The Top 10 Largest Imports Account for Over 50% of Total US Imports Worth $2.7 Trillion in 2021
The composition and value of United States imports reflects global economical trends and changing consumer demand. In 2021, US imports exceeded $2.7 trillion across all product categories. The top 10 imports accounted for over half of the total import value. Factors driving growth in these major imports illuminate larger patterns in trade flows.
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China Consolidates Lead as Biggest Source of US Imports
Accounting for almost 20% of total US import value, China remains the leading source of foreign goods to the US market. The value of Chinese imports to the US grew by nearly 25% in 2021 to reach $506 billion. Some of largest import categories from China include computers, cell phones, toys, and furniture. The sustained dominance of Chinese imports indicates solid market share based on competitive pricing. While political rhetoric occasionally targets China, economic reality shows most US consumers and businesses still favor Chinese-made products.
Canada Takes Number Two Spot for US Imports
In 2021 Canada supplied over 13% of US imports, totaling $364 billion in value. This represents a 25% increase over 2020, driven by energy products, vehicles, and machinery. After a dip during the pandemic, Canada reclaimed the number two ranking for US imports in 2021. The comeback aligns with Canada’s position as the leading destination for US exports. The close economic ties and free trade pact between the two North American neighbors underpins a mutually beneficial trade relationship. Canada is likely to remain a top US import source for years to come.
Mexico Ranks Third for Imports to US and First for Autos
Mexico delivered nearly $380 billion in exports to the United States in 2021, making it the 3rd largest source of US imports after China and Canada. Shipments of vehicles and electrical machinery from Mexico to US surged by over 30% annually. In particular, Mexico accounts for over 30% of total US vehicle imports. Major brands like Ford and GM operates extensive manufacturing facilities in Mexico to supply both American and global consumers. The trajectory of US-Mexico trade will depend on how production costs, trade policies, and consumer trends evolve. But geographic proximity will continue to make Mexico a natural export platform to the US.
Japan Automotive and Machinery Imports Accelerate
US imports from Japan totaled $152 billion in 2021, up over 15% annually. The increase partly offsets a drop in 2020 during the pandemic slowdown. Vehicles and machinery led the Japanese import growth, tieing to recovering US demand. America’s trade deficit with Japan also hit a record level in 2021, fueled by services as well as goods imports. Under the Biden administration, economic ties with Japan are strengthening to counter the influence of China. This points to continued growth for Japanese exports to the US across industries like automotive, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, and more.
Germany: US Imports of Vehicles, Pharma Products Jump
Total imports from Germany to the United States reached $142 billion in 2021, rising over 30% from the prior year. Germany maintained its ranking as the 5th largest source of US imports. The import growth came predominantly from pharmaceutical products, vehicles, machinery, and optical equipment from Germany. In pharmaceuticals, US imports from Germany exceeded $80 billion in 2021, led by leading brands like Bayer and Merck. On the automotive front, iconic German brands including BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, and Porsche saw improved export volumes to the US market. As the largest economy in the EU, Germany is likely to remain among the top US import partners.
South Korea Exports to US Driven by Vehicles, Machinery and Electronics
Imports from South Korea to US surged above $90 billion in 2021, cementing its position among the top import sources. South Korea saw the highest annual import growth rate at over 35%. Booming semiconductor exports tied to electronics demand drove much of this increase. Vehicles and machinery imports from South Korean corporations like Hyundai, LG, and Samsung also saw major gains. With competitive manufacturing and advanced technology capabilities, South Korea is expected to gain even larger market share in the US across sectors like electronics, batteries, steel, and automotive.
India Doubles US Imports led by Generic Drugs, Gems, Machinery
Imports from India to the US market doubled from 2020 to 2021, surging from $83 billion to over $167 billion. India’s rapid growth makes it one of the rising stars among US import partners. Pharmaceuticals lead the way with over $14 billion in US generics imports from India. Gems and jewelry exports from India to US also doubled reaching $10 billion. Other Indian exports like machinery, vehicles, fabrics and building materials saw similar growth. India’s combination of low manufacturing costs, technical skills, and favorable exchange rates could enable more market share gains in the US.
