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Aerial View of the Port of Los Angeles - California - United States

Aerial View of the Port of Los Angeles – Southern California – USA
Photo Credit: Port of Los Angeles Official Website


As a former international trade professional, I am not adverse to global trade. The challenge of our times lies in the terms and rules of trade which have led to the disruption of communities worldwide. With their global financial and political influence, rich industrial nations can negotiate, legislate, and enforce trade agreements beneficial to their major players.

The United States is the world’s third largest exporter, after China and the European Union. When it comes to consumption, we hold the top position as the world’s largest importer. In 2015, our total imports and exports of goods and services earned US$2.7 trillion and US$2.2 trillion, respectively, for our economy. Our global trade deficit – the difference between our exports and imports – amounted to 500 billion dollars.

Our top three trading partners are China, with 16 percent of total trade in goods only, followed by Canada (15.4%) and Mexico (14.2%). When combined, our trade of 29.6 percent with our NAFTA partners exceeds that with China.

Our greatest trade deficit by country is with China, amounting to more than 365 billion dollars. Mexico and Canada rank in fourth and thirteenth places with 58.4 billion and 14.9 billion, respectively.

The U.S. top ten exports and imports reveal where most of the money comes and goes.

U.S. Top Ten Exports 2015 (complete list with values)

  • Civilian aircraft, engines, equipment & parts
  • Other parts & accessories of vehicles
  • Pharmaceutical preparations
  • Passenger cars, new & used
  • Industrial machines, other
  • Petroleum products, other
  • Electric apparatus
  • Semiconductors
  • Telecommunications equipment
  • Fuel Oil

U.S. Top Ten Imports 2015 (complete list with values)

  • Passenger cars, new & used
  • Crude oil
  • Pharmaceutical preparations
  • Other parts & accessories of vehicles
  • Cell phones & other household goods
  • Telecommunications equipment
  • Computers
  • Computer accessories
  • Apparel, textiles, non-wool or cotton
  • Apparel, household goods – cotton

Who gains from all this trade across borders? Judging from our top ten import and export products by value, it’s clear that America’s major manufacturers and traders are the winners. However, data of American import and export companies indicates that, by number, SMEs – small and medium-sized enterprises, comprised of fewer than 500 employees – lead the way.

In 2014, over 304,000 SMEs (97.7% of all exporters) shipped US$1.4 trillion in American goods. SME importers numbered 188,000 (97.1% of all importers) with 31.2% of the total value of imported goods.

During our 2016 presidential elections campaign, our free trade agreements have come under heavy fire – and rightly so. We need to address the terms and regulations of our free trade agreements and those currently in negotiation. Written by and for the giant multinational and transnational corporations, these agreements place corporate profits before people, nation, and the environment.

For more information on U.S. International Trade: