The United States of America shipped $1.754 trillion worth of goods around the globe in 2021. That dollar amount reflects a 13.4% increase since 2017 and a 23.1% acceleration from 2020 to 2021.
America’s 5 biggest export products by value in 2021 were refined petroleum oils, crude oil, petroleum gases, cars and electronic integrated circuits. In aggregate, those major exported goods accounted for 18.8% of overall exports sold by the United States. That relatively low percentage suggests a diversified range of exported goods, albeit 3 of America’s top exports are energy commodities.
The United States ranks among world-leading nations for exporting refined petroleum oils, petroleum gases and cars.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 69.3% of products exported from the US were bought by importers in: Canada (17.8% of the global total), Mexico (14.9%), mainland China (8.7%), Japan (4.5%), United Kingdom (4.1%), Germany (4%), South Korea (3.6%), Netherlands (3.2%), Brazil (2.4%), Taiwan (2.1%), France (2%) and Belgium (1.9%).
From a continental perspective, 33.4% of exports from the United States by value was delivered to its fellow North American trade partners. Meanwhile 32.3% was sold to Asian importers with another 21.2% worth of goods going to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Latin America (9.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Oceania (1.8%) led by Australia and New Zealand, then Africa (1.5%).
Given America’s population of 330.7 million people at October 2021, its total $1.754 trillion in revenues from exports in 2021 translates to roughly $5,300 for every U.S. resident. That metric compares with an average $4,300 for 2020.
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in American global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from the United States.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$239.8 billion (13.7% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $209.3 billion (11.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $185.4 billion (10.6%)
- Vehicles: $122.2 billion (7%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $91.7 billion (5.2%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $89.1 billion (5.1%)
- Gems, precious metals: $82.3 billion (4.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $78 billion (4.4%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $74.3 billion (4.2%)
- Organic chemicals: $42.9 billion (2.4%)
America’s top 10 exports surpass two-thirds (69.3%) of the overall value of US global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 58.6% since 2020.
In second place for improving export sales were pharmaceuticals via a 45% gain.
America’s shipments of gems and precious metals posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 37.5% year over year, propelled by higher international sales of silver, gold and platinum.
The most modest decliner among US top 10 export categories was aircraft and spacecraft which grew 9.6% from 2020 to 2021.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of America’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
America’s Major Food Exports
Calculated based on the overall $1.754 trillion worth of products shipped from the United States in 2021, food exports amounted to a subtotal $151.8 billion or 8.7% of US exported goods. In comparison, Canada’s international food shipments represent 12% of total products exported in 2021 while the food export percentages were 9.4% for France and 3.4% for the United Kingdom.
The value of US international food shipments expanded by 24.8% compared to 2017. From 2020 to 2021, the United States posted an 18.9% acceleration in food-related export revenues.
America’s 4 most valuable exported product categories are unprocessed foods.
The most valuable food category for American shippers was oil seeds, representing 21.8% of US international food sales. The oil seeds product category is led by US exports of soya beans.
In second place were exports of cereals equaling 20.1% of US food exports by value. The most valuable cereals exported from America are corn, wheat, grain sorghum and rice.
The other leading export product categories are meat (14.6% of total US exports) particularly beef, pork and chicken, then the fruits and nuts category (9.9%) including nuts and berries, apples and grapes.
Other leading US exported food categories are miscellaneous food preparations (6.9%) then dairy, eggs and honey (4.3%).
Products Generating Greatest Trade Surpluses for the United States
The following types of American product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Aircraft, spacecraft: US$63.3 billion (Up by 19.7% since 2020)
- Oil seeds: $30.2 billion (Up by 6.5%)
- Cereals: $28.2 billion (Up by 69.1%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $15.8 billion (Down by -22.8%)
- Other chemical goods: $15 billion (Up by 17.2%)
- Meat: $10.2 billion (Up by 17.4%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $8.6 billion (Up by 19.3%)
- Cotton: $6.2 billion (Up by 1.3%)
- Woodpulp: $5.5 billion (Up by 22.4%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $5.2 billion (Up by 23.4%)
The United States has highly positive net exports in the international trade of aircraft launching gear and other on-deck landing equipment. In turn, these cashflows indicate America’s strong competitive advantages under the aerospace-related products category.
Products Causing Biggest Trade Deficits for the United States
The U.S. incurred a -$1.183 trillion trade deficit for 2021, swelling by 20.5% from the -$982 billion in red ink for all products one year earlier.
Below are product categories from the United States that are negative net exports or product trade balance deficits for 2021. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on American goods trail U.S. importer spending on foreign products.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -US$230.6 billion (Up by 27.7% since 2020)
- Machinery including computers: -$219.5 billion (Up by 23%)
- Vehicles: -$160.9 billion (Up by 8.1%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$72.1 billion (Up by 26.7%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$71.5 billion (Down by -16.5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$49.3 billion (Up by 37.1%)
- Toys, games: -$45.1 billion (Up by 45.5%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$32.9 billion (Up by 5.8%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$28.8 billion (Up by 44%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: -$27.9 billion (Up by 61%)
United States has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for electronics-related equipment, notably consumer electronics.
The resulting cashflow deficiency clearly exemplifies U.S. competitive disadvantages in the international electronics market, but also represents a key opportunity for United States to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations and creative employment initiatives in the homeland.
Major American Export Companies
Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from the United States.
