Trade Statistics

California is one of the 10 largest economies in the world with a gross state product of over $2.7 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 2018, California exported to 230 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.

2018 Trade Statistics are available
through the International Trade Administration’s
Trade Stats Express.”
In 2018, California exported $178.4 billion to 230 foreign economies.
California’s top export markets are
Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and South Korea.

International Activities

Global Trade Facts

The projected world population on Jan. 1, 2018, is 7,444,443,881, an increase of 78,521,283, or 1.07 percent, from New Year’s Day 2017. During January 2018, 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths are expected worldwide every second. (U.S. Census Bureau, December 28, 2017)

The WTO in their September 2018 Report, Reinvigorating Trade and Inclusive Growth, forecast that world trade growth is likely to be slower than originally thought in 2018 and 2019, noting the direct economic effects of a trade war that has blown up this year have been modest so far. The WTO forecasted that world trade in goods would grow by 3.9% this year, which is less than the 4.4% that was forecast in April. In 2019, trade is expected to grow by 3.7%, which is lower than the previously forecasted 4.0%. The WTO says the downgrade reflects the heightened tensions being seen currently between major trading partners.

The WTO states that despite a recent rebound in trade, a prolonged slowdown in the pace of trade reform is leaving behind widespread trade distortions and putting at risk the strength and durability of the global economic recovery.

WTO economists find that trade reform has not sufficiently kept pace with the changing landscape of services trade, digital technologies, and foreign direct investment and that much also remains to be done in areas such as market access for goods and regulatory cooperation. Greater openness in such areas, the report claims, would promote competition, lift productivity, and raise living standards. In many other domains, such as the rural economy, gender and smaller enterprises, trade-related reforms are important to foster more inclusive growth and increase productivity. The report also notes that the current trade tensions may in part be rooted in issues that have been left unresolved on the negotiating table for too long. Cooperative action to secure greater, more durable openness could help to resolve these issues.

World Trade Outlook Indicator Suggests Moderate Trade Momentum in First Quarter of 2017
The WTO’s latest World Trade Outlook Indicator (WTOI) suggests that global trade growth will continue to build moderately in the first quarter of 2017 after having strengthened in the final quarter of last year. Trade-related indicators including air freight, automobile sales, export orders and container shipping have all registered solid gains in recent months, auguring for faster growth in merchandise trade volumes in the first few months of the year.
World Trade Organization, February 14, 2017

WTO launches new annual statistical publication
The WTO launched a new annual statistical publication — the “World Trade Statistical Review” — on 21 July. This new publication provides insights into how world trade has evolved in recent years by analyzing the latest trade statistics within an economic context.World Trade Statistical Review replaces the WTO’s previous annual statistical publication, International Trade Statistics
World Trade Organization, July 21, 2016

Jobs Attributable to Foreign Direct Investment in the United States
U.S. Department of Commerce, February 2016

Commerce Department Releases Reports Ranking Top Export Markets
U.S. Department of Commerce, May 24, 2016

U.S. Trade Facts

In 2018, combined goods and services imports topped $3.1 trillion and services by itself reached $557.9 billion: food, feeds, and beverages ($147.4 billion); capital goods ($693.3 billion); automotive vehicles, parts, and engines ($372.3 billion); and consumer goods ($647.9 billion). The U.S. also had record imports from several countries, led by China ($539.5 billion) and Mexico ($346.5 billion).

In 2018, combined goods and services exports were almost $2.5 trillion. They also increased 6% from 2017. Exports of services alone hit a record $828.1 billion. The United States also had record exports to several countries including Mexico ($265 billion) and the United Kingdom ($66.2 billion).

According to the World Bank, the United States is the world’s largest economy with a GDP of $17.9 trillion. The population of the U.S. is expected to reach 326,971,407 on Jan. 1, 2018. This represents an increase of 2,314,238, or 0.71 percent, from New Year’s Day 2017. Since Census Day (April 1) 2010, the population has grown by 18,225,587, or 5.90 percent.  (U.S. Census Bureau, December 28, 2017)

Export ReturnsFor 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.

The largest export markets for U.S. goods in 2018 were Canada ($298.7 billion, a 5.6% increase), Mexico ($265 billion, an 8.5% increase), China ($120.3 billion, a 7.5% decrease), Japan ($74.96, a 10.3% increase), and the United Kingdom ($66.23, a 16.2% increase).

