Home / Economy / Articles / What are the top US exports to China?

China and the United States have the two largest economies in the world by gross domestic product (GDP), according to 2021 Agriculture Department data. The two nations combined to make up over 42% of global GDP.

Of the $2.1 trillion in global goods exports from the US in 2022, $154 billion — or 7.5% — was sent to China. Of that, $17.9 billion was from soybeans.

What are the largest US goods exports overall?

The nation’s top three global goods exports were fuel-related and comprised 16.9% of the overall merchandise value: non-crude oil, crude oil, and petroleum gases and other gaseous hydrocarbons. The next highest-value categories came from the transportation industry: over $94 billion in civilian aircrafts and aircraft parts and over $58 billion in cars and transport vehicles. The US also exported nearly $52 billion in electronic integrated circuits and microassembly parts used to manufacture electronic devices.

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What are the top products exported to China?

Soybeans were the nation’s top export to China in 2022 — in fact, the US exported nearly twice as much value in soybeans as it did any other product. The legumes were 11.6% of overall US exports to China.

The second-largest category, integrated circuits used to manufacture electronic devices, constituted 6.1% of exports, or $9.4 billion.

Other top exports to China included crude oil, blood and vaccines (for medical and pharmaceutical purposes), aircrafts and parts, cars and vehicles, and corn (used primarily for food production and livestock feed).

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China is the world’s biggest importer of soybeans, due largely in part to its domestic livestock industry.

What is the US–China trade war?

The US and China have had a tense economic relationship since 2018, when the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) imposed tariffs on approximately $370 billion of Chinese imports in response to an investigation of China’s trade practices. China retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion of American imports, including a 25% tariff on soybeans. That year, soybean exports to China dropped 75%. They’ve since rebounded to pre-2018 levels.

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USTR and China announced a Phase One Trade Agreement in January 2020, in which China committed to meet some of the US’ demands, including in the areas of intellectual property and agriculture. But according to a September 2023 report from the Congressional Research Service, many US concerns remain unaddressed.

Soybean prices rose 24% in 2022 due to drought in South America, the Russia-Ukraine war, and an Indonesian ban on exporting palm oil, a soybean alternative. As a result, soybean export values rose.

How have overall goods exports to China changed during the trade war?

Soybeans weren’t the only export affected by the trade conflict. Notably, civilian aircrafts and aircraft parts also dropped by over 75% from $21.2 billion In 2018 to $5.0 billion in 2020. They rebounded modestly to $5.5 billion in 2022.

From 2017 to 2019, overall American goods exports to China dropped 21.5% from $155.2 billion to $121.9 billion — adjusted for inflation to 2022 dollars. By 2021, the total had bounced back to $163.6 billion. US goods exports to the rest of the world increased by 4.1%.

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China remains the largest importer of US merchandise outside of North America, a distinction it has held since 2007.

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Last updated
June 2023 with 2020–2022 data.