- AbbVie (pharmaceuticals)
- Apple (computer hardware)
- Boeing (aerospace)
- Chevron Corporation (oil, gas)
- Cisco Systems (communications equipment)
- ConocoPhillips (oil, gas)
- Eli Lilly and Company (pharmaceuticals)
- Exxon Mobil (oil, gas)
- Intel (semiconductors)
- Johnson & Johnson (medical equipment, supplies)
- Merck & Co (pharmaceuticals)
- Occidental Petroleum (oil, gas)
- PepsiCo (beverages)
- Pfizer (pharmaceuticals)
- Philip Morris International (tobacco)
- Procter & Gamble (household, personal care items)
- Qualcomm (semiconductors)
- Schlumberger (oil, gas)
- The Coca-Cola Company (beverages)
Searchable List of America’s Most Valuable Export Products
The following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from the United States during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease from 2020 to 2021 (labeled YOY).
|Rank||US Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||YOY|
|1||Processed petroleum oils||$84,936,986,000||+46.9%|
|6||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$43,858,410,000||+69.2%|
|8||Phone devices including smartphones||$31,777,051,000||+13.2%|
|9||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$30,967,176,000||+11.5%|
|10||Medication mixes in dosage||$29,020,649,000||+25.9%|
|13||Computers, optical readers||$26,820,793,000||+8.2%|
|14||Machinery for making semi-conductors||$26,279,923,000||+34.3%|
|17||Computer parts, accessories||$16,091,483,000||+24.8%|
|21||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$11,300,563,000||+15.3%|
|22||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$11,203,514,000||+5.9%|
|23||Precious metal waste, scrap||$11,074,107,000||+40.5%|
|24||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$10,985,322,000||+19.5%|
|26||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$10,511,973,000||+15.4%|
|27||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$10,314,510,000||+11.2%|
|29||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$9,709,488,000||+59.9%|
|32||Liquid pumps and elevators||$7,838,603,000||+7.7%|
|33||Miscellaneous plastic items||$7,803,762,000||+19.4%|
|34||Iron or steel scrap||$7,582,042,000||+58.1%|
|36||Solar power diodes/semi-conductors||$7,491,139,000||+21.7%|
|37||Unrecorded sound media||$7,359,395,000||+17.6%|
|40||Other food preparations||$7,105,439,000||+14%|
|42||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$6,408,778,000||+15.4%|
|44||Hand-drawn paintings, drawings||$6,353,880,000||+7.4%|
|45||Electrical converters/power units||$6,164,574,000||+9.5%|
|46||Air or vacuum pumps||$6,122,494,000||+6.4%|
|49||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$5,933,867,000||+12.2%|
|50||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$5,798,300,000||+16.6%|
|52||Chemical industry products/residuals||$5,720,137,000||+13.7%|
|53||Cotton (uncarded, uncombed)||$5,713,048,000||-4%|
|54||Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers||$5,556,255,000||+3.7%|
|56||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$5,492,677,000||+8%|
|57||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$5,459,749,000||+9.1%|
|58||Other measuring/testing machines||$5,382,031,000||+10.2%|
|61||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$5,096,445,000||+24.2%|
|62||Piston engine parts||$5,032,438,000||+4.1%|
|63||Petroleum oil residues||$5,013,120,000||+70.3%|
|64||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$5,002,265,000||+19.8%|
|65||Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps||$4,958,242,000||+17.4%|
|68||Fresh or chilled beef||$4,702,842,000||+32.2%|
|69||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$4,693,165,000||+20.9%|
|70||Electric motors, generators||$4,633,055,000||+8.2%|
|72||Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues||$4,536,968,000||+24.8%|
|74||Copper waste, scrap||$4,497,184,000||+68.1%|
|75||Rubber tires (new)||$4,474,507,000||+12.5%|
|76||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$4,373,665,000||+25.5%|
|77||Vinyl chloride polymers||$4,344,046,000||+36.1%|
|79||Iron and steel screws, bolts, nuts, washers||$4,127,159,000||+13.9%|
|85||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$3,801,423,000||+13.3%|
|86||Beet-pulp, brew/distilling waste||$3,798,940,000||+27.4%|
|87||Aluminum waste, scrap||$3,720,722,000||+71.5%|
|88||Other organic cleaning preparations||$3,717,092,000||+5.4%|
|90||Optical fiber cables, sheets, plates||$3,706,380,000||+16.5%|
|93||Electric storage batteries||$3,535,391,000||+2.8%|
|94||Liquid/gas checking instruments||$3,510,974,000||+10.7%|
|97||Uncoated kraft paper||$3,322,806,000||+6%|
|98||Plastic tubes, pipes, fittings||$3,319,207,000||+21.8%|
|99||Paper/paperboard waste, scrap||$3,302,622,000||+36.5%|
|100||Liquid crystal/laser/optical tools||$3,261,987,000||+10.6%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$1.149 trillion or roughly two-thirds (65.5%) by value for all products exported from the U.S. during 2021.
In macroeconomic terms, the United States’ total exported goods represent 7.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($22.940 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity U.S. dollars). That 7.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 6.9% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing reliance on products sold on international markets for America’s total economic performance, at least in the short term.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its jobless rate. America’s unemployment rate published by the International Monetary Fund was 5.431% at October 2021, down from an average 8.108% one year earlier.
See also United States Top 10 Imports, America’s Top Trading Partners, Top United States Trade Balances, America’s Top 20 Export States and United States Top 10 Major Export Companies and World’s Top Food Exports Special Data Report
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on April 22, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 22, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 22, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 22, 2022
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on April 22, 2022
SHIPHUB, HS Code for Food. Accessed on April 22, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of United States. Accessed on April 22, 2022
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