The Changing U.S.-China Economic Relationship, Data

Explore the changing dynamics of U.S.-China trade: a 20-year low in China’s share of U.S. imports, diversification to other Asian nations and Mexico, and a shrinking trade deficit.

The Changing U.S.-China Economic Relationship, Data
Image Source: WSJ

Trade patterns between the United States and China, two of the world's biggest economies, are evolving. Recent data charts this ongoing transformation.

1. A Steady Decline in China's Share of U.S. Goods

Over the past two decades, there's been a steady decline in the percentage of goods the U.S. imports from China. The first half of 2023 marked the lowest in 20 years, with China accounting for 13.3% of U.S. imports. This is a decrease from a peak of 21.6% in 2017.

2. Shift Away from China

Several reasons have been cited for this shift:

  • Tariffs: The U.S. government's imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods starting in 2018.
  • Pandemic-induced supply chain issues: Shortages of products like face masks and semiconductors forced companies to reevaluate their supply chains.
  • Tech conflicts: Intensifying conflicts over advanced technologies like semiconductors and quantum computing.

This has pushed companies to seek alternative, more resilient supply chains.

3. Asia’s Rise, But Not China

There has been a noticeable shift of production to other Asian countries, particularly Southeast Asian nations and India. In fact, these nations combined have exceeded China's share of U.S. imports starting from early 2019.

4. Mexico's Rising Role

Mexico's free-trade agreement with the U.S. and Canada, coupled with a trend towards shorter supply chains post-pandemic, has propelled it to match China's share of U.S. imports as of June. Now, when considering both imports and exports, Mexico stands as the U.S.’s top trading partner.

5. Shrinking U.S.-China Trade Deficit

The U.S. trade deficit with China dropped to $313 billion in June, nearly reaching its lowest since the onset of the pandemic.

6. Key Product Insights

Smartphones: While a large chunk of smartphones imported into the U.S. is still from China, its dominance is waning. Major companies like Apple are looking to diversify their supply chains.

Semiconductors: Vietnam and Thailand are emerging as significant sources for chip imports to the U.S., challenging China's dominance in the late stages of chip-making.

Apparel: U.S. imports of Chinese apparel have reduced rapidly since tariffs were imposed in 2019. Concerns over labor practices in China's Xinjiang region and rising Chinese wages have expedited the sourcing shift to other Asian nations.

Furniture: China's domination in the U.S. furniture import market has been on the decline due to tariffs. Vietnam, Mexico, and Canada are stepping up, collectively accounting for nearly half of the U.S.'s furniture imports.

This trend underscores the complexity and fluidity of global trade patterns, influenced by a mixture of political decisions, economic strategies, and unforeseen challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. As businesses continue to adjust and diversify their supply chains, we can expect more changes in the trade landscape in the coming years.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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