The world of global trade has experienced unprecedented challenges and disruptions over the past several years, but we’ve reached a turning point as businesses and economies have adapted to the new normal, embracing flexibility and innovation. Despite new geopolitical challenges, global trade continues to show resilience and impressive growth: The value of global trade rose 12% to almost $32 trillion last year.
In honor of World Trade Month, we gathered 31 interesting facts about the state of international trade. These facts highlight key milestones, record-breaking figures and emerging trends that define the current climate. As exporters try to navigate what can be a very complicated landscape, we hope these facts help explain the opportunities and challenges ahead.
31 Facts About the State of Global Trade
1. U.S. goods trade with the world totaled $5.31 trillion in 2022, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. That’s a 15.74% increase over the previous year.
2. U.S. exports of goods and services climbed to $3.0 trillion in 2022—the highest on record. Goods exports grew 17.59% to $2.1 trillion and services exports reached $924.2 billion, both records. Some categories of exports that were the highest on record:
- Industrial supplies and materials ($827.8 billion)
- Foods, feeds and beverages ($180.0 billion)
- Capital goods ($571.6 billion)
- Consumer goods ($246.4 billion)
- Exports of other goods ($80.6 billion)
- Petroleum exports ($305.6 billion)
- Non-petroleum exports ($1.8 trillion)
3. U.S. imports of goods and services climbed to $4.0 trillion in 2022—the highest on record. Goods imports grew 14.6% to $3.3 trillion and services imports reached $680.5 billion, both records. Some categories of imports that were the highest on record:
- Industrial supplies and materials ($810.7 billion)
- Foods, feeds, and beverages ($208.3 billion)
- Capital goods ($864.7 billion)
- Automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($399.1 billion)
- Consumer goods ($842.6 billion)
- Non-petroleum imports ($3.0 trillion)
4. The U.S. had record exports to 73 countries in 2022, according to Commerce Department data, led by Canada ($356.1 billion), Mexico ($324.4 billion) and China ($153.8 billion). Exports to Canada made up 17.3% of the United States’ total exports.
5. The U.S. had record imports from 90 countries in 2022, according to Commerce Department data, led by Mexico ($454.9 billion), Canada ($437.7 billion) and Japan ($148.3 billion).
6. The United States’ top five trade partners in 2022, from largest to smallest, were Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and Germany—the same was true in 2021. Imports and exports between the United States and Canada, Mexico and China made up nearly 45% of U.S. trade in 2022.
7. The United States’ fastest growing trade partners in 2022 were: Argentina, Poland, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Panama.
8. The largest U.S. export commodities by value in 2022 were civilian aircraft and parts, gasoline, oil, passenger vehicles, and computer chips.
9. The United States’ top five imports by value through December were oil; passenger vehicles; cell phones and related equipment; computers; and medicines in individual doses. They accounted for 21.63% of all inbound shipments.
10. Goods exports to America’s 20 free-trade agreement (FTA) partners continue to make up nearly half (more than 46.4% in 2022) of all U.S. goods exports. Exports to the group increased 17.7% year-over-year and made up 45% of U.S. goods export growth in 2022. The citizens of these markets represent only about 6% of the world’s population outside the United States, but on a per capita basis, the citizens of these 20 countries bought nearly 14 times the volume of American-made goods as other economies.
11. Trade in goods between the U.S. and China reached $690.6 billion in 2022, a new record, demonstrating how reliant the U.S. and China still are on each other, despite years of trade conflict. Imports from China grew 6.3%, to $536.8 billion, while exports rose 1.6% to $153.8 billion.
12. Despite record trade between the U.S. and China, political forces may be having an impact: China accounted for just 13.1% of overall U.S. trade in 2022, the lowest level in at least a decade and down from a peak of 16.4% in 2017. China’s share of U.S. imports dropped from a peak of 22% in 2017 to less than 17% last year.
13. A Boston Consulting Group report forecasts annual U.S. trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to increase by $236 billion over the next nine years. Thanks to lower labor costs and geographic positioning, U.S.-ASEAN trade will likely grow as the U.S. shifts away from China.
14. Some Asian economies and Mexico are moving in as the U.S. moves away from China—most notably Vietnam, whose exports to the U.S. rose from less than $10 billion before 2007 to more than $120 billion in 2022. The Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, India and Malaysia have also enjoyed rapid export growth to the U.S., while also increasing exports to China. Mexico’s annual exports to the U.S. have roughly doubled since 2008 to more than $400 billion, and they have increased to China, too.
15. The U.S. trade deficit was up 12.2% to $948 billion in 2022, increasing to a new record thanks to a surge in imports as American companies sought to increase merchandise stock to meet high demand, Commerce Department data shows. Exports of goods and services ($3.0 trillion) were the highest on record. Imports of goods and services ($4.0 trillion) were the highest on record.
