What Are the Top US Imports?

What Are the Top US Imports?

The United States imported a total of $3,387.7 billion in goods from abroad in 2021. That's an increase of $182.4 billion from the previous year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

In 2021, the U.S. goods and trade deficit increased 27%, or $182.4 billion, from just one year before. The BEA, which publishes the official trade statistics, acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic had a definite but still unquantifiable impact on the numbers.

In December 2021 alone, the U.S. imported $308.9 billion worth of goods and services.

What was all that stuff we bought? The raw figures from the BEA aren't very revealing. Top of the list is "industrial supplies and materials" followed by "consumer goods" and "capital goods."

Other sources reveal a bit more detail.

Key Takeaways:

  • Capital goods were the largest category of imports to the United States at $678 billion.
  • California imported the most foreign goods followed by Texas, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and New Jersey.
  • China was the largest provider of foreign goods to the United States supplying 18.6% of all U.S. imports in 2020.

Understanding US Imports

The top U.S. imports in 2020, by dollar value, were cars, computers, packaged medications, broadcasting equipment, and crude petroleum, according to the latest figures available from the Organization of Economic Cooperation.

The countries from which these products were imported were China, Mexico, Canada, Germany, and Japan, in that order of volume.

Import Data from the Census Bureau in 2019

Here’s a closer look at the current composition of U.S. goods imports. All figures are based on U.S. Census Bureau data for 2019.

Capital goods, excluding automotive, took the top spot in 2019 with $678 billion worth of goods imported. Computers were the top commodity under capital goods followed by telecommunications equipment and semiconductors. This category also includes railway equipment, medical equipment, and civilian aircraft.

Consumer goods were the second-largest commodity imported into the United States in 2019, clocking in at $654 billion. Pharmaceutical preparations were the largest category under consumer goods followed by cellphones and other household goods. This category also includes household appliances, toys, and clothing.

Next on the list were industrial supplies and materials at $522 billion. Crude oil held the top spot in the category followed by petroleum products and industrial supplies. This category also includes finished metal and chemicals and plastics.

The States That Import the Most

As of Nov. 2020, California is the top state importer of foreign goods. California is followed by Texas, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and New Jersey.

Top Exporting Countries to the United States

Where are all these goods coming from? Unsurprisingly, China leads the list. The manufacturing powerhouse supplied approximately 18.6% of all goods imported to the U.S. as of Nov. 2020.

China is followed by Mexico, at 13.9%, and Canada, at 11.6%.

All other countries that import to the U.S. are in the single digits, even Japan, at 5.1%, and Germany, at 4.9%.

What Are the Three Largest Exports and the Three Largest Imports of the US?

The Bureau of Economic Analysis divides imports into three categories: capital goods, consumer goods, and industrial supplies and materials. In March 2022:

  • Computers were the top imports in the capital goods category.
  • Pharmaceuticals, including packaged medications, were the top category in consumer goods.
  • Crude oil got the top spot in industrial supplies and materials.

As for exports, industrial supplies and materials get the top spot. That means crude oil, fuel oil, and natural gas. Passenger vehicles were the next-biggest export category.

What Percentage of Its Food Does the US Import Each Year?

The U.S. imports only about 15% of its food supply each year. That includes a whopping 94% of its fresh fish, 55% of fresh fruit, and 32% of fresh vegetables. Its biggest sources of imported food are Canada and Mexico, but France, Italy, and Singapore also are major suppliers.

Who Are the Largest Import Partners of the US Based on Imports and Exports?

The largest trading partners of the U.S. for the first three months of 2022 were Canada, Mexico, and China, in that order.

The U.S. experienced the largest deficits in trading with China, Mexico, and Vietnam, in that order.

Article Sources
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  1. United States Bureau of Economic Analysis. "U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services."

  2. United States Bureau of Economic Analysis. "U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, December 2021."

  3. United States Census Bureau. "U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, Annual Revision," Page 10.

  4. United States Census Bureau. "Top Trading Partners - November 2020."

  5. Organization of Economic Cooperation. "Trade, Complexity, and Rankings Updated to 2020."

  6. United States Census Bureau. "U. S. Imports of Goods by State of Destination, by NAICS-Based Product."

  7. Bureau of Economic Analysis. "International Trade in Goods and Services."

  8. World Integrated Trade Solution. "United States Food Products Imports by country 2019."

  9. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. "FDA Strategy for the Safety of Imported Food."

  10. Bureau of Economic Analysis. "Top Trading Partners - March 2022."

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