California is one of the 10 largest economies in the world with a gross state product of $3 trillion. International trade and investment are major parts of our economic engine that broadly benefit businesses, communities, consumers and state government. California’s economy is diverse, and the state’s prosperity is tied to exports and imports of both goods and services by California-based companies, to exports and imports through California’s transportation gateways, and to movement of human and capital resources.
Although trade is a nationally determined policy issue, its impact on California is immense. In 2021, California exported to 226 foreign markets. Trade offers the opportunity to expand the role of California’s exports. In its broadest terms, trade can literally feed the world and raise the living standards of those around us.
According to the United Nations, global trade hit a record high of $28.5 trillion in 2021. However, trade is expected to slow in 2022 due to macroeconomic trends. Ongoing inflation in the U.S., concerns in China’s real estate sector, and persistent supply chain disruptions are expected to effect global trade in 2022.
2021 Trade Statistics are available
|Monthly U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, December 2021
Bureau of Economic Analysis, February 8, 2022
Global Trade Facts
The world population as of January 2022 is 7.8 billion people. As of January 2019, 4.3 births and 1.9 deaths are expected worldwide every second. (U.S. Census Bureau, February 2019)
In April 2022, the World Trade Organization projected that global trade growth in 2022 could be cut almost in half from the 4.7% the WTO forecasted last October to between 2.4% and 3%.
While the shares of Russia and Ukraine in overall world trade and output are relatively small, they are important suppliers of essential products, notably food and energy. Both countries supplied around 25% of wheat, 15% of barley and 45% of sunflower product exports in 2019. Russia alone accounted for 9.4% of world trade in fuels, including a 20% share in natural gas exports.
Russia and Ukraine are also key providers of inputs into industrial value chains. Russia is one of the main suppliers globally of palladium and rhodium, key inputs in the production of catalytic converters for automobiles, supplying 26% of global import demand for palladium in 2019. Semiconductor production depends to a substantial extent on neon supplied by Ukraine. Disruptions in the supply of these inputs could hit car producers at a time when the industry is just recovering from a shortage of semiconductors, the report highlights.
In the WTO’s 2021 World Trade Report, the organization examined why the interconnected global trading system is vulnerable and resilient to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic initially led to severe contraction, but the supply chains have since adapted and many economies have begun to recover. The WTO notes that global trading system was a source of flexibility, diversification, and strength during the pandemic.
The report shows that the value of global trade in goods and services declined by 9.6% in 2020, although trade in medical supplies grew by almost 50%. Global GSP also fell by 3.3%, the worst recession since World War II. The projections for the future are much more optimistic. The WTO expects global economic output to recover by 5.3% in 2021, which is in part due to a robust recovery in merchandise trade which is expected to rise by 8%. However, trade in services remains depressed.
In February of 2021, the WTO’s good barometer signaled a strong trade rebound after trade took a deep slump as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the barometer, expansion of trade in the first half of 2021 is expected to slow. Prospects for 2021 are uncertain due to the emergence of new variants of COVID-19 and effectiveness of vaccination efforts.
In March of 2021, the news continued to be good as the WTO estimates the volume of world merchandise trade is expected to cinrease by 8% in 2021 after falling by 5.3% in 2020. This has improved prospects for a quick recovery. Trade growth is then expected to slow to 4% in 2022. However, the pace of expansion is still below the pre-pandemic trend. (World Trade Organization, March 2021)
The WTO in their 2020 World Trade Report, took into account the coronavirus global pandemic which has caused unprecedented international uncertainty. Global trade experienced its worst downturn since the 1930s with a forecast that trade will have tumbled by 13% to 32% in 2020 compared to the previous year.
The report underscored the importance of international cooperation during this time to keep markets open for goods and services, as well as to safeguard public health and revive economic activity around the world. In the spring of 2020, Director General Roberto Azevêdo announced that he will be stepping down in August to allow a new Director General to be chosen before the 12th ministerial conference in 2021. Along with this change, the WTO is also undergoing discussions of reform with the goal amid the pandemic that the WTO will be able equipped to contribute to the economic recovery of all of its members.