16. The 2022 goods deficit ($1.2 trillion) was the highest on record. Some countries with which the U.S. had record goods deficits:
- Mexico ($130.6 billion)
- Vietnam ($116.1 billion)
- Canada ($81.6 billion)
- Ireland ($66.1 billion)
- Taiwan ($48.1 billion)
- South Korea ($43.9 billion)
17. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said in March that the supply chain has returned to normal, almost three years after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. The February reading in the NY Fed’s Global Supply Chain Pressure Index was -0.26, reaching negative territory for the first time since August 2019. Zero marks the historical average, and changes in either direction mark standard deviations from that trend. Maximum disruptions pushed the gauge to a peak of 4.31 in December 2021.
18. U.S. container imports dropped almost 23% in the first quarter, compared to a year earlier, returning to pre-COVID levels. The return to normal follows big jumps in imports in 2021 and 2022 due to increased consumer demand during the pandemic.
19. Trade in goods totaled almost $25 trillion in 2022 (an increase of about 10% from the year prior), according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Trade in services totaled almost $7 trillion (an increase of about 15%). The growth is thanks to a strong start to the year. Trade growth was subdued the latter half of the year. The total value of global trade during 2022 rose 12% to almost $32 trillion.
20. Globally, imports and exports were strong in 2022, despite disruptions due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Alternative suppliers filled in the gaps for the majority of products affected by the conflict. The value of Ukraine’s total exports decreased by 30% from 2021 to 2022. The drop was relatively consistent across trade partners, although some neighboring countries, such as Hungary and Poland, increased their imports from Ukraine.
21. Russia’s exports increased by 15.6% from 2021 to 2022. The increase in Russia’s exports in value terms is driven mostly by goods in the primary sector such as fuels, fertilizers and cereals. The relatively limited increase in trade values in combination with the sharp increase in prices for these goods suggests a slight decline in export volume.
22. World trade is expected to lose momentum in 2023 as multiple shocks weigh on the global economy. WTO economists predict global merchandise trade volumes will grow by 1.7%—down sharply from the previous estimate of 3.4%. Looking further ahead, the WTO expects a more subdued rebound next year than it previously expected. Goods trade growth for 2024 is now pegged at 3.2%, compared with its previous projection of 3.5%.
23. Benchmark container rates from Hong Kong to Los Angeles were down 84% at the beginning of 2023 compared to a year earlier, hitting $1,375 per 40-foot container, a level not seen since March 2020, when supply chains came to a halt due to the global pandemic.
24. Freight forwarders could see their operating income fall by 45% in 2023, according to a Bloomberg Intelligence senior logistics analyst. Freight rates—by ocean and air—have declined steeply after several peak years during the pandemic.
25. Container lines went on a buying spree with their record pandemic profits: There are an estimated 900 new ships on order. Many of those new vessels will arrive this year and are expected to add 1.4 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units, a standard measure of cargo capacity). That’s equal to about 5% of the current global total. Capacity would reach 27.2 million, up almost 50% from a decade earlier, by 2025. With the post-pandemic slowdown, an over-supply of container space may be on the horizon.
26. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has added over 2,500 Russia-related targets to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List since February 2022, including approximately 2,400 individuals and entities, 115 vessels and 19 aircraft.
27. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has stopped 3,237 shipments under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, valued at $961 million, according to its enforcement statistics dashboard. Of the 3,237 shipments stopped, CBP detained 424 shipments (15.3%), released 1,090 shipments (33.7%), and is yet to make a determination on the remaining 1,653 shipments (51.1%).
28. In a first-quarter survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers, companies were asked about their top concerns. The primary concern noted was attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce, followed by increased costs of raw materials and supply chain challenges.
29. According to a recent report from the World Trade Organization (WTO), cross-border digital trade flows, which include e-commerce, video streaming, games, and apps, have grown by four times since 2005 and are now valued at approximately $3.8 trillion. This represents over half of all services trade globally. Demand for traded digital services has been rising by 8% each year since 2005.
30. Top 10 U.S. importers based on containerized cargo, measured in TEUs.
- Home Depot
- LG Group
- Dole Food
- Ashley Furniture
- Samsung America
- Chiquita Brands International
- IKEA International
31. Top 10 U.S. exporters based on containerized cargo, measured in TEUs.
- Koch Industries
- International Paper
- CellMark Group
- Dow Chemical
- Louis Dreyfus Company
- International Forest Products
- America Chung Nam
World Trade Month has come to an end, but we hope these facts are a good reminder of the importance of international trade and its far-reaching impact on economies worldwide.
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