U.S. exports - statistics & facts

The United States is well known for many of their cultural exports, such as Hollywood, many of which have added to the enormous soft power and influence the country possesses globally. However, the strength of the United States’ economy has had a more formidable role in the transition to, and sustenance of, their position as “leader of the free world”. Adopting part of that oft recited phrase, at the heart of this rise has been the promotion of a liberal capitalist system characterized by free-trade.

The expansion of trade allowed the economy of the United States, and many other countries, to thrive. Large export industries were established, taking advantage of the technological and manufacturing abilities present within the economy. Interestingly, manufacturing continues to fill the primary position in regards to the composition of U.S. exports. This is in contrast to the mainstream economic consensus that services will fill this position in high wage economies, while manufactured goods will be imported from economies where wage costs are lower. Moreover, the percentage of exported manufactured goods that are high-technology exports has also fallen since the turn of the century.

This is of concern for policy makers as it illustrates the reliance of the economy on low skilled manufacturing. The issue being that American manufacturing companies will compete in industries where they may often be priced out of the market by overseas manufacturers. This phenomenon was highly cited by President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as his demands for renegotiated trade deals held appeal among workers and areas reliant on the manufacturing sector. Trump’s removal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement does signal an attempt to protect such industries in the United States. However, his ability to fully remove pressure on these export sectors in a highly globalized economy appears limited.

Nonetheless, exports from the United States have grown in recent years. In 2016, exports were valued at 11.89 percent of GDP compared with levels of less than 10 percent in the early 2000s. Although China is long out of reach, the United States continues to occupy second place in the countries with the highest exports in terms of dollar value worldwide.

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