International Trade

International trade is an indispensable component of the global economy. While the movement of commodities form the backbone of international trade, the import and export of services like banking, consulting, and financial services are also an integral part of the economic relationship between countries and regions. The international trade of goods and services is facilitated by commercial agreements and frameworks like the European Single Market or the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Many trade agreements are designed to eliminate tariffs and border checks to enable smooth, efficient, and free trade. In the absence of an existing agreement, the World Trade Organization (WTO) regulates the rules and regulations of trade activities.

Many countries import goods that they either do not manufacture themselves or that are too costly to produce. Today, China, the leading manufacturing country globally, is also the number one exporter of goods to the rest of the world.

Value of U.S. imports from China
506.4 billion USD
Value of U.S. exports to the world
1.75 trillion USD
GDP contribution of merchandise trade in China
31.6%

Market size

The ever-expanding goods trade
Trends in global export value of trade in goods from 1950 to 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars)
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Following the global financial crisis, the worldwide movement of trade goods stagnated for a brief period of time in 2009. Since then, the trade volume of imports and exports between countries has continued to climb with minor interruptions, mainly as a reflection of global political affairs like the US-China trade wars, and most recently due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In 2020, the volume of merchandise exports traded worldwide was recorded at around 18 trillion U.S. dollars.

Global economy
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Market segments

Import and export trade - a crucial link in the global economy
Share of exports of goods and services for NAFTA countries in 1994 and 2018, as percent of GDP
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Today's global economy is more interdependent than ever, and trade relations between individual countries and groups play a big part in this interconnectedness. In 2019, exports of goods and services made up about 12 percent of the GDP of the United States. This rate is even higher for other countries where global trade played a more vital role. In Russia, trade of services and goods constituted just over 46 percent of the country's GDP in 2020.

U.S. imports
U.S. exports
U.S. exports to China

Industry trends

Machinery is the most traded commodity
Value of leading imports and exports commodities traded worldwide in 2018, by sector (in million U.S. dollars)
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Electrical machinery is currently the most traded commodity based on the value of global imports and exports. In 2018, the value for both imports and exports in the machinery sector surpassed five billion U.S. dollars. Machinery is often purchased and sold in components, in the form of capital and intermediary goods.
Another sector with a high import and export value is transportation with equipment used in the manufacturing of cars and other vehicles being the typically traded commodity.

Automotive industry in China: imports and exports
Energy imports in the United States
Energy imports in the U.K.

Industry leaders

China drives global exports trade
Leading export countries worldwide in 2020 (in billion U.S. dollars)
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China and the United States are the world's two biggest exporting countries. In 2019, export goods with a total value of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars left China for destinations around the world. For the United States, this value was at 1.6 trillion U.S. dollars.

China-U.S. trade relations
Export trade in China
U.S. Trade

Industry definition

International trade refers to the worldwide movement of goods and services between countries and regions, facilitated by legally recognized trade agreements.
Statista's international trade data offers extensive global content with detailed regional breakdowns for both import and export trade. Additional information is provided in the form of dossiers, studies, and topic pages on bilateral trade relationships, key commodities exchanged between countries, leading importing and exporting countries around the world, and the leading goods and services that drive international trade.

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