What Are the Top U.S. Imports?


At the end of the second quarter 2018, the United States’ trade deficit increased to its highest level since 2008. This was due to a steady rise in imports that was, in turn, fueled by strong domestic demand. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. trade deficit reached $63.9 billion in September 2020, down $3.2 billion from $67 billion in August.

Key Takeaways:

  • Capital goods were the largest category of imports to the United States at $510 billion.
  • California imported the most foreign goods followed by Texas, Illinois, Michigan, and New York.
  • China was the largest provider of foreign goods to the United States supplying 13.5% of all U.S. imports in 2019.

According to U.S. News, total U.S. exports are down 17.4% in 2020 from 2019, while imports have declined by 12.4% as the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on global commerce for 2020 and disrupted global supply chains.

President Donald Trump has called for a reduction in the trade deficit and has consistently pushed for an “America First” trade policy. The Trump administration’s move to impose tariffs on Chinese imports and the subsequent retaliation by the Asian economy put stock market investors on edge.

The Composition of U.S. Imports

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 $510 billion-worth of goods imported. Computers were the top commodity under capital goods followed by semi-conductors and telecommunications equipment. This category also includes railway equipment, medical equipment, and civilian aircraft.

Consumer goods was the second-largest commodity imported into the United States in 2019, clocking in at $497 billion. Pharmaceutical preparations was the largest category under consumer goods followed by cell phones and other household goods. Consumer goods also includes household appliances, toys, and clothing.

Next on the list were industrial supplies and materials at $395 billion. Crude oil held the top spot in this category followed by petroleum products and industrial supplies. This category also includes finished metal and chemicals and plastics.

The States That Import the Most

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

Top Exporting Countries to the United States

And where are all these goods coming from? Unsurprisingly, China leads the list. The manufacturing powerhouse supplied just over 13.5% in 2019. That number has dropped from 20.5% as of July 2018. China is followed by Mexico and Canada, and Japan and Germany are next on the list.

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