U.S. Trade Facts
In 2021, combined goods and services imports totaled $3.387 trillion, with goods totaling $2.832 trillion and services totaling $555 billion individually. Imports most notably of industrial supplies and materials increased by $169.7 billion, consumer goods increased by $126.8 billion, capitol goods increased by $117.5 billion, automotive vehicles and parts increased by $36.8 billion, and food and beverage imports increased by $27.8 billion
In 2020, combined goods and services exports totaled $2.528 trillion, individually goods exports totaled $1.75 trillion and exports of services totaled $775 billion. Most notably, exports of industrial supplies and materials increased by $169.6 billion, capital goods exports increased by $59.3 billion, consumer goods increased by $47.3 billion, food and beverages increased by $25.9 billion, and automotive vehicle and part exports increased by $15.7 billion.
As a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product, the goods and services deficit was 3.7% in 2021, up from 3.2 percent in 2020. (Bureau of Economic Analysis)
The United States is the world’s largest economy with a GDP of $23.99 trillion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The population of the U.S. is approximately 331.89 million as of December 2021. Since Census Day (April 1) 2020 the population has grown by 0.13% to the December 2021 total.
For every $1 appropriated to U.S. Commercial Service in Fiscal Year 2016, an estimated $192 was returned to the American economy in the form of increased exports ($56.2 billion) and foreign direct investment ($5.3 billion), which supported approximately 300,000 U.S. jobs.
From 2010 to 2016, U.S. Commercial Service assistance played a significant role in helping U.S. companies and localities achieve over $300 billion in U.S. exports and over $23 billion in foreign direct investment – supporting an estimated 1.7 million American jobs.
A 2020 study from the Business Roundtable reported that more than 40 million, or 1-in-5, jobs in the U.S. stem from international trade practices. The number of U.S. jobs that depend on international trade has more than doubled since NAFTA’s inception in 1992, reaching 20% in 2018.
The largest export markets for U.S. goods in 2021 were Canada ($307 billion, a 16.8% increase), Mexico ($276.45 billion, an 23.5% increase), China ($151.06 billion, a 17.59% increase), Japan ($74.97, a 14.96% increase), and South Korea ($65.77, a 22.5% increase).
In the U.S. in 2019, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, expenditures by foreign direct investors to to acquire, establish, or expand U.S. businesses totaled $120.7 billion in 2020, a decrease of 45.4% from $221.2 billion in 2019. By industry, expenditures for new direct investment were largest in manufacturing totaling $63.3 billion and accounting for 52.4% of total expenditures. Within manufacturing, expenditures were the largest in chemical manufacturing, and computer and electronic products. There were also large expenditures in the information industry, primarily in telecommunications.
By country of ultimate beneficial owner (UBO), the largest investing country into the U.S. was Germany totaling $20.5 billion, followed by Canada at $15.2 billion, then Switzerland at $13.8 billion. By region, Europe contributed over two-thirds of new investment in 2020.
By state, California received the second largest expenditures totaling $17.8 billion. (Bureau of Economic Analysis)
Statistics released in August 2021 showed that majority owned U.S. affiliates (MOUSAs) of foreign multinational enterprises employed 7.95 million workers in the U.S. in 2019, which is a 1.1% increase from 2018. Majority owned U.S. affiliates accounted for 6% of total private-industry employment in the U.S. Employment by MOUSAs was largest in the manufacturing and retail trade sectors. MOUSAs with ultimate beneficial owners in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada were the largest contributors to total MOUSA employment. (Bureau of Economic Analysis)
Annual Summary for 2021
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
California Trade Facts
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that, in 2021, California exports amounted to $175.12 billion. This is a increase of 12.4% from the 2020 total of $155.8 billion.
In 2021, exports to FTA markets accounted for 41.4% of California exports. California exports to FTA partners totaled $72.5 billion in 2021. (ITA)
Exports from California accounted for almost 10% of total U.S. exports in 2021. California exports translate into high-paying jobs for more than 1 million Californians. International trade, including exports and imports, supports more than 5 million California jobs – which translates to 1 in 4 jobs.