Taiwan Semiconductor Exports Drive Growth in US Imports
Imports from Taiwan reached $80 billion in 2021, an annual increase of over 25%. Growth came predominantly from booming semiconductor exports tied to Taiwanese firms like TSMC. Taiwan accounts for over 60% of global semiconductor manufacturing capacity. As the chips shortage hit many US industries in 2021, imports of integrated circuits and other electronics components surged from Taiwan. Taiwan also exports significant volumes of machinery, optical goods, and plastic products to the US annually. However, semiconductors and electronics represent Taiwan’s main competitive advantage as a major US import source.
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Italy Exports to US Recover on Luxury Goods, Vehicles, Pharma
US imports from Italy recovered strongly in 2021 after the 2020 pandemic decline. Total imports from Italy reached $65 billion, led by pharmaceuticals, vehicles, machinery, and fashion products. In particular, exports of luxury goods like designer clothing, footwear, and handbags from iconic Italian brands helped boost import value. Italy also supplies machinery for manufacturing and material handling applications. Automotive brands like Fiat and Ferrari account for over 10% of Italian exports to the US. As a leading producer of pharmaceutical ingredients, Italy supplies over $5 billion in medical imports to the US annually.
Vietnam Emerges as Next Wave for US Imports
Vietnam emerged as one of the fastest growing US import partners in 2021. Total imports from Vietnam grew by over 25% annually to reach $97 billion. Strong growth reflects Vietnam’s advantages as a manufacturing export base, including low costs, disciplined workforce, and proximity to China. Top imports from Vietnam include furniture, electronics, clothing, and machinery for US consumers and businesses. Vietnam also became a top source of critical PPE imports during the pandemic. With US-China trade friction in the backdrop, Vietnam appears positioned for additional growth in exports to the US market.
US Imports Reflects Shifting Global Demand
Imports to the United States reached over $2.7 trillion in 2021, an increase of nearly 20% from 2020. This rise reflects growing demand for foreign goods as the US economy recovers from the pandemic. The largest increases camed from industrial supplies, capital goods, and consumer goods. Imports of industrial supplies jumped 55% in 2021, indicating strong demand from US manufacturers. Capital goods imports also grew significantly, suggesting business investment is rebounding.
Meanwhile, imports of consumer goods rose 12%, pointing to recovering household spending. China and Mexico remain the top sources of US imports, providing 18% and 13% of all imports respectively in 2021. Both countries saw double-digit import growth compared to 2020. The data shows the pandemic continues to reshape global trade flows and US reliance on foreign supply chains.
Oil Imports Declines as Domestic Production Expands
US spending on imported oil dropped over 30% from 2010 to 2020, falling from $308 billion to $102 billion. This decline reflects surging domestic oil production, especially from shale formations, which has reduced US reliance on foreign oil providers. In 2010, the US imported 9.4 million barrels of petroleum per day, 49% of the total consumed. By 2020 imports fell to 5.9 million barrels per day, or just 31% of consumption. Canada now provides 61% of US oil imports, with Saudi Arabia ranking second at 7%.
The shift demonstrates how technological advances like [hydraulic fracturing](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing) transformed the US oil industry in the last decade. With domestic output expanding, the need for OPEC imports drastically declined. The trend toward energy independence could continue unless production costs rise in the US oil industry.
Automotive Imports Races Ahead of Exports
Driven by consumer demand, US automotive imports from the world rose by over 20% in 2021 exceeding $380 billion. Canada and Mexico accounted for most of the increase as trade under NAFTA surged. Imports of passenger vehicles jumped 10% in 2021, while auto parts imports raced 14% higher. At the same time, US auto exports stalled, edging up just 4% to $147 billion. The imbalance reflects strong US buyer preference for foreign-made vehicles. Detroit’s Big Three automakers now import nearly 30% of the vehicles they sell domestically. Ensuring competitiveness of US manufacturing versus foreign rivals will be key to addressing the trade deficit in automotives.
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