here are a few recent articles related to the US economy.


What types of goods and services are produced in the US?

The most exported commodities, therefore some of the most produced and traded commodities in the US are refined and crude petroleum, cotton, soybeans, corn, and wheat. These commodities fall under agricultural and energy commodities. Other agricultural commodities produced in the US on a large scale include live cattle, feeder cattle, and hogs.

What is US unemployment rate in 2020?

According to a September 2020 report released by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the US unemployment rate is at 7.9%. The figure declined from close to 15% in April due to the resumption of labour, despite the covid-19 pandemic. Non-farm payroll employment also rose by 661,000.

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