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Regional Matters

August 5, 2016

Foreign Trade: Top Import and Export Partners

Container ship

In 2015, total exports of goods nationally declined by 7.3 percent to $1.5 trillion. This marked the first year since 2009 that the figure has experienced a year-over-year decline, which can largely be attributed to the strength of the U.S. dollar in the midst of slowing international growth. Similarly, the value of Fifth District exports declined 4.8 percent in 2015, as total export value declined in every jurisdiction except the District of Columbia and South Carolina.

Exports to Canada, Mexico, and China (the United States’ top three export destinations) made up 18.6 percent, 15.7 percent, and 7.7 percent of total 2015 U.S. exports of goods, respectively. Within the Fifth District, exports to China made up 9.6 percent of total exports, slightly higher than its share of exports nationally. China was the top country by export value for South Carolina and ranked in the top five for five of the six Fifth District jurisdictions (see chart below).

Exports to Canada constituted 18.0 percent of total Fifth District exports, slightly lower than its share of exports nationally. Canada was the top exporting destination for four of the Fifth District jurisdictions, and it ranked in the top five for every jurisdiction except the District of Columbia. 

Within the Fifth District, exports to Mexico made up 7.9 percent of total exports, significantly lower than its share of exports nationally. However, Mexico still ranked in the top five exporting destinations in every jurisdiction except West Virginia and the District of Columbia. 

At the national level, China accounted for the largest share of imports in 2015, comprising 21.5 percent of total imports, while Canada and Mexico each accounted for 13.2 percent. China also ranked first in import value for two jurisdictions – North Carolina and Virginia – and was in the top five for every jurisdiction except the District of Columbia (see chart below). Canada was a top import partner for five out of six Fifth District jurisdictions, while Mexico was a top location for imports for four jurisdictions.

While the composition of trading partners for states in the Fifth District is representative of relationships at the national level, the goods exchanged vary widely between locations (see table below). 

Canada, the top destination for U.S. exports, received $17.1 billion worth of goods from the Fifth District in 2015. Transportation equipment was the top exported good by value to the country in three of the Fifth District jurisdictions, comprising 29.9 percent, 24.5 percent, and 17.9 percent of South Carolina, Virginia, and North Carolina exports to Canada, respectively. In West Virginia and Maryland, non-electrical machinery made up 61.1 and 19.6 percent of each state’s total exports to Canada, respectively.

In 2015, the Fifth District exported $9.1 billion to China. Waste and scrap, the top exported good to China by value in the District of Columbia and Maryland, accounted for 49.6 percent and 33.1 percent of each jurisdiction’s total exports to the country, respectively. Other top exports to China throughout the District ranged from computer and electronic products to agricultural products.

The Fifth District sent $7.5 billion worth of goods to Mexico in 2015. In West Virginia, North Carolina, and Virginia, the top exported good by value to the country was chemicals, constituting 53.0 percent, 24.6 percent, and 16.4 percent of each state’s total exports to Mexico, respectively. Computer and electronic products accounted for 39.0 and 31.7 percent of the District of Columbia and Maryland’s exports to the country, respectively.

Data for United States are from the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Census Bureau; data for the Fifth District are from the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Census Bureau/WISER/Haver Analytics.


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Views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond or the Federal Reserve System.

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