In 2019 new foreign direct investment into California total expenditures reached $45.49 billion. Employment by newly acquired, established, or expanded foreign-owned businesses in 2019 reached 44,300 employees (Bureau of Economic Analysis). The top industry sectors for FDI in California were software & IT services, business services, communications, financial services, and industrial equipment. The top sources of FDI in California were made up of 20% from the United Kingdom, 9% from Germany, 8% from Canada, 7% from Japan, and 7% from China. (Select USA)
Top Export Sectors
California is a top exporter in the nation of computers, non-electrical machinery, chemicals, transportation equipment, and agricultural products. Computers and electronic products are California’s top export, accounting for 22.6% of all the state’s exports in 2021.
According to a study by the Consumer Technology Association, in 2017 California had over three million jobs directly and indirectly attributable to consumer tech, many of which derive from consumer tech exports.
Other top categories included non-electrical machinery and chemicals making up 11.6% and 10% of total exports, respectively
Mexico continues to be California’s No. 1 export market. California exports to Mexico totaled $27.23 billion in 2021. Exports increased by 13.22% compared to 2020. Mexico purchases 15.5% of all California exports.
California’s exports to Mexico are driven by computers and electronic products, which account for 17.9% of all California exports to Mexico. Other top categories included transportation equipment, non-electrical equipment, and chemicals.
Canada is California’s second largest export market, purchasing 10.2% of all California exports. In 2021, California exported more than $17.89 billion to Canada.
Computers and electronic products remained California’s largest exports, accounting for 26% of all California exports to Canada.
California is the second largest exporting state to Asia, after Texas. In 2021, California exported $76.48 billion in goods to the region.
California exports to Mainland China totaled $16.7 billion in 2021. Non-electrical machinery surpassed computers and electronic products as the largest export to China accounting for for 22.8% of exports.
Exports to Hong Kong were $6.7 billion in 2021, an increase from $6.3 billion in 2020, maintaining the spot as California’s 8th largest export market.
California exports to Japan totaled $11.86 billion in 2021. Computers and electronic products accounted for 16.15% of total exports.
South Korea maintained the spot of California’s No. 5 trading partner as California exported $11.62 billion to South Korea in 2021. Over 32.3% was made up of non-electrical machinery.
California exports to the European Union (27) totaled $27.42 billion in 2021. California is a top exporting state to Europe.
Computers and electronic products, chemicals, agricultural products, and transportation equipment are California’s leading export sectors to the region. European Union countries purchase about 15.66% of all California exports.
Export Totals from California
War Dims Global Economic Outlook as Inflation Accelerates
International Monetary Foundation, April 19, 2022
World Bank Cuts 2022 Global Growth Outlook on Russia Invasion
Bloomberg, April 18, 2022
Global Economic Uncertainty, Surging Amid War, May Slow Growth
International Monetary Foundation, April 15, 2022
Trade and American Jobs: The Impact of Trade on U.S. and State-Level Employment: 2022 Update
Business Roundtable, February 2022
World Economic Outlook: A Long and Difficult Ascent
International Monetary Fund, October 2020
Trade and American Jobs: The Impact of Trade on U.S. and State-Level Employment: 2020 Update
Business Roundtable, October 2020
Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean
ECLAC, December 2019
Cato Institute Project on Jones Act Reform
Regulation: The Man Behind Trump’s Tariffs
CATO Institute, Fall 2018
Is Globalization an Engine of Economic Development?
Our World Data, August 1, 2017
Trade Policy Review: United States of America
WTO, December 2018
How California’s Economy Benefits from International Trade and Investment
U.S. Services Exports: California
Coalition of Services Industries, February 2015
WTO Trade Statistics 2019 Editions
- California Agriculture Export Data – CDFA & UC Davis
- California Dept of Finance – California Trade Data
- California Travel & Tourism Commission – International Travel Reports
- California Tourism Facts and Figures
- International Trade Administration – International Tourism and Travel
- Organization for International Investment
- Trade and American Competitiveness Coalition Statistics
- Trade Partnership Worldwide
- U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics
- U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
- U.S. Department of Commerce – California Trade Stats
- US Department of Commerce -Small and Medium-Sized Exports by Market
- U.S. Department of Commerce – TradeStatsExpress
- U.S. Department of Commerce – U.S. Census Bureau Trade in Goods and Services (pdf)
- U.S. Department of Commerce – Trade and Economic Analysis
- U.S. Waterborne Import-Export Trade Data
- Wiser – Foreign Trade Database
- World Trade Organization – Country Trade Profiles