Trade Compliance

GHY discusses changes to international trade regulations and explores cutting-edge compliance strategies.

2016 U.S. Trade Overview

Posted April 20, 2017


The U.S. International Trade Administration today published its annual report providing an overview of the country’s trade patterns for the previous year, showing that the United States has a large and increasing trade surplus in services, reflecting America’s leadership position in many of the most rapidly growing industries in the world.

Noting that global trade growth slowed to 1.7% in 2016, the first time in 15 years in which it was outpaced by overall economic growth, the report states that since 2011, real U.S. export growth of 1.8% has been near the world average, outpacing that for all advanced economies.

U.S. exports totaled $2.21 trillion in 2016, a decrease of 2.3%, reflecting a drop in both good and services exports. At the same time, imports declined 1.8% to $2.71 trillion. On balance, the U.S. goods and services trade deficit in 2016 totaled $502.3 billion, a 0.4% increase from the $500.4 billion trade deficit in 2015.

Canada was the top U.S. goods export market in 2016 at $266.8 billion, led by sales of vehicles & parts and machinery. Mexico was the second largest export market at $231 billion.

The report notes that U.S. goods exports have more than doubled to China since 2006, and that during the past decade, U.S. goods exports overall have grown 42%, with Mexico and Vietnam among America’s fastest growing export markets.

Services exports totaled $750 billion in 2016, a figure down slightly from the previous year, but still one that now accounts for more than a third of U.S. exports (compared to less than 20% in the early 1980s) thanks to record showings in several services categories including other business services; travel, for all purposes; maintenance & repairs; telecommunications, computer, and information services; and insurance services.

In terms of employment connected to trade, the report points out that the number of U.S. jobs supported by exports has increased by 1.9 million over the past decade.  As of 2015, 6.7 million jobs were supported by U.S. goods exports and 4.8 million by service exports.  

Exports to Canada supported the greatest number of jobs: 1.6 million.

Nearly 295,000 U.S. companies exported and almost 197,000 imported goods in 2015 – all but 2% being small- or medium-sized with fewer than 500 employees. SMEs accounted for 97% of identified importers in 2015 and were responsible for a third of goods trade (by value). Most SMEs (59%) only export to a single market, the report states, noting that the majority of exporters are non-manufacturing firms such as wholesalers.