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New 2021 Trade Data: U.S. On Record Pace, Fueled By Imports

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Trucks transport containers at Qingdao Port last week in Qingdao, Shandong Province of China. U.S. imports from China and Vietnam are growing rapidly, as are U.S. exports to China. (Photo by Yu Fangping/VCG via Getty Images)

Trucks transport containers at Qingdao Port last[+]
VCG VIA GETTY IMAGES

U.S. export-trade trade is running 4.56% above the 2019 record and 15.45% ahead of the pandemic-hobbled 2020 totals, according to year-to-date data through April that was released today.

The record pace is fueled by U.S. imports, which increased 7.03% over the 2019 record year and 17.40% over last year. Exports are also performing well, up 0.89% over the first four months of 2019 and 12.50% over 2020.

This, of course, means the U.S. trade deficit is in record territory as well. Indeed, it topped $315.22 billion, the first time above the $300 billion mark in the first four months of the year.

Mexico is the nation’s top-ranked trade partner, with an increase of 2.98%, followed by Canada (2.61%) and China (13.57%). China finished 2020 as the nation’s top trade partner and tends to increase its trade in the second half of the year.

The three are accounting for 43.23% of all U.S. trade this year. In fact, they have accounted for more than 40% of all U.S. trade for at least two decades through April, with 2020 being the only exception.
Last year, U.S. trade with China had fallen so rapidly during its shutdown and then the U.S. shutdown that the three accounted for 39.80%. China’s percentage of U.S. trade for the first four months was 11.22%, the lowest total since 2008, when the world was tussling with the mortgage-led financial crisis.

This year, China’s percentage of U.S. trade was up to 14.01%, which remains below the percentage in the comparable periods of the four years between 2015 through 2018.

U.S. trade totaled $1.41 trillion through April, with exports at $547.55 billion, or 39% of the total, and imports at $862.78 billion. that percentage — 39 cents on the dollar — is comparable to the percentage for most years.

The gain over the same four-month period in 2019, what would turn out to be a record-setting year, was $61.53 billion. Of that total, U.S. trade with China accounted for $23.60 billion, or 38.35%. Only one other country registered an increase of more than $10 billion — Vietnam, its trade with the United States up 45.82%, or about 10 times faster than the U.S. average of 4.56%.

Vietnam ranks eighth among U.S. trade partners, up five from 2020. It passed Taiwan, India, Switzerland, Ireland and the Netherlands.

China’s increase over the first four months of 2019, unlike those for Vietnam and other fast-growing U.S. trade partners such as South Korea, Switzerland, Mexico and Canada, was led by U.S. exports. U.S. exports to China increased $12.93 billion, which is equal to 38.41%, while imports increased $10.67%, or 7.61%.

Nevertheless, the overall increase in U.S. imports from 2019 of $56.68 billion was still led by China, albeit narrowly. Its imports increased $10.67 billion while those from Vietnam increased $10.53 billion. On a percentage basis, it is not close. As mentioned, the increase from China was equal to 7.61% while those from Vietnam increased 51.01%.


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The US needs more time to decouple.
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Vietnam needs to start manufacturing more electronics. Make a quality turntable and I’ll buy it.
 

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