China surpasses the US as world’s biggest trader

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The United States may be the largest economy in the world, but it is no longer the biggest trader. China traded $3.87 trillion in goods and services with the rest of the world last year, topping the US, which exchanged $3.82 trillion, according to official statistics from the two countries.

The US’s trade deficit with the world shrunk in December, reaching $38.5 billion, a level unseen since 2010. Businesses in the United States now export goods and services worth $411.3 billion to their counterparts abroad. Much of the shift is attributed to changes in oil production and consumption.

Largest partners saw largest declines

US businesses slowed their exchanges most with their country’s largest trading partners. Mexico, China, and Canada each saw trade slow by more than 8% from November. In total, there was $15.1 billion less trade with these three nations. Mexico and Canada’s declines were evenly distributed between exports and imports. China’s decline came almost entirely from fewer goods and services traveling from the Asian nation to the US.

Yet, largest partners retain largest deficits

These three nations, along with Japan and Germany, are the US’s five largest trading partners, accounting for almost 40% of all US trade. They also account for the US’s five largest trade deficits.

Largest trade surplus growth came from emerging markets

The decline of US imports from China caused the relationship to have the largest swing toward US surplus for any American trade relationship in December. Other countries making large moves in this direction were Hong Kong, India, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

The biggest surpluses span the globe

Showing the diversity of the US economy, America’s five largest trade surpluses came from countries on five different continents: Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Brazil.

Use Quartz’s interactive tool to explore these relationships.

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