Trade is too huge of a topic for Joe to take on comprehensively. The problem is that the big issues -- free trade vs. protectionism and free trade vs. anti-globalization -- are just so, well, big. Below we set some context; how much we're trading, what we're taxing, who we're free trading with, etc.

Note from cJ editors: This page could use considerable work on "globalization" facts or, better yet, a separate "issue brief" on globalization. See our note to the right about helping out as a Joe Editor.

Key Terms

  • Globalization - Big concept. Refers to what many see as a fact: that the world is integrating on all levels -- communication, culture, and economics. Also refers to the policies and processes that hurry up globalization: free trade, technology, the exportation of Hollywood movies, etc.

  • Free trade - A big part of globalization; the flow of goods and services across countries without tariffs or other limits.

  • Tariffs and Subsidies - A tariff is a tax on goods coming into the country. A subsidy is money the government gives one of its home industries to help it out. Both are seen as no-no's to free traders, who say they give failing companies an unfair advantage.

  • Trade deficit - Not to be confused with the budget deficit, the trade deficit is how much more we're importing than what we're exporting.

  • WTO ­- (World Trade Organization) A global organization that works to promote freer trade on a international basis.

  • Dumping - When a company sells its stuff at a lower price abroad than at home. (WTO)

  • Countervailing tariffs - When one country thinks another country is not playing fair trade and so lays on tariffs to "balance out" the unfair trade.

Main Trade Stats

  • Total US trade:

    • $5.5 trillion (in 2007; includes exports and imports on goods and services as well as income on foreign investments USTA (pdf) (For comparison, our gross national product - that is, the size of the economy - was $13.7 trillion in 2005 - CBO (pdf))

Imports vs. Exports

Imports and exports are often separated into goods (things) and services.


  • Exports: $1.02 billion (2006) BEA

  • Imports: $1.86 trillion (2005) BEA

over the years - imports and exports of goods as % of the national economy (gross national product)

Sources: BEA


  • Exports: $422 billion (2006) BEA

  • Imports: $343 billion (2006) BEA

over the years - imports and exports of services as % of the national economy (gross national product)

sources: BEA

Our big trade partners

Our top 4 export partners: 2005 CIA

  • Canada 23%,
  • Mexico 13%,
  • Japan 6%,
  • China 5%

Our top 4 import partners: 2004 CIA

  • Canada 17%,
  • China 15%,
  • Mexico 10%,
  • Japan 8%

Trade deficit

$64 billion a month (May 2006) BEA

For a backgrounder on the trade deficit see CBO (pdf)

Some Globalization Stats (cherry picked from the UN Development Programme's 1999 Globalization Report UNDP)

  • In 1960, 20% of the world's people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20%. In 1997, the richest 20% had 74 times as much as the poorest 20%.

but most countries' economies are growing....

growth rate of world's nations from '80 to '96

Free traders

  • The US has free trade agreements with: Australia; Bahrain; Chile; Israel; Jordan; Morocco; Panama; Singapore; South Africa Customs Union; as part of NAFTA - Canada, Mexico; as part of the Andean group - Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, Ecuador; and as part of CAFTA - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. (USTR) Oman is the latest to join the free trade club.

See the Congressional Budget Office for a Pro/Con of Free Trade.

Average U.S. tariff: about 5% CID

Where the facts are from:

Other resources:

What about Doha?

Information on the Doha round of trade talks can be found here.

For those who want a quick answer to what Doha is and why free traders think it matters, the Washington Post has a good answer.

Facts pulled together with Vincent Greco. Updated Summer 2006.

Did we miss something, let some slant slip in, lose a link - or do you just have something to say? Drop a line below! In the spirit of open dialogue, cJ asks you keep it civil, keep it real and keep it focused on the message, not the messenger. See our policy page for more on what that all means.

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