Goods and servicesThe balance of trade, which quantifies the value of imports and exports within a country's economy, is determined by subtracting the total value of imports from the total value of exports. Due in part to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Canada and Mexico were among the top single-country import partners of the United States in 2022. Despite the trade war piloted by former President Donald Trump, China has consistently been the country's biggest import partner. Chinese imports declined in 2019 and 2020 but continued to rise in the subsequent years. In 2022, the total import value of trade goods from China to the United States amounted to approximately 536.75 billion U.S. dollars. Pharmaceutical preparations were the imported goods to the U.S., valued at 171.23 billion U.S. dollars that year. In 2022, the state of California imported goods worth about 508.76 billion U.S. dollars, more than any other state. Texas had the second highest value of imports, totaling around 384.41 billion U.S. dollars.
As of 2021, imports of goods and services amounted to around 14.59 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Imported goods include a wide variety of items including merchandise, raw materials, and supplies, including petroleum and related products. Computers and electronic products were the most valuable imports, valued at nearly 500 billion U.S. dollars in 2022. Other leading imported goods included transportation equipment, chemicals, and machinery. In total, about 7.8 percent of all goods imported were agricultural products, with the vast majority manufactured commodity products. Regarding imported services, more than 40 percent were transportation or travel services in 2022.
A long-standing deficitThe balance of trade in the United States has been a longstanding topic of conversation among economists, business interests, and politicians. When a country imports more than it exports, this is known as a trade deficit. While large export industries have been present in the United States for many years, the U.S. trade deficit has been increasing and is the largest volume of any nation.
Generally, economists cannot agree on if trade deficits are good or bad for an economy. On the one hand, a deficit could make an economy weaker, as more imports equals more money spent and more currency exiting the country. Many politicians in the U.S. cite the trade deficit with China as the reason for a decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs, as well as automation and technological advancements. While some view an economy buying more goods and services than it is selling may hurt job creation and economic growth, others believe a trade deficit could have the potential to attract more foreign investment in U.S. assets. Foreign firms operating in the U.S. tend to pay higher than average wages, invest more in research and development, and increase the efficiency of U.S. companies that they compete with.