For the first six months of 2019, amid trade tensions with China causing imports from China to decrease by 12 percent and exports to China to decrease by 19 percent, Mexico supplanted China as the top trading partner of the U.S.  (Freight Waves, August, 2019)

In the U.S. in 2017, expenditures by foreign direct investors to acquire, establish or expand U.S. businesses totaled $259.6 billion, down 32% from $379.7 in 2016. By industry the most expenditures were manufacturing and totaled $103.7 billion, accounting for 40% of the total, $34 billion of which was in the food manufacturing sector. There were also large expenditures in information ($25.7 billion) and in real estate, rental, and leasing ($17 billion). By country of ultimate beneficial owner, the largest investing country into the U.S. was Canada, followed by the United Kingdom, Japan and France; with Europe contributing 40% of the new investment in 2017. (Bureau of Economic Analysis)

Annual Summary for 2016
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis –

California Trade Facts

In 2018, exports to FTA markets accounted for just over 40% of California exports. Since 2007, exports from California to FTA markets have grown by over 25%. California exports to FTA partners totaled $73.46 billion in 2018. (ITA)

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that,in 2018, California exports amounted to $178.4 billion. This is an increase from the 2017 total of $172 billion. California maintained its perennial position as a top exporting state.

Exports from California accounted for 10.7% of total U.S. exports in 2018. California trade and exports translate into high-paying jobs for more than 1 million Californians.

In 2016, new foreign direct investment into California totaled $64.705 billion. In 2017, the largest foreign direct investment expenditures were in California, totaling $41.6 billion. California was also the third largest in terms of employment by newly acquired, established, or expanded foreign-owned businesses, employing a total of 55,700 people. Bureau of Economic Analysis

In 2016, California exports supported 683,772 jobs in the U.S., 92% of which were supported by manufactured goods exports. In 2015, there were 70,350 small and medium-sized exporters in California which account for 96% of california goods exporters and 43% of known California goods export value. (ITA)

Top Export Sectors

California is a top exporter in the nation of computers, electronic products, transportation equipment, machinery except electrical, and miscellaneous manufactured commodities. Computers and electronic products are California’s top export, accounting for 25.3 percent of all the state’s exports.

According to a study conducted by Tech America in February 2014, California is the second largest tech exporting state after Texas.

Other top categories included chemicals, agricultural products, food manufactures, and electrical equipment.

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts using 2011 data, creative industries led by Hollywood employ 2 million people and add about $504 billion to the U.S. GDP.

Hollywood, Creative Industries Add $504 Billion to U.S. GDP
Associated Press, December 5, 2013


Mexico continues to be California’s No. 1 export market. California exports to Mexico increased to $30.7 billion in 2018, up from $26.7 billion in 2017. Mexico purchases 17% of all California exports.

California’s exports to Mexico are driven by computers and electronic products, which account for 25.8% of all California exports to Mexico. Other top categories included transportation equipment, non-electrical machinery, and electrical equipment, appliances and components.


Canada is California’s second largest export market, purchasing 9.9% of all California exports. In 2018, California exported more than $17.75 billion to Canada.

Computers and electronic products remained California’s largest exports, accounting for 32.5% of all California exports to Canada.


California is the largest exporting state to Asia. In 2018, California exported $122.706 billion in goods to the region.

Greater China

California exports to Mainland China totaled $16.345 billion in 2018. Computers and electronic products accounted for 25.6% of exports to China.

Exports to Hong Kong were $9.905 billion in 2018, a decrease from $12.1 billion in 2017, losing the spot as California’s No. 5 export destination to South Korea.


California exports to Japan totaled $13.1 billion in 2018. Computers and electronic products accounted for 17.7% of total exports.

South Korea

South Korea overtook the spot of California’s No. 5 trading partner as California exported $9.942 billion to South Korea in 2018. Almost 30% was made up of non-electrical machinery.

European Union

California exports to the European Union (28) totaled $31.84 billion in 2018. California is the top exporting state to Europe.

Computers, electronic products, transportation equipment, chemicals, and miscellaneous manufactured commodities are California’s leading export sectors to the region. European Union countries purchase 17.8% of all California exports.

Export Totals from California

(Source: ITA TradeStats Express, U.S. Department of Commerce.)

Mad About Trade: Why Main Street America Should Embrace Globalism
CATO Institute

Cato Institute Project on Jones Act Reform
CATO Institute

Regulation: The Man Behind Trump’s Tariffs
CATO Institute, Fall 2018

Is Globalization an Engine of Economic Development?
Our World Data, August 1, 2017

Jobs Supported by State Exports 2015
ITA, March 31, 2016

How States Benefit from Trade
Trade Benefits America, April 2016

Trade Policy Review: United States of America

California: Expanding Exports and Supporting Jobs through Trade Agreements
US Department of Commerce, February 26, 2015

California: Exports, Jobs, and Foreign Investment
ITA – April 2014

How California’s Economy Benefits from International Trade and Investment
Business Roundtable

U.S. Services Exports: California
Coalition of Services Industries, February 2015

Fast Facts on the California Economy
Compiled by: Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy – 09/2013


WTO Trade Statistics 2017 Editions

Additional Information