State of the Middle Class

U.S. Trade

From a trade standpoint, the U.S. moved from a formerly consistent producer and net-exporter of goods to a dependable net-importer of goods.

The charts below show that we import billions of dollars of products each month from our major global competitors, such as China, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, as well as from our regional competitors, Mexico and Canada. With China alone, the U.S. has net imports totaling roughly $7 trillion since 1985.

The U.S. continues to import many of its critical goods, including microchips, pharmaceuticals, and even tractors. This represents a shift in power where we’re strengthening competitors like China and enabling them to be technologically dominant.

The data in the charts that follow shows that the change from net-exporter of goods to net-importer sets us up for vulnerability as a nation on many levels.

The United States has had roughly
in net imports since 1985
$

Cumulative U.S. Goods Trade Balance: 1940 – February 2024 (Trillions of USD)

YearCumulative Goods Trade Balance
1960$0.01
1980-$0.13
2000-$3.22
2020-$17.61
February 2024-$25.63

U.S. Goods Trade Deficit for February 2024 (Billions of USD)

CountryU.S. Goods Trade Deficit Percentage of July Goods Trade Deficit
China (Mainland)$19.926.4%
Mexico$13.517.9%
Vietnam$8.711.6%
Germany$6.38.4%
Ireland$5.37.0%
Japan$5.67.4%
Canada$4.96.5%
Taiwan$3.85.0%
South Korea$4.56.0%
Italy$2.83.8%

Cumulative U.S. Goods Trade Balance by Country: 1985 – February 2024 (Trillions of USD)

Country  Cumulative Goods Trade Balance
China (Mainland) -$6.872
Japan  -$2.507
Mexico  -$1.778
Germany  -$1.519
Canada  -$1.287
Ireland  -$0.786
Vietnam-$0.731
Italy-$0.688
Taiwan-$0.641
South Korea-$0.556

Five Largest U.S. Trade Deficits by Product - 2023 (Billions of USD)

ItemDeficit
Motor cars and other motor vehicles (HS8703)-$147.25
Telephone sets (HS8517)-$81.01
Automatic data processing machines (including chips) (HS8471)-$73.54
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (HS2709)-$55.27
Medicaments (HS3004)-$52.92
Top 5 Deficits – The top five items that the US purchased more than they sold. The Blue Collar Dollar Institute utilizes trade queries provided by the WITS and SITC trade codes to calculate trade deficits.

Five Largest U.S. Trade Surpluses by Product - 2023 (Billions of USD)

ItemSurplus
Petroleum Gases & Other Gaseous Hydrocarbons (HS2711)$51.54
Petroleum Oils and oils from bituminous minerals (HS2710)$43.86
Soya beans, whether or not broken (HS1201)$27.48
Coal; briquettes, oviods and similar solid fuels (HS2701)$14.81
Maize (corn) (HS1005)$13.25
Top 5 Surpluses – The top five items that the US sold more than they purchased. The Blue Collar Dollar Institute utilizes trade queries provided by the WITS and SITC trade codes to calculate trade surpluses.

Largest U.S. Trade Deficits with China by Product (2022)

Product Deficit (Billions of USD) 
Telphone sets / telephones-$64.87
Automatic data processing machines (including chips)-$55.43
Toys, Tricycles & Scooters-$15.94
Furniture (Specifically Chairs)-$11.51
Video Game Consoles & Machines-$10.64

Largest U.S. Trade Surpluses with China by Product (2022)

Product Surplus (Billions of USD) 
Soya Beans$17.87
Maize (corn)$5.26
Petroleum Gases$3.99
Electronic integrated circuits$3.98
Footwear (specifically rubber footwear)$3.94

Largest Global Importers of Tractors in 2023 (Millions of USD)

Nation Imports 
United States $19,633.63
Canada$6,036.39
Germany$4,996.36
United Kingdom$3,573.05
Turkiye$2,237.60

U.S. Exports of Semiconductors, Computer Chips, and Parts Thereof (Millions of USD)

Year China, Mainland U.S. 
1990 $127.61   $11,401.38  
2000 $4,489.89   $45,197.76
2010 $62,416.26  $31,618.56
2020 $153,789.36  $27,576.80 
2023$199,297.86$24,113.73

U.S. Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Imports by Weight in 2023 (Kilograms)

Country Total Import Weight % of All Pharma Imports to the U.S. 
India125,741,98717.36%
China96,602,35913.34%
In 2022, the United States imported roughly 134,000 tons of medicinal and pharmaceutical products from China.

Additionally, 90+% of all Antibiotics in the USA come from China, which poses a significant risk to our national security. (NY Times, 2020)

In case of war, the U.S. would not be able to survive without access to these critical goods.
Cumulative Manufacturing Trade Balance

Since 1976, the United States has begun running a trade deficit on goods (importing more goods than we export). This figure aims to sum up all the nominal values of these annual deficits since 1976 to create a cumulative value. A nominal figure is one which has not been adjusted for inflation over time.

Largest Deficits

A trade deficit indicates that a country imported more of a certain product than they exported in a period. The largest trade deficits by industry takes all traded goods by the U.S. with the rest of the world and subtracts the net import value from net export value. When this value is negative, a trade deficit occurs. The Blue Collar Dollar Institute determines products by analyzing both SITC and Harmonized System trade codes, both to the three-digit level of detail.

Largest Surpluses

A trade surplus indicates that a country exported more of a certain product than they imported in a period. The largest trade surpluses by industry takes all traded goods by the U.S. with the rest of the world and subtracts the net import value from net export value. When this value is positive, a trade surplus occurs. The Blue Collar Dollar Institute determines products by analyzing both SITC and Harmonized System trade codes, both to the three-digit level of detail.

Largest Global Importers of Tractors

The Blue Collar Dollar Institute utilizes trade queries powered by the World Bank’s WITS tool to calculate the weight of imported goods entering the United States. BCDI utilizes the harmonized system to the “Heading” (or four-digit) detail level.

Exports of Semiconductors, Computer Chips, and Parts

The Blue Collar Dollar Institute utilizes trade queries powered by the World Bank’s WITS tool to calculate the weight of imported goods entering the United States. BCDI utilizes the harmonized system to the “Heading” (or four-digit) detail level.

U.S. Pharmaceutical and Medicine Imports by Weight

The Blue Collar Dollar Institute utilizes trade queries powered by the World Bank’s WITS tool to calculate the weight of imported goods entering the United States. BCDI utilizes the harmonized system to the “Heading” (or four-digit) detail level.