On 11 February, Bloomberg reported that China had overtaken the US in global trade. One of our readers has now drawn our attention to additional information on this subject.
This was the news story that appeared on 11 February:
“China overtakes US in global trade
China has surpassed the US as the world’s biggest trading nation, Bloomberg reports, pulling together some intriguing trade stats from both countries.
US imports and exports of goods last year totalled $3820 billion, the US commerce department said last week. Meanwhile Bloomberg says that China’s customs administration reported last month that the country’s trade in goods in 2012 amounted to $3870 billion.”
For those unfamiliar with US terminology, we should explain that a billion is 1000 million.
One of our readers has now provided additional information on this story. He writes:
“The total figures are the combination of exports and imports. For exports, the CIA web site of the US Government provides a detailed breakdown by country: CIA world fact book
Using estimated information for 2012, the US is the world’s third largest exporter with a total value of $1612 billion. The value of imports, the difference between $3820 billion and $1612 billion, is $2208 billion. The difference between imports and exports is $596 billion in favour of imports, meaning a trade deficit in goods.
China is the world’s second largest exporter with total value of $2021 billion. The difference between $3870 billion and $2021 billion is $1849 billion. The difference between imports and exports is $172 billion in favour of exports, meaning a trade surplus in goods.
The European Union is the world’s largest exporter with $2170 billion in exports.
The next thing to do is to break down the exports into products. This site breaks down what was exported from the US and to whom:
China purchased the most from the US at 7% of total, with the rest under 4%. I didn’t find a comparable site breaking down imports, but it would be interesting to see of that which is exported, how much of it is metric and of what is imported how much is metric.”
The table on the CIA web site shows the value of exports of EU countries individually as well as in total. If the total is excluded, then Germany is third in the table, France fifth and the UK eleventh, after Canada and just above Hong Kong.
The UK’s industrial decline, from “workshop of the world” to eleventh in the league table of exports in less than a century, has been almost as swift as Germany’s rise. The reasons for this have been the subject of much debate. They include our half-hearted response, as symbolised by our road signs, to the rapid spread of the metric system throughout the world in the twentieth century. If thirty years later the US is following in our footsteps, then it may be easier one day to reach some conclusions.