The United States plays a major role in international trade. In fact, it’s the largest world exporter and importer. And for many nations, it’s both the largest supplier and buyer.

In 1998, Canada, Japan, and Mexico were the United States’ largest export destinations, as well as suppliers of merchandise. Combining both exports and imports, Canada was the United States’ largest merchandise trading partner, with $330 billion changing hands.

Second place went to Japan at $180 billion, followed by Mexico at $173 billion. United States trade with China, including Hong Kong, totaled $109 billion, and with Germany, $76 billion.

Export Product Leaders

In 1998, machinery and computers (Harmonized System two-digit category 84) ranked as the number-one United States export category, accounting for $136 billion. Second in line was electronic equipment (HS 85), valued at $108 billion.

In third place at $59 billion came motor vehicles (HS 87), with air and spacecraft taking the fourth slot (HS 88) at $52 billion. The number-five category (HS 90), which covers optical, photo, and medical equipment, generated $36 billion in U.S. exports worldwide.

Export Destinations

The United States shipped $157 billion in exports to Canada and $79 billion to Mexico. Japan was in third place at $58 billion, followed by the United Kingdom with $39 billion. China, including Hong Kong, was the destination for $27 billion in American exports.

Canada and Mexico took the top two spots in buying American machinery and computers, followed by the United Kingdom. America’s next-door neighbors also led in electronic equipment, with Japan taking third place. The same order prevailed for motor vehicles.

The United Kingdom took the largest share of America’s air and spacecraft exports, edging out Japan and Saudi Arabia. Japan was the largest importer of American optical, photo, and medical equipment, ahead of Canada and Germany.

Fastest-Paced Destinations

Not unexpectedly, the two largest destinations for United States exports in 1998 accounted for the highest percentage increases since 1991.

U.S. exports to Mexico increased by 136 percent and to Canada by 84 percent. In third place was China/Hong Kong at almost 89 percent, followed by the United Kingdom at 77 percent.

The United States as Customer

America’s largest international supplier in 1998 was Canada, accounting for $173 billion in United States imports.

Japan placed second with $122 billion. Occupying the third rank was Mexico at $95 billion. Following was China, including Hong Kong, at $82 billion, and Germany, accounting for $50 billion.

The leading import product was machinery and computers valued at $154 billion, with Japan leading the pack, followed by Canada and Singapore. The electronic equipment category, worth $127 billion, came in second, paced by Mexico ahead of Japan and China.

Vehicles placed third, accounting for $124 billion, with Canada leading, and Japan and Mexico in the next two spots. The category including petroleum fuels was the fourth-leading import sector, at $58 billion, headed by Canada, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico.

Rounding out the top five was optical, photo and medical equipment, accounting for $28 billion in imports, as Japan led the list, with Mexico, Germany, and China as runners-up.

Import Pacesetters

America’s fastest-growing supplier in 1998 was Mexico, registering an increase of more than 200 percent since 1991, followed by China/Hong Kong at nearly 190 percent, Germany at 91 percent, Canada at 90 percent, and the United Kingdom at 89 percent.

This article appeared in March 2000. (BA)

John Manzella
About The Author John Manzella [Full Bio]
John Manzella, founder of the, is a world-recognized speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist on global business, trade policy, labor, and economic trends. His latest book is Global America: Understanding Global and Economic Trends and How To Ensure Competitiveness.

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