• The US is highly dependent on its neighbours, Canada and Mexico, for trade.
  • The country’s top trading partner is Mexico, making up 14.8% of total trade.
  • States close to Canada have strong trading links, with Montana importing 87% of goods from there and North Dakota exporting 84.6% of goods there.
a map showing which coutnry each us state imports the most goods from
The US imports much more goods from China, than it exports.
Image: Visual Capitalist

The top trading partner of every U.S. state

The U.S. is highly dependent—perhaps unsurprisingly—on Canada and Mexico for trade. The country’s top trading partner is Mexico, making up 14.8% of total trade.

However, the country’s neighbors to the north and south are not the only trade partners that U.S. states rely heavily upon. This map from HowMuch.net uses flags to show which country each U.S. state is importing the most from. Below, there is an additional graphic showing where each state is exporting the highest amount of goods and services to.

Who are the states importing from?

The U.S. has a few natural and obvious trading partners, whether due to geographical closeness or strong economic ties.

The obvious candidates for top trading partners have already been mentioned, Canada and Mexico—and these two do show up at the state level as well. For example, Michigan gets 40.9% of its imports from Mexico, and Montana receives a whopping 87% of its imports from Canada.

Some other interesting trade partnerships stand out, like the Carolinas and Germany. Trade ties between Hawaii and Japan also make sense for historic reasons.

a chart showing imports by state
Each state's biggest partner.
Image: Visual Capitalist

You can view the full chart here.

However, one country in particular stands out on this map—China.

While the USMCA trade agreement has created an easy gateway for necessary goods and services to flow across North America, no country—not even the U.S.—can escape the need for mass imports from the world’s top exporter.

China and the U.S. have an imbalanced trade relationship, with China buying much fewer goods from the U.S. than the U.S. buys from them. In fact, China’s monthly trade surplus with the country sat at $31.8 billion as of May 2021.

Who are the states exporting to?

After looking at the top import partners by state, let’s dive in to where the U.S. states are exporting the most.

a map of the usa showing where states send most of their imports to
China shows up much less on this map.
Image: Visual Capitalist

One thing that is noticeable is that China shows up much less on this map, further exemplifying the trade imbalance. In other words, while many states’ top import partner is China, they are not reciprocating as the country’s top export partner.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about digital trade?

What is the World Economic Forum doing about digital trade?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – driven by rapid technological change and digitalization – has already had a profound impact on global trade, economic growth and social progress. Cross-border e-commerce has generated trillions of dollars in economic activity continues to accelerate and the ability of data to move across borders underpins new business models, boosting global GDP by 10% in the last decade alone.

The application of emerging technologies in trade looks to increase efficiency and inclusivity in global trade by enabling more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to repeat its benefits and by closing the economic gap between developed and developing countries.

However, digital trade barriers including outdated regulations and fragmented governance of emerging technologies could potentially hamper these gains. We are leading the charge to apply 4IR technologies to make international trade more inclusive and efficient, ranging from enabling e-commerce and digital payments to designing norms and trade policies around emerging technologies (‘TradeTech’).

The only states that export their largest shares to China are:

Oregon – 38.1%

Alaska – 25.5%

Washington – 22.1%

Alabama – 18.1%

Louisiana – 18.1%

The majority are exporting to their North American neighbors. For example, North Dakota sends 84.6% of its exports just across the northern border.

a chart showing which states export s go to
Where states are sending their exports.
Image: Visual Capitalist

You can see the full table here.

Trade going forward

The trade war that started during the tenure of former U.S. president Donald Trump is still ongoing and tariffs set by the U.S. are not expected to be lifted by president Joe Biden, as tensions have expanded beyond just trade issues.

These tariffs, however, have not helped to rectify the significant trade imbalance between the two countries. The states are still extremely reliant on imports from China, and it is not a reciprocal relationship.